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Grow Your Restaurant Wine Sales with Jeremy Shanker, MS, Corporate Wine Director at MINA Group

Photo for: Grow Your Restaurant Wine Sales with Jeremy Shanker, MS, Corporate Wine Director at MINA Group

26/02/2024 Jeremy Shanker, Corporate Wine Director at MINA Group, rose from server assistant to sommelier, now overseeing 30 restaurants, focusing on profitability, guest demographics, and mentorship amidst industry challenges, emphasizing wine program success.

Get insights into restaurant wine sales with Jeremy Shanker, MS, Corporate Wine Director at Award-winning restaurant group - MINA Group. From his starting days at Corkbuzz Chelsea Market to overseeing $40 million in sales, Jeremy shares exclusive strategies for success. For an in-depth exploration, check out the full interview.

Place of work.

MINA Group

Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you begin your career and how did you progress into this role?

I started from the bottom, as a server assistant at a restaurant that has the largest wine program in NY, and worked every position until becoming a sommelier. Once I became a sommelier, I wanted to work for the best people possible and found great mentors to guide my career, including Laura Maniec MS and Rajat Parr.

Define your role and the tasks involved in your role.

I oversee 30 restaurants, 35 sommeliers, 40 million dollars in wine sales, and about 15 million dollars in wine inventory.

What questions would you ask the restaurant owner before you plan your wine sales growth strategy?

What are their financial goals with the restaurant? Are these short-term or long-term? 

How can suppliers work with you to drive sales?

Suppliers can help to offer wines that have less retail presence and offer greater margin potential, as well as offering limited wines that will bring more excitement to the program and guests in the door to enjoy them.

Give us an example of a profitable wine program mentioning wines on your list and why you have them.

Estiatorio Ornos in SF has a significant amount of older vintage wines. With a little digging, and outside of blue chips, some incredible deals can be had in older wines. For instance, it costs us almost the same amount of money to buy an older bottle of Diamond Creek as it does a current vintage. We can make a higher margin on older bottles while still providing value to the guest.

What are the three main things you focus on daily in your role?

People, product, profit.

What are the points you look at when selecting a new wine for your wine program?

Who is the guest for this wine? Can I make a case that this guest will be at our restaurant this month?

What is the difference between the role of a sommelier and a wine director?

A sommelier works the floor and sells wine, this role may also include staff training. A wine director isn't just the person selecting the wines and training staff on them, but is principally responsible for the curation of the list, and more importantly, the profitability of the wine program.

Define a good sommelier and what qualities you would look for when hiring one.

Humility, passion, and a strong work ethic.

What do you look for when you have to evaluate the effectiveness of a wine program?

I look at the sales mix. If 40% of our total sales are wine vs 15% that tells me that the selections are resonating with the guests and that the wine program is driving guests into the restaurant vs just selling because someone is already there and wants a glass of wine.

How according to you has the role of the sommelier evolved, especially now during Covid times?

The workforce has been depleted as many looked to other segments of the industry. Finding great talent is harder than ever.

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What are some of the most important skills for a sommelier to have?

Wine knowledge, but more importantly, work ethic, humility, and a desire to learn and challenge themselves.

Your favorite places to enjoy great wine in London?

I've never been to London.

What's the best part of your job?

I get to work with the best wines in the world across a broad range of concepts.

What's the worst part of your job?

A lot of meetings!

If you had to pick one red and one white wine as your personal best, which wines would they be?

At the moment, Giovanni Canonica Barolo and Lamy Caillat Saint Aubin.

Any favorite food and wine pairing suggestions for London drinks enthusiasts?

I've been really enjoying finding wines to pair with spice. For reds, Syrah and Nrrello Mascalese have been recent favorites. For white, Santorini Assyrtiko and Vermentino di Gallura.

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