Q&A with Sue Jones from The Harrow at Little Bedwyn

The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, owned and run by Sue and Roger Jones, celebrated its 20th anniversary at Christmas 2018.  As well as receiving worldwide accolades for its food, The Harrow has also been critically acclaimed for its 900 bin Wine List. We managed to sit down with co-owner  Sue Jones from The Harrow at Little Bedwyn to talk about her restaurant, approach to wine and all things Le Verre de Vin.

The Harrow at Little Bedwyn

1 – Tell us about the style and personality of The Harrow at Little Bedwyn?

The Harrow was purchased by Roger and I nearly 21 years ago, and seeing that it was supposed to be a temporary foray into owning our own restaurant, you could say we fell in love with it and have embraced the whole lifestyle.  We are professional but comfortable and see it as an extension of our home and the whole ethos revolves around creating the sort of place we would like to go to and that guests always want to return to.

2 – What’s changed in your 20 years in the industry?

We have got a lot more philosophical and a little thicker-skinned – less concerned about every issue – but we have never lost our perfectionism or our striving to improve at every level.  We always listen to all customer feedback and learn from any criticism – that will never change.  Business gets harder and people expect more as there are so many great places out there, but there are plenty who still come back to us week after week, so we must be doing something right.

3 – What excites you about the industry looking forward?

The need to always get better and offer something a little bit different.  We get bored easily so are always looking at ways to make things even more exciting or to have a little bit of an edge over our competitors.  We never stop looking at new ventures and learning from other places that are developing around us.   Even something as ordinary as sourcing more keenly, finding new products or discovering new wine regions that excite us and work perfectly with a newly evolved dish giving us even more reason to interact with our guests and introducing them to something new too.

4 – Could you give us a quick explanation as to why wine is such a focal point at The Harrow?

Our wine list grew fast due to our early discoveries of so many superb wines out there (initially from Australia, followed by Spain, New Zealand and more latterly South Africa and Eastern Europe).  We wanted to offer the widest choice we could to entice customers to experiment and to always have something different to try however often they came.  Despite trying to keep our wine list a reasonable size, we managed to grow to 900 bins rather too soon!  The business side of it went out of the window somewhat and the passion took over.We have always championed the wine and food matching element and were one of the first restaurants to offer named flights of wine to match every dish our kitchen creates.  In our eyes, there is no such thing as a meal without wine.  It keeps our eyes open the whole time for new wine and drink discoveries and involves the whole team in the experience we offer our guests.

5 – Do you have a philosophy towards or specific approach to WBTG?

If you can only have one glass of wine, all the more reason to have a superb one.  Too many places opt for a cheap and cheerful WBTG list and keep the list as perceived ‘good value house wines’ – we push the boat out and offer things like vintage champagnes, iconic old Aussie Shiraz, Trimbach Rieslings, SA white blends,  etc etc to encourage people to try different wines that they may never get another chance to.  £30 or £40 per glass for an very special wine is not expensive and has never put off any of our customers – if that is what you want and you may only get the one opportunity to try it – you should be encouraged.  It also allows each person on the table to have exactly what they want rather than trying to find one wine to suit everyone.

6 – Could you explain why you introduced Le Verre de Vin technology and what is has delivered for you since?

Le Verre de Vin allowed us to offer some amazing wines early on in our journey that we wouldn’t have been able to afford to open otherwise. It gave us the opportunity to advertise ourselves as offering something a bit different and create a reputation for ourselves as a restaurant that really cared about how it served its wine in terms of choice and housekeeping.  It also allowed us to give tastes of new wines or those from lesser known vineyards without the worry of wastage or making a guest feel like they had to purchase a whole bottle without being sure they were going to enjoy it.

Le Verre de Vin has put us on the map as a serious wine supplier and gave us the opportunity to offer so much more than we could have without it. We were better known for our wine list than our food for many years when we started and have along the years, won many accolades from Decanter, The World of Fine Wines, The Wine Spectator, AA Wine List of the Year, The World of Wine etc.

7 – Have you added any specific premium by the glass options to your menu courtesy of Le Verre de Vin?

