Yesterday I took a call from Rupert, the general manager for Rick Stein’s group of establishments in Padstow, Cornwall, saying that Rick had been asked to comment by the Telegraph about the high price of wine in restaurants. Apparently, an investigation by the Daily Telegraph had revealed that both Rick Stein and Gordon Ramsay were charging a lot more for a bottle of Chateau Bauduc than they were paying for it. And?
It then dawned on me that I had been set up by a chap on the phone, a few weeks back, who was trying to chisel a good price out of me for a new venture. The person ‘posing as a potential buyer’ in the article – he said he was called David – was going to start up a new establishment, and it was clear that he didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. (Even the calculations in the article don’t add up.) I felt rather sorry for him when I wished him good luck at the end of the call. As stings go, it was hardly Sven and the fake sheikh.
I said to Rupert that, on the contrary, our wine was too cheap in the restaurant. After all, top restaurants need to make a 66% gross margin. The refurbishment of The Seafood Restaurant earlier this year cost a seven figure sum which didn’t start with the number 1. £19 for a bottle there for a wine that’s sold by the vineyard for £8? ‘No wonder it’s so popular in the restaurant’, I said. Victoria Moore, the Guardian’s wine correspondent, cited Château Bauduc Bordeaux blanc as being good value for £18.50 at The Seafood more than three years ago. More to the point, try booking a table.
(I see that the trade price quoted in the article for our Bordeaux Blanc equates to 20% off our retail price, ex VAT. So, yes, if a very famous chef who’s on TV approaches us and offers to buy hundreds of cases a year direct from the chateau, we’ll consider a 20% discount. That seems fair, doesn’t it?)
It’s hardly bad press to be mentioned in the context of leading chefs, and it turned out that messrs Ramsay and Stein were not the real culprits after all. That dastardly Raymond Blanc and the naughty Heston Blumenthal were the worst, even if they can boast two and three Michelin stars respectively and each has hosted a successful TV series or two. Even his nibs Jamie Oliver (our Sophie’s pin-up) took an undeserved kicking.
Oddly enough, the chef that Gordon Ramsay once told me was the only one that we could not sell to if we wanted to continue doing business, Anthony Worrall-Thompson, was the cook accusing his fellow restaurateurs of being “greedy”. I may be biased, but of all the places and wines mentioned, Worrall-Thompson’s The Lamb and his Chilean sauvignon for £13 (cost ex-cellars around £1.70, plus UK duty, shipping and merchant’s profit margin), would be the last on my wish-list. Or am I missing something?