Flights of Fortune: Correctly Executing Tasting Flights


Originally posted October 1, 2010 by Chris Zarus of TequilaRack.

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Tasting Flights Take Off

From: Hotel F&B Marketing: Sprucing Up F&B Sales

Hotels find effectively merchandising food and spirits and getting staff involved in the story behind the product directly affects the bottom line.

By Mary Boltz Chapman, Contributing Editor — Hotels, 6/30/2009 11:00:00 PM

When The Peninsula Chicago began offering single-malt scotch flights, its public relations staff spread the word through local newspapers and magazines. Its finding, however, was that the best marketing is the buzz that spreads through the bar when someone orders it: Three 1-ounce pours in etched glasses are stacked on a handcrafted wooden ladder.

“We knew it would take off,” says Director of Food & Beverage Pradeep Raman. “We started getting regular guests ordering it, which attracts onlookers.”

The Peninsula created the flights and added them in October to try something unique for its guests, whom Raman describes as “urban yuppies. A mixture of affluent younger generation who come in with friends and businessmen entertaining clients.” Nine flights, ranging from US$25 to US$95, were assembled to take customers “on a journey.” Each flight holds three scotches ranging in complexity. They are grouped by region, body or tasting notes.

Raman says the flights are selling well, at a pace of about five to 10 on weekdays and 20 or more on weekend days. He credits in part the merchandising that happens when a guest sees someone else drinking it. The server or bar manager will walk customers through the experience, discussing each single malt and its characteristics. Guests also receive a card listing details on each scotch.

The handcrafted, etched glassware bearing the hotel’s name is prominently on display behind the bar, and bartenders are happy to tell inquiring guests about the flights.

Home-Grown Merchandising

Executive Chef Scott Walton grows vegetables and herbs in a deck garden for the hotel’s Markethouse restaurant. Taking a cue from the restaurant’s seasonal slant, Walton began infusing vodkas with fruits from local purveyors for the hotel bar, which was completed in December. A recent US$15 flight included raspberry, vanilla and pomegranate.

This summer, Walton will include infusions from the fruits of his own labor, such as lemon balm, chocolate mint and tomatoes. He also is planning a bacon-infused vodka with pork from a local farmer. Flights combine flavors from savory to sweet.

Walton says depending on flavor, the bar goes through a decanter of infused vodka every seven days. As at The Peninsula, glassware set out on the bar and customer buzz act as merchandising.

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