Fast-growing wine bar brand and importer, on a mission to make handcrafted wines accessible to all.
Humble Grape is a fast growing wine bar brand, and named as ‘Notable Newcomer’ by the Financial Times.
We import over 400 artisan wines from 11 countries, and offer these direct to customers in our wine bars/shops and online. The wines we sell are handcrafted, biodynamic, organic or sustainably produced. We import directly from the vineyard, so avoid markups for agents and distributors.
Our bar interiors are impactful and unique – fashioned from champagne riddling rack and contemporary cork.
Our focus is on customer experience and outstanding service. We know each of our winemakers personally and share the stories behind the wines.
Our bars (in Central and SW London) were both profitable within the first 6 months.*
*Source: Unaudited Management Accounts
We are launching two more sites in London this year and plan to launch a further 2-4 each year thereafter to become a 20-site brand before we look at an exit.
We also have a wine club, wine bank and a wine school.
We see that the consumer is becoming increasingly aware of the inflated prices and poor production techniques of mass produced wines. The craft beers/spirits market is booming but, given the timelines required to produce quality craft wines, we consider that there is no wine brand yet with an equivalent offering.
We have longterm relationships with our winemakers and import over 400 wines from 11 different countries, and are continuously building our portfolio.
We aim to deliver a unique customer experience, complete with anecdotes direct from the vineyard and alternative tasting notes. Our staff are all passionate about wine, trained daily on our products, and love their job.
Customers can ‘drink in’ with great quality food, or take home at retail price. They can attend winemaker dinners, tastings, join our wine club or attend our wine school.
This 360º customer experience and approachable way to enjoy wine, has proven to foster loyalty, which we believe will continue to grow with each new site.
Substantial accomplishments to date
Humble Grape was founded in 2009 when James Dawson began importing wines from small family-owned vineyards and ran pop-up tastings around London.
In 2014, Humble Grape raised £535K on Seedrs and from private investors to take the brand to the high street. It was one of the fastest funded campaigns at the time, and described as ‘Making Waves’ by CityAm.
The first Humble Grape wine bar and shop (a neighbourhood site in Battersea, London) opened in June 2015, and was profitable within the first 6 months, to 170% the initial forecast 12 month gross revenue*.Then the second, larger site in Fleet Street, Central London, opened in May 2016 – within 6 months, the revenue was already above that forecast for the year*.
*Source: Unaudited Management Accounts
Humble Grape bars have generated a huge buzz in the industry and are fast becoming renowned for their unique interior, quality of the wines and service. Since the launch of our Battersea bar, we’ve received over 300 press endorsements, including features in The Telegraph, The Guardian, alongside influential newsletters such as The Nudge, Emerald Street and Sheeluxe.
The Fleet Street site was named as ‘Notable Newcomer’ by the Financial Times, and listed as Time Out’s Bar of the Week, two months after opening.
The Battersea site has been consistently the #1 Best Bar in London on TripAdvisor and in the top twenty of the tens of thousands of restaurants in London and recently voted Most Loved in Battersea by Time Out readers.
And for two years running we’ve been awarded Best Wine Retailer of the Year by Time and Leisure.
We have four main revenue streams which interconnect seamlessly from a product, service and sales and marketing perspective.
Wine bars and shops – We import directly allowing us to maintain high margins across the wines that we offer. We can also increase spend per head by up to 200-500%, by up-selling retail wines to take home by the case or half-case.
Online – Sales direct from our site and via third-party sites/Apps, such as Deliveroo, UberEats and online luxury gifts and experiences retailers.
Wine club/wine bank – The margins can be substantial, and because we sell to our existing customers in the bar and via email and we don't discount, our acquisition costs can be much lower than many of our competitors, contributing to a highly favourable customer lifetime value.
Wine school and events – We receive daily event enquires, so we anticipate strong growth in events with each new site. Many events in London are for corporate clients and the budgets and spend per head are high.
Use of proceeds
We will use the funds to accelerate our growth, with the aim of becoming a 20-site brand by 2021/22.
We consider that the timing is perfect for us to create optimal growth in this sector of the industry. We will use the funds to obtain 2-4 sites per year, and to enhance the management team, by bringing in two key players in operations and logistics.
We are in the early stages of working with a leading digital agency to build a new digital platform to increase retail and wine club sales and to enhance bookings. We will geotarget potential leads living or working close to our sites, to maximise cross marketing potential.
Working with an industry consultant we already have a clear plan to significantly enhance in-bar retail sales, using enticing visual merchandising displays and cleverly branded point of sale materials.
We plan to rapidly grow our new wine school, offering customers WSET accredited courses delivered in our unique brand style.
Please note that the company currently has £263,000 in debt.
The company also has A and B shares. The shares carry equal rights, except in the event of a liquidation of the company in which case holders of A shares will receive a preferential return equal to the original subscription price of the A Shares and any arrears owed to them. Any balance of capital will be distributed on a pro rata basis to both A and B shareholders. The original subscription price for the A shares was £125k. Seedrs investors will receive B shares.
Our target market is those aged between 25 and 55 who work or live in and around London.
The accessibility of pricing, media endorsement and authenticity of product appeals to the younger generation of foodies and wine drinkers, while the vast selection of high quality wines at accessible prices appeals to the traditional diner and affluent wine connoisseur.
