People got out to eat for many reasons, and they choose which restaurant to patronize for many reasons.
Primary reasons for choosing certain restaurants: buzz or anticipation, reputation, location, price, quality of product and service. If a restaurant doesn’t have most of those figured out, then it’s going to be a tough go for them.
Bonus reasons only happen after the customer sits down. A great wine list is a bonus, and (very) rarely a primary.
This is why a restaurant can downshift and downgrade their wine list easily, going from curated choices, family owned wineries, attention to quality, and bang for the buck DOWN toward commodity brands, mega-production wines, and truly forgettable plonk that a wine-savvy customer would never seek out or be impressed by. Yet another restaurant pouring Chateau Mega Brand Red Blend? Oh boy, call the press. The top selling Riesling in the country is now available at my favorite restaurant? Wow, can’t wait (not).
Here’s the problem: a restaurant that sells out and allows the mega brands in will more than likely not see a drop in wine sales. If anything, they might see an uptick initially, for the brands are more well known than the artisanal small production labels they had before, opening spontaneous sales to a slightly larger audience. As stated earlier, this is because a wine list is a bonus after sitting down.
The bigger question is: will your wine savvy customers return? Will the addition of mega brands on your wine list that show up cheap on the cover of mega wine sale flyers at mega stores cause your customers to think twice about where to spend their money?
At that point, your wine list becomes a primary factor of their decision.