wine rep turned fortune-teller

December 29, 2011 · 9 comments

Today I met with a new account opening this week. I’m constantly amazed by how many people wake up one morning and think, “I know! I’ll open a restaurant!” with no other background in the industry. Some have never even waited a table in their life. And yes, I suppose there has to be a first step in every successful journey… and please forgive me for my jaded outlook… but I’ve seen so many of these come and go, even in much better economic times.

There hasn’t been a single instance where I’ve been wrong here. Every account I’ve had doubts about has eventually closed, sold, or filed for bankruptcy whether it be a few months or a few years down the line. I wish that wasn’t the case… I grew to like the buyers/chefs/owners/servers at so many of those ill-fated accounts. Of course, there are accounts that I feel are no-brainers that bite the dust as well, so I’m not always on par with my predictions. Still, I sometimes wish I could just lay it all out on the table at our first meeting… “Look, trust me on this one. Save your money. Get out if you still can. You’re not going to make it.”


Selected excerpts from today’s meeting with New Restaurant Account opening this week:

“Wait, but this bottle has been opened already. Do you have any fresh ones?” I probably should have headed for the door as soon as I heard this one, but I was already in too deep.

“Do you have any good Champagne in your portfolio?” I open my mouth to mention a few of my go-to Champagnes and begin leafing through my price book to the section dedicated to the region, but I’m cut off… “Like Laetitia? That shit blows any other Champagne out of the water…” I quickly close my mouth. And my price book. Simply shake my head. No words. I have no words.

“So what should I charge for this?” I hate this question so much. I speak Wholesale. I don’t know what your desired margins are. I outline a few restaurant price mark-up options, and quickly move on to the next wine.

“This one smells… acidy.” Again, no comment here. Just smile and nod. And silently promise myself a good strong drink at the end of the work day.

“Can I keep the bottles?” This after you’ve ordered a total of 18 bottles from me. Order 18 cases and I’ll consider it.


Normally I discourage bottle-buying. My company adds on a pretty hefty charge… but in this case, I suggested it. I don’t want to get stuck trying desperately to collect as you are preparing to file for bankruptcy.

And opening in the first quarter, when the biggest day they’ve got ahead of them for 4 months is Valentine’s Day? I give this account 6 months, tops.

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