Yes, very much so.  We change our WBTG all the time and keep at least 30 available, but specifically many vintage champagnes, Krug 1989, Bollinger RD 2004, Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, Charles Heidsieck 1999 and older white Burgundies such as Louis Latour Corton Charlemagne 2000, Gaja Gaia & Rey Chardonnay 2009, Trimbach Clos St Hune 1988, Bordeaux such as Chateau Talbot 1999, Ducru Becaillou 1970, Tignanello 1999, Guado al Tasso 2000 to name just a few.

8 – What role do you think wine / Champagne plays in the customer experience and has that changed in recent years?

It is the responsibility of a restaurateur to offer a fantastic range of wines and champagnes to all customers.  No-one should have difficulty in choosing a glass off a list.  There should be something for everyone and as time goes on, guests become more discerning and particular and deserve a better and bigger choice.  Everything else in life offers more options than ever before, so we should meet that requirement for people coming out to eat and drink.  Trust is built between a customer and the staff when great choices are offered and the flexibility to try different things before committing to a purchase is allowed.

9 – What should we be looking out for from The Harrow in the future?

Without sounding complacent, I would like to say in terms of the standard of the food, wines and service, the same as we have always offered but always with an eye to improve and give even better choices.  Sometimes the traditional original values count for the most and the fact that our Chef and Maitre d’ have not changed for over 20 years, should mean that The Harrow will continue for many years to come (or at least as long as we both have the strength to stand up)!

 

If you would like to know more about how a Bermar Le Verre de Vin wine & Champagne preservation system can help you boost sales and eliminate waste, contact Bermar now on: +44 (0) 1473 612 062

An Exciting New Partnership in California

London, UK, 14th November 2018:

Bermar International has today announced an exciting new partnership with the highly regarded wine
industry professional, Steve Winter. The partnership will see Steve take the reins as a California
Distributor for Le Verre de Vin & Pod Bar wine and Champagne preservation systems effective 19th November 2018.

Bermar’s innovative solutions have been widely used across the USA in recent years and, with this
new appointment, Bermar is committed to making its technology more available than ever before to
fine wine accounts on the West Coast.

Steve has worked in the wine trade for over 30 years, his skills honed over 17 years as a fine wine
representative for some of the largest U.S. wine and spirits Distributors. He has successfully
represented a diverse selection of premium brands including those in the portfolios of Moët
Hennessy, Kobrand, Wilson Daniels and Jackson Family Wines as well as enjoying several years
working as the Sales Manager for, top quality, family-owned California wineries.

On the new partnership, Tom Berresford, Commercial Director at Bermar, commented:

“I am delighted to welcome Steve to the team and we are thrilled to have such a savvy, experienced
operator as our ‘go-to’ contact in California. Steve’s taking up a new role for Bermar, one which reflects
our commitment to increasing the profile of Le Verre de Vin’s world beating technology in key markets
around the world.

It’s safe to say that Californians understand a thing or two about drinking great quality wines by the
glass! Steve will be working closely with restaurants, wine bars and hotels across the state, helping
them to uncork the lucrative opportunities created by premium and luxury wine by the glass service.”

Reflecting on why he’s so excited by this new challenge Steve added:

“Bermar is a progressive, innovative and proven manufacturer with a bright future! I’m proud to be
able to use my extensive wine industry experience to bring the world-class Le Verre de Vin & Pod Bar
products and technology to the Californian market”

For more information on the Le Verre de Vin & Pod Bar ranges please visit www.bermarcollection.com
or email Steve directly at: wwineco@gmail.com

About Bermar International:
Bermar International manufactures and distributes Le Verre de Vin & Pod Bar, the world’s leading
professional wine and Champagne preservation equipment. With over 25 years of experience, the
team at Bermar counts some 50,000 customers in 80+ countries around the world and it is estimated
that, this year alone, Le Verre de Vin will support the sale of some $3bn of still and sparkling wine by
the glass.

Enquiries:

Lucy Worrall, Bermar International lucy.worrall@bermar.co.uk

Commercial Director’s Q&A with Lewis O’Sullivan from The Drinks Business

Such an exciting insight into Bermar International Ltd’s Le Verre de Vin technology. Tom Berresford the Commercial Director at Bermar International Ltd was kindly ask to do a Q&A for The Drinks Business. With English sparkling wines on the rise, our product is vital to keep your bubbly bubbling!

To find out more about how we are leading the wine and fizz revolution continue reading below:

How would you describe the development of your product since it launched? What changes/upgrades have you made and why?

