Interview with Alex Gaspari of the Osteria dai Coghi di Costermano
A small gourmet restaurant that is making itself known and appreciated in the Italian gastronomic scene has used our ENOWEB to improve the effectiveness of the management aspects of the winery.
But ENOWEB also proved successful in increasing sales, improving inventory flow management and helping customers discover and try many lesser-known labels, making the most of the sommelier's research work.
Finally, it represented a valid help against the negative effects of two months of forced closure thanks to its online sales platform.
Will Alex Gaspari briefly introduce us to the Osteria dai Coghi?
“Ours is a very small company, there are only four of us: me, my wife Mara, my brother Mirko and his girlfriend. We have just 12 tables for about thirty seats and we manage all four of us. The peculiarity is that we are all cooks. We don’t have a room staff and we divide the tasks partly according to the needs of the moment and partly with some more defined roles. For example, I am responsible for the part concerning the wines and the cellar and therefore in the dining room I also deal with the food and wine pairing."
So the name of the place derives from this peculiarity?
"Exactly. Because as I said my wife and I - who are also the owners - we initially train ourselves as cooks. Then you know, in a small village reality it is also easy to acquire definitions and nicknames and so the company formed by the four of us was known in the village with the nickname of “Coghi”, which in dialect means the cooks. So when we opened our restaurant it was already for everyone the restaurant "dai Coghi" and so we decided to keep the name.
The definition of Osteria instead is the result of our choice. We aren’t a tavern in the popular sense of the term, but we want to differentiate ourselves from the indistinct mass of restaurants that hold the starred sign and the low-end tourist restaurant under the same name, which is the most popular here in our area. So we have chosen to refer to the most innovative concept of 'modern tavern' that best fits our intent to propose a place where good food, good food - even research - and good drinking were at home, but proposed in such a way as to be serenely usable in a provincial reality like ours, where, among other things, everyone knows us.
The fact that people know us was also one of the reasons why we decided to run the room ourselves. It is a choice that recalls a typical practice of the ancient country inns even if for us it was born as a necessity. Over time, however, we realized that instead it had become one of our strengths because who better than a cook can tell and present a dish prepared by him?
In modern catering, the customer increasingly needs to be informed about everything concerning the dish he is eating. And this, not only to be reassured about the presence of any allergens, but also about the origin of the ingredients, the preparation and many other information that a waiter, no matter how prepared, isn’t able to provide with the same completeness. "
Your restaurant has earned very positive reviews in such a short time, so I imagine that over time a non-local clientele has also arrived?
“Yes it's true, in reality we work really hard with the closest cities: Verona, Trento but above all Brescia. Compared to all these centers we are very well placed. And then we also work very well with clients who come from Milan. In reality, our position, which initially seemed decentralized to us, in the end proved to be really functional. We are five minutes from the Affi exit on the Brenner motorway and are easily accessible from the coastal resorts of Lake Garda and from the tourist resorts of Trentino ".
How can you tell us about your kitchen?
“It is a cuisine based mainly on local products and therefore purely seasonal. Seasonality is precisely what sets the pace for our work. Here the menu changes continuously, every month, forty days at the most. It is a choice that exposes us to various risks because today the seasons follow one another very irregularly so we are often forced to reprogram our proposal based on what nature offers us from year to year. We get our supplies from local farmers and gardeners, our butcher is the same meat shop in the village of my wife that we have always known. We have our reference fisherman who supplies us with fish from the lake. We use these unique products of our territory to propose dishes that are partly inspired by classic recipes of the Veronese cuisine but which are then the result of our interpretation in a gourmet key.”
And in all this what is the role of wine?
“He has grown a little with us. Initially we lacked in-depth knowledge so I began my study path when I decided, five years ago, to open the restaurant, since then I have followed courses and tastings until I have gained an increasingly in-depth knowledge. I started by proposing a small list of about fifty local labels while today my wine list offers a choice of more than 400 labels from all over the world.
We have not changed the approach because for the most part they are labels from local producers. All small wineries that I discovered by sifting a territory particularly rich in small realities that make great quality. But also for the other Italian and international labels we reasoned in the same way, looking for little-known producers to offer our customers a never banal solution. In recent years I have made many trips around the Italian regions, in France, Spain, Slovenia and other wine regions. By choice we do not have classic and famous labels precisely because our customer is already an enthusiast in himself who can find these products without problems if he does not keep them perhaps already in the cellar. We want the wine experience to always represent a discovery for our guests. "
When and on what occasion did you meet ENOWEB? And how did it help you?
"I got to know the program by doing one of the things I like best, going around restaurants to try the cuisine of famous colleagues. I have come across it over the years in many starry tables. My wife and I immediately had the desire to start collaborating with your project but initially I thought it was just a program for managing the wine list. Then, by informing myself and reading the information on your site, I discovered that in reality it is a product that could give me an important help in managing the warehouse and all the handling phases in the cellar.
