Supplying good quality accessories alongside wines can not only enrich the wine drinking experience, but the option to add a logo can ensure customers are reminded of your brand long after they have bought the wine.

Vineyard caught up with Maddie Fenner at Waiter’s Friend to find out more about the family run business located just outside of Guildford, Surrey, and how producers, merchants and restaurants can make the most of branded wine accessories.

Who are Waiter’s Friend?

My parents, Paul and Rosemary Fenner, started the company 27 years ago because they are passionate about serving wine properly. They started with one corkscrew from a family run manufacturer in Italy and rapidly expanded from there. I joined the business in 2008 and Laura, my younger sister, joined three years ago.

What are the key benefits from creating a range of branded items?

The logo doesn’t change how the product functions, but adding this does allow it to speak for your brand. Great wines deserve great accessories and we have carefully selected our product range, developing relationships with the manufacturers. Drinking wine is an experience of the senses and there is so much more which can make it memorable and that is where branded accessories really come into their own. The winemaker puts their passion into the wine and we believe it should be equalled with dedication into good accessories and serving the wine properly.

It’s show season, which items do producers need to have with them?

As festivals and outdoor events become increasingly popular, producers have had to find ways of serving without using glass. Customers are also becoming environmentally conscious and don’t want single use plastic glasses. We are developing a range of high quality recyclable SAN plastic glasses. We don’t want to compromise on the shape and needed to find something which was practical and could be washed and reused. We will be releasing the range in the next month and there will be various styles, which of course can all be branded.

Chilling bowls are crucial, especially during the summer. We have invested in a printing machine for vinyl logos and that allows us to support the smaller producers by giving them the opportunity to brand just a few units.

Slo-flo® is a must have for tastings. They have four holes in the sides so you can control the pour, give a sensible serving so you’re not pouring away the profits and they also have a small lid.

Are we missing a trick by not having more branded wine glasses in restaurants?

Glassware is very important because when the wine is served in the right glass with the right feel to it, it does make a difference and branded glasses can help to build your identity too. Why wouldn’t you want your wine to be served in its own glass with your name on?

We work with Lehmann Glass who have worked closely with the Champagne houses to develop an ideal range for sparkling wine. There are three key elements in a sparkling wine glass. First you need the piqué, the pointed bit at the bottom, to enhance the effervescence. Then there is the wide bowl, people think of the tight flute but you want the wine to be able to breathe. You don’t want the aromas to escape so the narrowing tulip shape at the top is the third element as it concentrates the aromas. You can then be creative with how you want the glass to be styled; a fine stem and a fine rim feel sophisticated. With glassware, big colourful logos can take away from the wine so we always recommend having an etched effect which doesn’t detract from the product.

What challenges are you helping producers and the trade to combat?

More people are serving wine by the glass, which is great because it allows consumers to try something new. The challenge is that wastage needs to be minimised and we need to make sure that the wine is tasting fresh. We are developing a portable, battery powered wine preservation system, Presorvac®, to combat this. It will be able to preserve still and sparkling wines through a dual pressure system. We didn’t want to put anything in the bottle which wasn’t there originally so it doesn’t use gas and instead it vacuums air out of still wines and re-pressurises the sparkling wine bottles. It will be great for on-trade and for producers with cellar doors, attending events or sales teams who are out on the road. We are hoping to launch around the end of this year and will be building a way to incorporate a logo.

What essential items should all producers have to hand?

There is the core group of products which all people need to have. Everyone needs a reliable corkscrew to open the wine and good stopper to preserve it. The on-trade also want to be able to serve the wines in ice buckets which match the identity of the bottle. They build on the customer experience and help to create a visible brand identity. The trade doesn’t want to have to serve English sparkling wine in a Champagne branded bucket.

What is your most practical product?

After listening to sales people who are out on the road with bottles, we found they were struggling to keep wines chilled so we developed an insulated wine trolley bag. It has protected padding to keep bottles presentable and we can embroider or print the front pocket so it looks professional. It is a practical item to have and as well as sales it is great for smaller tasting events. There is a pocket for brochures and the dividers are removable so you can pop a wine cooler in there. People often say that they don’t know how they managed without one.

What is your most versatile product?

Dropstop® was invented to prevent spilling wine on tablecloths. They are simply rolled up and popped in the top of the bottle but are very effective. Several restaurants brand them to add some theatre at point of service and customers can then reuse them, being reminded of the restaurant. It can be added to folding cards to get your marketing message across, and can be sold at the cellar doors or it makes a lovely low cost give away. They are fully digitally printed so you can go mad with the branding. The DropStop® wine breather is a new development which has gills to aerate the wine as it is poured. It is an overall excellent marketing, retail and serving tool.

What can you do with a small budget?

There are lots of items which can be branded and then retailed and we have reduced minimum order quantities so that it is accessible for smaller producers who don’t have huge budgets. Selling corkscrews is great because they are low cost and people will be reminded of the vineyard, restaurant or wine merchant every time they open a bottle. To help sell the accessories we have a printed box which holds a bottle and two glasses. It’s a great gifting item, and adds value to the wine offering.

Sparkling wine stoppers are also great for small budgets as they can be used for retailing, tastings and trade. Our stopper range is unique because it has an air lung system. Once the stopper is on the bottle, the pressure fills the air lung, expanding against the sides of the bottle to give a good seal. They will keep fizz fresh for two to three days comfortably. The air lung system has lots of outer case options so there are plenty of opportunities to be creative when designing the outer shell.