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From Online Retail To On-Premise Hospitality: Amazon, Danny Meyer Address Impact Seminar

March 17, 2017

Speaking at the 41st Annual Impact Marketing Seminar in New York City recently, Amazon executive Mike Miller discussed “Amazon’s Strategy for the Wine Market of Tomorrow.” Miller, director of new marketplace consumer businesses for Amazon, detailed the online retailer’s foray into the direct-to-consumer wine segment. Launched in November 2012, Amazon Wine grants full control to wineries and brand owners, allowing them to list inventory for free, determine pricing and launch promotions on the platform.

According to Miller, Amazon holds significant upside for wine producers, with roughly 55% of consumers opting to start their “discovery process” for potential purchases with research on Amazon, and around 44% of Amazon shoppers consuming domestic table wine. The site also boasts a large millennial audience, which tends to seek education and is increasingly interested in wine, he added.

Miller cited several successful brands utilizing Amazon Wine, including E.&J. Gallo’s Apothic and Washington state’s Hedges Family Estate, and estimated the current number of active wineries and brand owners on the site at more than 1,100, with that number expected to grow significantly in the years ahead.

Union Square Hospitality Group CEO Danny Meyer discussed “The Future of Fine Dining in America.” Meyer—whose USHG portfolio includes Union Square Café, Gramercy Tavern and Blue Smoke among others—overviewed the restaurant industry’s overall democratization and the impact of the Internet, which has made it easier to plagiarize dishes and concepts, accelerating the rate of change across the business. In the hyper-competitive climate, Meyer has carved out success by focusing “49% on performance, and 51% on hospitality,” and cultivating what he calls “an emotional experience” for guests.

Meyer also championed the rise of “fine casual” dining, which allows restaurateurs to forgo extras such as waitstaff in order to minimize overhead and create more value for customers. The “fine casual” concept, exemplified by Shake Shack, marries the principles of fine dining with fast food convenience, Meyer notes, explaining that customers are increasingly open to forgoing “the waiter, the florist, the white tablecloth” and other fine dining touches in order to receive better quality, speed and price. He also touched on his recent decision to do away with tipping at his fine dining establishments, saying “tipping is the worst way to incentivize professionalism and hospitality.” Instead, he advocates higher base wages for restaurant workers, combined with a culture that prides itself on providing outstanding hospitality to guests to create a memorable experience.

And of course, Meyer stressed the importance of having a strong drinks program, calling wine and spirits a “big part of making a restaurant worthwhile.” In recent years, USHG has ramped up its focus on wine education, with the company now employing 50 sommeliers and four master sommeliers. —Christina Jelski

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