Bring Your Own Makes Business Sense

South Africa’s wine capital of Stellenbosch is not really having its cup runneth over with culinary hot-spots. That would be the town itself ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ the surrounding winelands have a plethora of fine places to chow-down in spectacular surroundings.

Knowing this, I was still surprised when a group of local advertising honchos suggested we meet at the relatively-recently opened Hussar Grill in Plein Street where they were planning to twist my arm into dropping a wad of cash with their media portfolio.

Hussar Grill? That quaint Rondebosch steak house from the 1960s that has morphed into a chain-eatery with establishments in Camp’s Bay, Green Point,Tygervalley and now Stellenbosch?

Well, these hosts were advertising execs, what do they know?

Turns out, Hussar Grill is currently the Stellenbosch hot-spot, attracting not only the predictable herd of migratory Gauteng-businessmen, bored local housewives and meat-munching academics from the university, but also winemakers and winery-owners.

I mean, what’s there not to like about the Hussar? A clean, well-lighted space. Service staff who speak English or Afrikaans that does not sound like a National Geographic African Linguistic Special insert. And a good piece of meat.

A quick chat with management revealed that in an economically tight environment, the Hussar chain is doing very well, thank you. This was confirmed by a recent week-night visit to the branch at Willowbridge. Pumping.

There is one teeny-weeny, eensy-peensy feature that separates Hussar Grill from other steak-houses and restaurants. And that is the phrase “we never charge corkage” which is so proudly displayed at the entrance to its establishments.

These four words would send most restaurateurs into a piteous state, a state where they’d be wandering the wastelands in ghoulish madness mumbling incoherent words of chaos as to how any restaurant would dare to not only never charge corkage, but actually encourage patrons to bring their own wine.

“Corkage is evil. People who want corkage are evil. We the restaurant will not, we repeat will not, survive if evil people bring their evil corkage-wanting wines into our place.”

When asked what they the restaurateurs actually do to warrant charging the 200% to 350% mark-up on a harmless little bottle of wine, they just shrug their shoulders, continuing to mumble incomprehensible Business for Dummies phrases.

But the question begs an answer: if so many renowned restaurateurs – including Alan Pick from The Butcher’s Shop to whom the practise of corkage makes Andr+¬ van Rensburg’s anti-Pinotage tirades sound like choral music ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ are against patrons bringing wine, how does Hussar succeed?

Two reasons, methinks.

As a manager of brand reputation, I can safely say that the “we never charge corkage” marketing slogan employed by Hussar immediately creates trust in the eye of the patron of potential patron. I mean, what a great warm, inviting, I’m-your-buddy slogan!

Almost like the guy at work saying: “Come for dinner, and you can bonk my wife”.

By openly stating that one is welcome to bring one’s own wine, Hussar succeeds in harnessing the trust of the customer. My mind goes that if I am not going to be ripped off in the wine department, the general experience is going to be of the win-win type from my side.

Great marketing. Made greater by the fact that Hussar has taken ownership of this bring-your-bottle approach, as far as the Cape’s restaurant scene is concerned in any event.

The second reason for the success of this policy is that the open invitation to bring your own wine seldom leads to patrons abusing the system. In most instances, four people will bring one bottle of something special and complement this by buying another bottle from the wine-list. I mean, who really wants to lug four to six bottle of vino around with them when going for a night out?

For the patron, the saving on wine leads to a longer stay at the restaurant, where the extra Irish Coffees, espressos and odd Port or Cognac that would not have been ordered if the wine spend had been bigger, help to balance the books quite nicely.

Fact is, despite its Corkage Glasnost, Hussar still sells a shedload of wine. Check out the wine-list, the shelves, the wine-friendly ambience.

Hussar Grill. Been going since 1964, while in Cape Town a restaurant that survives for more than 60 months is labelled an institution.

Proof that a well-oiled wheel does not need re-inventing.

4 thoughts on “Bring Your Own Makes Business Sense

  1. *rushes off to the Hussar with special bottle of red under my arm*

    Actually been meaning to go for ages. I really wish more restaurants would adopt this approach. I’m so violently sick of the ridiculous mark-ups.

  2. Well put Emile. Some South African business are so scared, conservative…call it what you like.

    No Corkage ever. It really is just a marketing gimmick…but a powerful one that hits a nerve. Like Domino’s Pizza in America: Delivered in 30mins or its Free. I have seen some people try the same thing here. In the smallest type possible they shout out: Delivered in 4o mins or you get a 10% discount. Hell if you cant deliver a Pizza in 30 mins get out of the business. I have even seen nursery’s proudly state: If the plant dies within the first year we will replace it free of charge…now ask yourself how many people are really going to go back a year later and ask for their money back. But a few certainly will buy from this nursery. In Vegas anybody gambling at a casino drinks for free, FOR FREE. Do you see casinos going out of business in Vegas…thought not.

    Think out of the Box. Maybe something some wine brands could do.

  3. Hussar in Camps Bay has the added advantage that it’s so large you can usually get a table on a weekend night without booking.
    Also child-friendly and the steaks are good. Sauces are their only let down in my view.

  4. Come on EVERYONE!

    Now’s the time to vote with our feet. We’ve (I) have been shooting down ridiculous wine mark-ups or stupidly high corkage fees for ever.

    Now here’s a truly excellent eaterie that’s listened.

    Go there.

    Next time you eat out.

    Every time you eat out.

    Hell, go tonight!

    This deserves support from our wallets.

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