Drinks, food

Why Menus are Costing Winemakers

Wine writer and judge Michael Fridjhon is questioning just how legal it is for restaurants to charge wine estates to list wines on the menu. Innocuous as it may seem to the consumer, Fridjhon pointed out that this practice may be anti-competitive in a column for BDLive. Much like advertising sales, a restaurant might use their menu popularity as a selling point to wine producers, citing the high-value brand exposure a wine listed on their menu would receive. Speaking to 567 Cape Talk's John Maythem on the subject, Fridjhon pointed out that although this practice stands to be highly profitable for the restaurant and potentially for the wine brand (though there is no guarantee of this), it is also quite possibly illegal and harmful to other wine producers who may not have the deep pockets required to list their wines in this way. Therefore, this practice takes the focus off the quality of the wine. Many have countered Fridjhon’s claim that this practice is anti-competitive by raising the fact that paying for prime placement of products on the shelves of retailers is a common and accepted practice. But, he maintains that if it isn't clear advertising that the consumer knows and understands is paid for, there is grounds for questioning the integrity. ‘This [practice of paying to be included on wine menus] is essentially under hand and in that sense it's an unequal playing field. It's not certain that the offer is open to everybody and is certainly not a decision being made on the basis of the quality of the wine, but rather the depth of the pocket of the supplier,’ Fridjhon explains in his Cape Talk interview. It's harmful to the wine industry in the way that the money spent on the listing doesn't really add value to anyone aside from the supplier, and in this case, the restaurant. It could also stand to be in breach of South Africa's liquor law which requires a number of listings from multiple suppliers, which is now clearly not being adhered. As Fridjhon says, it is 'a law more honoured in the breach than in the observance.' This contentious topic will soon be brought to the Complaints Commission for formal investigation and we'll find out what the resolution will be. But what's your say? Do you think this is as serious as it sounds, or should the common practice continue? We want to hear your thoughts - tell us on Facebook and Twitter. For the full podcast, listen here.