French article from Blasting News here and the English translation below!
To avoid losing their entire revenue, some businesses have preferred to diversify their activity. This is the case of One to Wine.
Interview by Yassine Khelfa from Blasting News
For the past four years, One to Wine has been giving the English the opportunity to taste the very best of French and Italian wines. With its tailor-made ranges, this start-up company, which has less than ten employees, has established itself on the British market at small and large London events. Unfortunately, as their activity is essentially centred on events, the arrival of Covid-19 has brought them to a complete halt.
But these young French people quickly rolled up their sleeves to remotely propose alternative solutions to their customers. All this while formally avoiding encouraging gatherings in the English capital.
The Coronavirus epidemic has had a major worldwide impact on the hotel, restaurant and retail sector like yours. At the beginning of the epidemic, how did you experience it?
Our activity is composed of 70% by events, 30% by specialised distribution to restaurants, cafes etc. Events were booked until May (200 to 500 people) and they were cancelled one by one. We then decided, before the lockdown was effective, to stop our event activity in order to limit the gatherings and avoid the spread of the virus.
With the containment and social distancing measures, consumption habits were strongly disrupted. Have you experienced a significant drop in your activity?
When the lockdown was announced, sales to restaurants obviously stopped as well. Within three weeks, we faced a total lack of income. That’s why we launched an e-shop for wine delivery, at the beginning of March.
We had originally set it up to survive.
But we didn’t want to become only alcohol sellers, so we came up with the idea of creating Starter-packs. These are mixed cases created by us, allowing customers to discover several wines at the same time. We accompany these tastings with online tastings with our founder Maxime Maiano, and recipes available on our Blog and social networks: Facebook and Instagram.
You are known to hold meetings with winemakers at events such as trade fairs but gatherings have been banned, so have you been strongly affected by this crisis?
It’s true that before Covid-19, we proposed different types of events. Some of them were directly aimed at private individuals with tastings and winemaking courses. We also organised events for companies, like teambuilding workshops (competitions, blind tastings etc). Finally, there is a last branch of our activity: our catering service on events. This is our largest share of income.
These changes have certainly pushed you to change the way you communicate. Can we say that with social networks, your business has been able to survive?
In order to remain present in our community and share our new services, we have set up a more dynamic communication on social networks, consisting of sharing recipes, pairings, tasting tips or advice around the world of wine. You can find all of them on our Booklet (free download here)
I think it will still take more than a year to get back to normal activity. When things gradually get back on track, we will resume our distribution activity to restaurants and continue this delivery system with e-shop.
Home office has become a common method in many countries to keep employees connected. Was this also the case for you? Your sector of activity is nevertheless asking for a lot of advice, face-to-face contact with the customer?
We are very close to our customers and in this wine sector, the sharing of passion is really important. So we wanted to keep in touch with our consumers via our new individual delivery offers and these famous Starter packs, in addition to strengthening our presence on social networks.
At the beginning, our aim was to really simplify the readability of French wines with our own labels on the bottles, easier to read for the British, because they are used to choose a wine according to its grape variety (and not its geographical origin as in France): the British buy a Chardonnay and not a Chablis.
We have therefore created our range by selecting our own wines in France, wines that are environmentally friendly, by labelling them more clearly and by importing them to the UK with the exclusivity.
In France, an agreement on the reopening of restaurants is being refined. But in Germany or Austria, for example, coffee shops and brasseries have been open for a long time. In the United Kingdom, do you know what’s shaping up for you?
In the UK, lockdown is certainly effective, but it is less regulated than in France. People can go out on the street without a certificate. If in France the containment has ended, here in the UK it hasn’t. We have had some information on the reopening of shops that are not essential.
But nothing for restaurants. There are rumours about July and August, but it is not certain yet. Of course, we are waiting impatiently for the restaurants to reopen so that we can gradually resume our distribution activity.
Brexit was already a big news in your area. For a start-up company made up entirely of young French people, your activities have probably been shaken up by an announcement like that?
Yes, in June 2016, when we had just launched our business, the drastic fall in the pound has caused us to lose a lot of margin.
That’s when we decided to launch our events activity in order to make up for this lack of income, while continuing our environmentally friendly approach and taking only sustainable start-ups as partners for our events (Elysia, Bisou les Madeleines, Cheezelo…).
With an event as outstanding and unprecedented as the one we have just experienced, certain public figures such as Robert de Niro or Juliette Binoche are calling on citizens to slow down consumerism and their way of life. Is your company sensitive to new perspectives for the future?
We reject mass consumption at One to Wine. We prefer to go through small producers and we don’t sell in supermarkets. With the lockdown, people have rediscovered home consumption and aperitifs.
In London, which is a dense urban centre with a high level of land ownership, people are pushed to live in small apartments, or even in shared flats, and so they’re used to meet outside their homes.
Before Covid-19, we were not intended to reach people in their homes, but today with this crisis, we are “fortunate” that consumption habits are changing and people are getting used to spending convivial moments at home. That is why we will keep our delivery business. One of our plans for the future is to open a wine bar, but this is more likely to happen in a year or two.
You describe on your site a certain awareness of the preservation of the environment. How is this action really taking shape?
Indeed, this is the origin of the One To Wine project, we only select wines that are 100% environmentally friendly and only work with partners who have the same approach.
We are very careful about how we choose our producers and how we distribute our wines in the UK.
In many cases, even if their wines have the organic certification, the winemakers use copper in their production in France, which is a nonsense as this metal is extremely polluting for the soil. (More info about Organic labels here)
That’s why One To Wine has created its own charter and we control each of our winemakers’ viticultural and winemaking practices. Every year we visit them to check that everything is really produced with respect for the environment.
Furthermore, to take our approach further, we have made calculations and determined the quantities of CO2 emitted for the import, transport and (minimum) packaging of our wines.
Thanks to this calculation, we now compensate these emissions by planting an equivalent number of trees!
In the UK, more than 37,000 people died as a result of the Covid-19 epidemic. In the country, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was also contaminated and his hospitalisation has been the subject of a European-wide web tour. He has since regained his position as head of the British government.
We recall that alcohol abuse is dangerous to health and should be consumed with moderation.