Coq d’Argent Restaurant Owner D&D Slashes Prices for Fine Wines

Des Gunewardena and David Loewi
D&D London Chief Executive Des Gunewardena (left) and Managing Director David Loewi in Skylon restaurant. D&D has slashed the prices of its fine wines. Source: Sauce Communications via Bloomberg.

D&D London Ltd., the former Conran Restaurants, whose venues include Coq d’Argent, Paternoster Chop House and Quaglino’s, is today cutting the amount it charges for fine wines, with some prices dropping 300 pounds ($480) or more.

While 2,000 or so wines across D&D’s 20 London properties will be affected, the company is promoting a Top 100 for the next four weeks, with the particular focus on four restaurants: Le Pont de la Tour, Orrery, Coq d’Argent and Launceston Place.

“Instead of having some wines that look very grand on our wine list and occasionally selling a few bottles, we want to make them more affordable so people can taste them,” D&D Chief Executive Des Gunewardena said today in a telephone interview. “It’s not entirely altruistic: We’re hoping that by cutting our profit per bottle we’ll sell more and profit will grow.”

The reductions, applying to wines costing about 50 pounds or more, will vary between venues. At Launceston Place, Dom Perignon 2002 falls to 118 pounds from 185 pounds. At Le Pont de la Tour, Chateau Haut Brion, 1er Cru Classe, Pessac Leognan, Bordeaux, 1985 is cut to 500 pounds from 838 pounds.

The biggest differences are with Mayfair restaurants and hotels, where bottles may cost hundreds of pounds more. Bob Bob Ricard, a Soho venue that has slashed the prices of its fine wines, makes specific comparisons on its website, showing a saving of more than 1,000 pounds in the case of Echezeaux Grand Cru, Domaine de la Romanee Conti, Burgundy, 1996.

Gunewardena said he hadn’t been influenced by Bob Bob Ricard because that is a single restaurant. Cynics might assume that D&D is simply trying to shift stock or to revive spending on wine, which fell in the recession. Gunewardena denied this.

“If we’d launched this in 2008, we would have been doing it for those reasons,” he said. “But we’re investing in stock, and wine spending has been growing for the past 18 months. Coming out of recession, there is a lot more interest in wine. This is a long-term initiative, not a short-term promotion.”

(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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