Cornell Research Highlights Strategies that Correlate to Increased Wine Sales

Jul 21, 2009

Contact:  Glenn Withiam, 607.255.3025,

Cornell–Southern Wine & Spirits Research Highlights Strategies that Correlate to Increased Wine Sales

Cornell Hospitality Report Finds Wine List Tactics that Could Result in Higher Wine Sales

Ithaca, NY, July 21, 2009 – A Cornell University wine research study has identified four key strategies that coincide with higher wine sales in restaurants. In a newly released report, "Wine List Characteristics Associated with Greater Wine Sales," certain attributes of restaurant wine lists were analyzed by Cornell University's Sybil Yang and Michael Lynn. The research was made possible by Southern Wine & Spirits of America, partnering with Cornell's Center for Hospitality Research and is available at no charge at

The research found that the following four wine-list tactics were involved in higher wine sales: (1) Including the wine list on the food menu; (2) Listing prices without a dollar sign; (3) Listing wines from certain wineries known for their quality; and (4) Including "reserve" wines or another special section. A fifth tactic, however, was connected with lower sales, namely, using wine style as an organizational category on the list (e.g., sweet, bold, dry).

"We've seen dozens of suggestions for how restaurateurs should present their wines," said Lynn, "but we haven't seen any research evidence of how presentations are connected with higher sales. We tested forty-six different attributes of the wine lists in the 270 restaurants, but we found only four that correlated with higher sales across all restaurants and two others that were effective only in casual-dining restaurants."

"Having been in the wine business for over 50 years, I have come to learn about wine list effectiveness," added Mel Dick, senior vice president and president–wine division at Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc. "This research confirms a number of wine list attributes that we have always known to be true," said Dick.

The findings are that wine sales at fine-dining restaurants behaved differently from those at casual restaurants. For one thing, you might expect sales to decline as price increases. That was generally true at the casual-dining restaurants, but price seemed to have no relationship with sales at fine-dining restaurants. The correlation between having a longer wine list and higher wine sales was found to be true at casual-dining restaurants, where wine sales increased with the length of the list, up to about 150 wines.

Lynn is a professor of consumer behavior and marketing at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, where Yang is a doctoral candidate. Both have direct experience in the restaurant industry. Yang and Lynn caution that their wine research was based on correlations and not causation. Additionally, some of the tactics they tested may be effective but so subtle that they could not be seen in this study.

About Southern Wine & Spirits of America
Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc. is the nation's largest wine and spirits distributor, with current operations in 29 states. The multi-state distributor currently operates in: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia—as well as the additional seven states of Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Utah through the Southern-Odom/Spirits West partnership. In addition, Southern has announced a pending strategic arrangement with Texas-based Glazer's Family of Companies—resulting in an incremental 8 markets to Southern's existing footprint. On a national basis, Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc. employs more than 10,000 team members. For more information contact:

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About The Center for Hospitality Research
A unit of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, The Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) sponsors research designed to improve practices in the hospitality industry. Under the lead of the center's 77 corporate affiliates, experienced scholars work closely with business executives to discover new insights into strategic, managerial and operating practices. The center also publishes the award-winning hospitality journal, the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly. To learn more about the center and its projects, visit
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