The Relentless Rise Of Restaurant Wine Margins

Posted: Mar 02, 2020

Restaurants have always made a good profit on wine, but how much is too much?

Social Wine and Tapas was a restaurant designed for the current age.

Trading heavily on the popularity of sharing small plates, it offered unpretentious service and a surfeit of esoteric wine choices tailor-made to seduce any self-respecting hipster. After a successful opening in central London in 2015, the restaurant seemed destined to thrive.

And yet, last year, the staff were told to pack their bags. Social Wine and Tapas became the latest casualty of London's notoriously cut-throat and competitive dining scene. Several other leading restaurants – including Michelin-starred Mayfair restaurant The Square – also ceased to be. At first glance, there was no pattern to link the closures, no common thread which tied the failures of these liquidated venues together. Or was there?

I suspect the outrageous, greedy and downright absurd wine mark-ups may have been a contributing factor; in the case of Social Wine and Tapas, they were almost comical. Restaurant critic Andy Hayler first alerted me to the avaricious prices being touted at the restaurant, in a damning review he wrote some years back. As he rightly observed: "The mark-ups were hefty even by the demanding standards of central London. Niepoort Coche from Douro 2013 was £235 for a wine with a retail price of £76."

By James Lawrence
February29, 2020
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