Initially, also because I was misinformed by a colleague, I thought it was very expensive but then when I learned the real cost, I realized that I could easily afford the expense. But I still didn't know what was going to happen.
Only after installing it did I realize that I had a tool in my hand that would have saved me a lot of time. Basically it was as if I had hired the cellarman assistant I was so much needed by paying him a few tens of euros a month.
Keep in mind that when I was a cook, the time I could devote to the cellar was very little. I used to update the wine list at two in the morning or on rest days. I was desperately trying to carve out the time to track the arrivals but sometimes the bottles stayed in the boxes for weeks if not months before being registered and placed on the shelves. My card focuses on many small producers making small numbers. When a label is out of stock, the same wine is not always found, the same vintage and therefore the order changes and the wine list must also be changed. In the end, we had a wine list full of notes, additions and asterisks… and it wasn't really a good thing.
So in ENOWEB I really found an extra work colleague because it simplified all the management part from registration to sales in the room.
After the purchase, going a bit to tinker with the program, I was also able to take advantage of all the data analysis functions for order management really well. The statistics help me understand how to structure orders by solving various practical problems.
For example, I used to often have labels running out of stock. At that point, rather than risk selling exhausted bottles in the room, I chose to leave the last bottles there without putting them on sale. This protected me from the risk of bad impressions but in the end I had a small fixed capital. Now from this point of view I am calm because I know that if a label appears on paper it is certainly available. "
How do you present the card to your customers? Does he only use the tablet or does he also keep the traditional card?
“We only bring the tablet to the table. Initially I was a bit hesitant because I had in front of me the example of some very famous restaurants that continued to offer both, so I thought: 'if they do, there is a reason?'. But then I realized that today people come there alone to become familiar with the tablet, and I also realized that if I go to structure the different sections of the wine list in an intelligent way, a card like mine with more than 400 labels is not heavy to consult. It is one thing to turn a book with hundreds of pages and another is to handle a tablet with many search methods.
With the tablet, even the largest map can be easily consulted. And I'll tell you more ... the tablet stimulates play, research, curiosity and in the end today I am able to sell many more labels, even those that I previously placed with difficulty because they were less known.
You see, we have a wine list that really allows us to range all over the world from Lebanon to Georgia; from the United States to South Africa, it is a variety that previously struggled to emerge with paper wine list, while today I see that many tables literally play with these proposals and enjoy asking, experimenting, reading the always complete and updated data sheet: 'but why don't we try this or maybe this one ...' so the tablet object itself stimulates greater interaction between the card and the customer.
The more I use ENOWEB, the more I realize how useful it is in my daily work. Before, I managed the wine list with Word and the warehouse with an Excel file. It was a system that took me a very long time. I did everything manually and then after updating the file I still had to go down to check because it could always happen that the bottle escaped. Today all this is no longer there thanks also to the really useful service of barcode labels that allow me to download the goods sold without margin for error.
In short - I repeat - for me having ENOWEB was like hiring that extra collaborator that otherwise I would not have been able to afford. "
This interview comes at a time (Thursday 30 April) that is somewhat particular for catering in general, with activities closed for over two months due to the Coronavirus. How are you facing this crisis?
“Like many restaurateurs, we have equipped ourselves to be able to make deliveries directly to the customer's home. For about twenty days it has been possible to call us to order dishes selected from a menu dedicated to delivery. We make deliveries ourselves also because we like the idea of maintaining contact with our customers. The dishes are delivered for both lunch and dinner cold in special containers together with simple instructions that explain how to compose and finish the preparations because inevitably we cannot deliver hot dishes. We collect orders directly via Whatsapp at 3473442158.
Starting today we have also activated, thanks to the collaboration with E-group, a wine and spirits sales service directly from our cellar. I really have to thank E-group for the speed with which it set up this very simple and intuitive system. We have published our wine list online and activated the typical e-commerce functions (shopping cart, data collection for shipping and payment).
We expect a minimum order of 60 euros because otherwise the delivery that we do directly in this case is not convenient. On the list price we apply a discount of 20% and delivery is free (it provides a small contribution of 5 euros only if you exceed a certain number of kilometers). The ENOWEB e-commerce system also provides for the possibility of activating payment by credit card but we have preferred to opt for payments on delivery.
I have already started yesterday to send our customers the link where they can consult the wine list and order the bottles and already today I have had several reservations. Another thing I'm noticing is the fact that our customers like to browse our online wine list. In the restaurant, however, we set a limit of half an hour for the choice of wine, while here they have all the time they want, they can navigate, go out, return, return the next day. In short, I am noticing that they like to take their time to complete their order.
I am really satisfied with this service and orders are growing well both for the menu and for the bottles. To call us, at least in this initial phase, are mainly our customers but I am noticing that - through word of mouth - new customers are also arriving.
Of course it's not like having the restaurant open but we are discovering a new dimension of our profession. "
April 30, 2020
Piergiovanni Mometto [www.mometto.net]