With wine prices ranging from £20 to £300 per bottle, and with our range of small plate food offerings and sharing platters to full mains such as rib-eye steak, the in-bar spend per head (excluding additional retail sales) ranges from £25 to £120 depending on the clients who visit.
Creating an offering which is accessible and appealing to both segments of the market – democratising wine – we believe is key to creating the atmosphere and in-bar buzz that makes us unique.
Traditionally, the wine offering has been secondary to food when making a restaurant choice, but the landscape is changing and quality handcrafted drinks and spirits are becoming central to a social experience. We consider ourselves to be the only brand in the UK that offers such vast selection of artisan wines to their customers, along with a high quality food offering.
Most of our customers have a basic level of knowledge about wine and are interested to learn more. However, they range from those who know nothing about wine (or who don’t care too much, they just like the brand) through to those have a cellar packed with the best Bordeaux and Burgundy.
Our target demographic is London based for now but transferable to other cities in the UK further down the line. Before exit, we plan to have piloted several out-of-London sites to prove the concept is viable in other cities such as Leeds and Manchester. Given the success of brands targeting a similar demographic to ours and the flexibility of our offering, we’re confident our offering will work well in all affluent neighbourhoods and city locations.
Characteristics of target market
The value of the restaurant market is set to reach £52 billion this year, the branded segment outperforming the wider eating out market. The UK restaurant landscape is changing as consumer preferences shift towards premium foods and wines in an informal setting.
At the same time, an increasingly saturated market and greater consumer sophistication has driven demand for better and more interesting places to dine and drink, and the more experimental consumer is particularly driven by experiential elements. Whilst consumers are spending a lower proportion of their disposable income on purchasing material goods, there has been a shift in priorities to focus on leisure, entertainment and hospitality.
This market is becoming more aware and less tolerant of the 4x retail markups on wines necessary for other restaurants to make a profit in a prime London site.
The modern-day wine drinker cares about how products are sourced and how they are made. They care about the impact of farming on the environment and are increasingly against big brands and mass production.
They are health conscious and concerned about additives and chemicals in mass produced wines and increasingly focussed on quality for price.
Furthermore, the traditional approach to wine no longer appeals – customers prefer to hear human interest stories behind the wines than details on clonal varieties and Robert Parker points. And they value quality of experience as much as quality of product.
Our brand image and ethos is strong and fresh and appealing to the press and consumer. Our tone of voice is approachable and fun and easy to relate to. Our sites are unique and there’s been strong demand from journalists wanting to write about them, visit or publish stunning photographs of our striking interiors.
Our offering is unique and timely for the evolving landscape of the industry. We’ve hit the market at precisely the right time when sustainability, company ethos and authenticity are at the forefront of the consumer’s mind.
Our brand and offering is extremely attractive from a marketing perspective because each of our sales channels directly feed into and complement one another. Our goal is to reach new customers, deliver an excellent experience, up-sell retail wines, wine club/bank and wine school and ultimately create a customer for life – an ambassador for our brand and our company ethos.
We will do this via three main marketing channels:
1) In-bar and local marketing
– pavement wine tastings, food markets, strong and unique window displays, enticing visual merchandising displays and point of sales promotions.
– Regular events such as Shop price Mondays, Tasting Tuesday and Icon Wine Fridays to encourage repeat visits.
– Delivering an outstanding experience, so each customer will want to leave a review on a review site, return every week and tell all their friends.
2) Digital –
– Online and mobile . We are in the early stages of working with a leading digital agency to rebuild our web and mobile platform, to enhance online sales and bookings. We will use cutting edge customer-centric tools to analyse customer databases.
– Social and email. We are looking to build a loyal audience. A number of our events have sold out from one email. We’ll continue to generate email opt ins and social engagement.
– PR. We plan to maintain momentum, building buzz before and during each launch and continually engaging the press.
3) Partnerships with retail sites and restaurant booking platforms.
Most wine bar brands in London have been trading for decades, such as Balls Brothers, Davy’s and Jamie’s and were born from the old-school approach to wine. They are still widely successful given their site location and lack of alternatives for customers.
There are a several ‘new wave’ wine bars, such as Vinoteca, Vagabond, Planet of the Grapes and Bedales – all of which are popular and successful, proving that there is a significant market for such an offering. However, we understand that we are the only brand to directly import all of our wines, meaning we can offer higher quality product at a lower price than our competitors. And we consider ourselves to be the only bar to have successfully integrated the in-bar and retail offering.
Also as proven by the media buzz around our brand and excellent reviews, our customer experience is unique and differentiated.
Our staff are trained daily on wines and love working for Humble Grape. We have a dedicated in-house wine trainer and our staff are trained daily on wines by the glass, on our producers plus with the winemakers themselves.
Also we’re soon to launch an in-house accredited wine school so we can deliver Wine and Spirits Education Trust qualifications direct to our staff as part of their professional development. This will not only further enhance customer service but will also continue to aid out recruitment and staff retention rates, which we believe to be excellent, in a typically transient industry.
Plus we've just begun working with a notable head chef, to further upgrade our food offering to be competitive with the top ten informal fine dining concepts in London. And we plan to import cured meats and cheeses.
Consumers increasingly care how the products they’re buying were sourced and the quality of the ingredients contained in them. Our brand and products are perfectly positioned to create a competitive and more current offering to that of the traditional wine bar or wine retailer.