After 2 years in development Le Verre de Vin was first launched to the trade in 1991 as a still wine preservation system, in a wall mounted ‘bottle shape’, that we have retained and now call the ‘Classic’. In the 27 years since, we’ve upgraded and improved the system’s technology numerous times: importantly introducing Champagne/sparkling wine preservation, under counter and bar top mounted options as well as the stunning Pod Bar range. Whilst the principles of our preservation technology remain unchanged, the mechanism for delivering ever improving preservation performance has been updated and improved continuously (much like the refinement of the internal combustion engine!) Our latest range of Le Verre de Vin systems have enhanced aesthetic appeal to ensure there’s a version for each and every business, whilst also ticking the boxes on speed and precision and offering the lowest ever power consumption and cost of ownership.

How many countries is it now sold in?

With some 75% of our production now heading overseas, we can count customers in 82 countries around the world, including some of the largest wine producing markets (Italy, Spain, France, USA, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia) as well as some beautiful and far-flung corners of the globe (Curacao, Mauritius and Fiji to name a few!)

How many retail/trade partners do you have?

We now have some 45 Distributors globally who oversee sales and marketing in more than 60 territories. In addition we’re pleased to manage many global relationships encompassing hotel groups, restaurants and winemakers.

Do you have any figures for the number of restaurants etc that use your system?

There are now around 50,000 Le Verre de Vin users globally with almost 10,000 of them in the UK alone.

Do you have any more general year-on-year sales figures that you can share?

Since 2015 our global turnover has increased by 50%.  For many years we ploughed a fairly lonely furrow as industry leaders in a sector that very few operators addressed.  In recent times there has been an increasing awareness of the service and profit opportunities that are achievable by running a successful wine and Champagne by the glass programme. Our team has grown significantly over the past 3 years too with new partners around the world and team members at our manufacturing facility here in the UK.

What would you say are its main advantages over other systems – specifically Enomatic?

In 4 words, price, flexibility, fizz and service.

It’s probably best to compare Le Verre de Vin systems to dispensers by looking at exactly what the respective systems were developed for. Le Verre de Vin systems were designed specifically to allow on-trade operators to deliver a perfect wine and sparkling wine by the glass service. The systems are simple to install, small enough to fit into any business and are renowned for their reliability and unparalleled preservation of an unlimited number of open bottles of still and/or sparkling wine. They typically deliver a full return on investment in just a few months and sit at the heart of great wine by the glass service, or ‘perfect serve’, where a bottle is presented to the customer (at the table or the bar), a taste is then poured (as though the customer was buying the bottle), the glass is poured and the bottle then returned to the bar for resealing. Great service has always been important, but is especially so in the ever more demanding world of premium wine and fizz by the glass.

On the other hand, most dispensers were designed to offer small tastes (on a paid or FOC basis), in retail or off-trade outlets.  With tastes of 25 or 30ml bottles would need to be changed once in every 25 or 30 dispenses.  Customers would move up and down a line of spigots and select their choice of self-service tastes. Transferring this technology to on-trade operations (with average full glass dispenses of 175ml) means bottles are changed every 4 glasses and each glass is delivered ‘plated’ to the guest. Couple this with the cost of dispensers and the fact that they don’t preserve/dispense Champagnes/fizz and you might ask whether they’re ideal in the hustle and bustle of a busy on-trade operation.

What is the price range for your different products?

Our systems range from approximately £1,500 for a Champagne Only model through to £4,000+ for some of our largest Pod Bar configurations. We believe that this breadth in price-range gives operators the ability to ‘shop’ and select the most appropriate model for their individual business and circumstances.

What setbacks have you hit over the years and how have you overcome them?

Being so closely aligned to the global hospitality markets we are, of course, impacted by broader economic cycles. When recessions hit, people tend to eat out less and, as a result, investment in F&B led operations can stall significantly. We endured the market fall of 2008 as well as the earlier recessions in the ‘90’s, and as a UK manufacturer we were concerned about the potential impact of the  Brexit vote. The truth however is that during tough times while people dine (and drink!) out less, a great offer can entice them to make more premium choices when they do. So operators have a great opportunity, during the good times and the tough ones, to entice customers with a more interesting selection of premium wines and sparkling wines by the glass.

Around the world consumers are more adventurous than they ever have been and this is proving a springboard into the future for our business as operators come to realise the potential they have to unlock profits hidden in their wine by the glass offers.