Sommeliers Dylan Amos and Jennifer Szychowski. Photo by Erin Cooper
According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, over 6.5 million people traveled to Las Vegas last year in order to attend more than 21 thousand conventions. Since we are approaching one of the busiest convention seasons of the year, we thought it might be interesting to examine how successful restaurants prepare for such a large influx of business. We recently caught up with Dylan Amos, Sommelier at Delmonico Steakhouse in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian, and he shared with us some of his observations and tips.
Which conventions tend to draw the most people into your restaurant?
CES (of course), SHOT show, SEMA, MAGIC and Concrete.
Which conventioneers tend to spend the most on wine?
It lines up with the convention size usually and matches up to the host’s position within the company. The higher up in the food chain, the bigger the expense account. The bigger the convention, the more dollars there are to go around. And those Concrete guys sure do like to have a good steak and a great bottle of wine.
Who do you find are the most willing to try wines that are “outside the box”?
Tech guys and people based in San Francisco, L.A. or New York. New Yorkers are often looking for good Italian reds, particularly the big B’s: Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello. L.A. folks can lean more into funky, natural wines and cultier domestic choices. San Fran-ers might lean towards getting deep on Burgundy, Bordeaux or wines with age. Broad strokes on those for sure.
When it comes to wine, do you notice any buying behaviors that are associated with those particular groups of conventioneers?
During any big convention, the sales of the more established wineries like Caymus, Joseph Phelps, Jordan, etc… are going to spike. Some conventions have a crazy spread of what’s being bought. It’s either a $50 bottle or a $500 bottle or sometimes it’s wines from a particular region. When the Washington wines sales spike, you know there’s a bunch of Seattleites in the building. During one of our recent October conventions, several guests were buying the pricier bottles at the end of the meal. That’s a smart way to keep your audience captive and hanging out for the good stuff.
When these groups do a buy-out, what is your usual process in assisting them with their wine selections?
It depends on the event and the client. We are always looking to over deliver and to provide an experience that is seamless, effective and yummy. We have private events lists of differing sizes that we offer, since we don’t publish our full wine list, and that’s the typical starting point. Sometimes we receive requests for personalized recommendations.
If it’s a walk-around event with several stations, we build a by-the-glass list around wines that complement the food but that also work well as cocktail wines. Then we throw a monkey wrench or two into that process and offer fun gems for the adventurous wine drinker. We utilize the depth of our list, currently around 2,300 selections, as a framework.
If it’s a sit-down dinner, we encourage simplicity and familiarity. Do a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Pinot Noir, a Chardonnay and a zippy white, Albarino, has been the one for us lately, and most everyone will be happy. There’s always a few that will want something that’s not being offered, and we reassure the client that if someone asks for just about anything, we have options prepared for them. That’s one of the beauties of working in Las Vegas; there are enough people from enough places that you can build a program that is broad and deep enough to satisfy and excite just about any wine drinker.
How do you navigate helping guests reach the minimum spend associated with a
In-house, we start with the idea that each guest will drink half a bottle of wine. So, 20 guests equal 10 bottles, right? That’s an easy and safe way to gauge it. It’s almost always an over-estimation. Usually, the larger the party, over 40 or more, the less likely it will reach even 75% of this. We always want to be very responsible about how we help our clients and focus first on establishing an event that causes as little stress as possible.
Once the client has arrived in the restaurant, we talk to the host about reaching the minimum and see if there is a preferred way to do so. If there’s still money left to spend toward the end of the event, the host might decide to end with Champagne of a large format bottle. Something celebratory to cap the night is always good.
Do you find that certain brands or varietals are more popular than others? If so, why do you think that is?
Cab is king. Full stop. Ain’t no doubt about it. Napa Cabernet in particular.
Why? There’s just such a wide range of styles at such a high level of quality. There’s lush and rich or savory and rustic and all points in between. These wines are also often crafted by the best of the best with no expense spared. It’s a grape great with lots to say.
Also, lots of folks really like wines with weight. They want it “big” and “bold” and Cabernet tends to deliver that either with body or with tannin or sometimes both.
When, if ever, do small or large formats come into play?
We love to use a Magnum to pour for banquets. That’s always fun.
If you were to give advice to a new restaurant that is looking to take advantage of convention business, what would it be?
Be organized. Be flexible. Be well stocked. Be thoughtful. Be conscientious.