people at cafe tables from above - Singular focus

What wine can learn from Bad Eggs and Cereal Killers

The ongoing trend for stripped back simplicity continues abound in the restaurant sector. In London, we can now count amongst our restaurants specialising in egg dishes Egg Break, The Bad Egg and – you’ve guessed it – The Good Egg. The singularity of the core ingredient can, however, be a source of discovery and originality. The Cereal Killer Café, now with two branches in London, offers a selection of boxed cereals served in a small, medium or large bowl, along with your choice of milk and topping. Recently, we also welcomed ‘Balls and Company’ to London, a restaurant specialising in meatballs (but also fish and vegetarian balls!) where you choose from a selection of 5 and pick one of 4 sauces to go with them. And that’s all they offer.

At the other end of the stripped back dining scale is celebrity chef Curtis Stone’s Maude Restaurant in Beverley Hills, CA. Here they focus on one core, seasonal ingredient each month which is featured in each of the nine tasting dishes on their set menu. No choice, one ingredient focus and one set menu for the month, typically costing over $100 per person. The restaurant only has 24 covers and you can only book for tables of 2, 4 or 6 people to ensure maximum capacity, so perhaps a little militant to be excluded if you are a family of 3 or 5 – do you draw straws for which of the kids stays at home?

What does this extreme specialisation and deliberate limiting of choice mean for drinks, and particularly wine? Is it a good idea to limit the wine selection too or does that take away from the choice that we always thought our consumers loved? Well, as always when it comes to these things, the answer is not so simple. The current trend of stripped back and limited in foodservice can actually be positive for wine.

At Egg Break, for example, you get red, white or rose in three types (house, decent and good and it doesn’t tell you origin or varietal) and three sizes (glass, small jug and large jug). Simple, quick and more opportunity for delivering higher quality wine for the price, due to lower stock complexity and the improved efficiency of supplier management. From a consumer perspective, this may actually encourage trading up and clearly signposts that you pay for what you get when it comes to wine – better quality costs more – which is surely a good message to send out.

And what do consumers really want when choosing wine in a casual restaurant or bar? Consumers tell us constantly that it is quality and freshness when it comes to wine by the glass. They’ll put up with a limited choice or less description if they feel like the quality being delivered meets their expectations. What better way to deliver this than via wine on tap, a trend hitting even the coolest of bars and restaurants Stateside. My most recent experience is Wetherspoon’s in Putney, London: I thoroughly enjoyed my fresh glass of Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc, delivered on tap (installed just recently) and at a perfectly cool temperature. What’s not to love?

Author: Lulie Halstead