25,000 Bottles, 7 Somms, 2 Apps, 1 Hotel, and 5 Minutes to Wine

By Jeff Harding | Jaclyn Warren


Jeff Harding
Jaclyn Warren
The Cellar at the Post Oak Hotel
The Cellar at the Post Oak Hotel

Any guest that orders wine should receive it within five minutes. That was the directive given to Travis Hinkle, Advanced Sommelier and Director of Beverage at The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston. Fair enough, you think, until you take into account the dozen or more outlets: two free-standing restaurants, two more internal restaurants, a hotel bar, the pool, the concierge lounge, and in-room ordering. So setting up the wine program became a logistical challenge in addition to building a list that would earn a 2019 Grand Award from Wine Spectator.

Hinkle set up his main cellar of 25,000 bottles (and an additional 10 to 15,000 bottles throughout the property) with meticulous location management, while logging it all in a google spreadsheet. He then built a Slack account for communication with a dedicated channel for wine retrieval. There is always a wine runner on duty, who in the daytime logs arrivals and maintains the cellars, but their main duty is to retrieve bottles during service that a manager or sommelier will request via the Slack app. Often during busy shifts there will be two wine runners manning the property, adding to the need for accurate communication independent of their location. Hinkle’s team is comprised of six more sommeliers plus seven on the cellar squad to help manage and upkeep the nearly $4 million collection built by Master Sommelier Keith Goldston. 

The sommelier will order the wine via a 5-digit code (each bottle has its own PLU lookup). Then a specific Slack command (that Hinkle programmed) triggers a bot (via Zapier, a connectivity application), which queries the google sheet and returns all the locations of the wine (there may be multiples of the same bottle in different outlets). One of the runners then claims the order, decides which location to pull from, pulls it and runs it to the venue. Sometimes, they literally run as two of the main restaurants are on “campus” but outside the main hotel building. The final step is the wine runner completing a requisition log which depletes the quantity, thus maintaining an always up-to-date inventory for the entire staff across all outlets.

This ultimate wine-running and inventory system allows for an additional benefit in the Post Oak’s multi-outlet setup: the diversity of the wine selection. A light bodied chillable red might not be a big seller at the steakhouse, but perfect for poolside. So in addition to the regular list at each venue, all staff knows they can request any wine on the property, see immediately if it’s available, and get it to the customer in five minutes. Now what kind of running shoes do those guys wear?

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