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News & Press: Insider Tips & Best Practices

Raoul’s: Old Feel, New Touch

Thursday, May 15, 2014  
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Straddling the border of Soho and the West Village, serving up faithful renditions of bistro favorites for 30+ years, Raoul’s is in many respects a proud throwback. The rather tight, dim, boisterous space includes hammered tin ceiling and walls, a gallery’s worth of 20th-century art, white tablecloths covered in white butcher paper. Add in tall, sheathed dinner-only menus that get updated only once a season and it’s apparent that change is not exactly a priority here.


Interestingly, while the wine/beer/cocktail list, both in composition and appearance, looks as if it has not changed for years save for vintage updates, the management of Raoul’s wine inventory and ordering is as modern as it gets. Beverage Director and GM John Osborne explains that he revamped the restaurant’s system shortly after joining Raoul’s in 2010: “The system I inherited was strictly old school—manual inventory, hard copies of distributor’s price books and ordering everything via phone. Very time-consuming and inefficient.”

Now, while the core food menu stays put through an entire season, Osborne constantly updates the wine list. “At Raoul’s we’ve got a very tightly curated list of mostly small production French and American wines designed to work with our contemporary bistro dishes,” he explains. “There are more crisp whites, rosés and lighter reds in spring and summer, while the list skews heavily towards richer whites and heartier reds in the colder months. And given the limited availability of most of our offerings, we are constantly replacing 86ed wines with new discoveries, which keeps our list fresh for both our clientele and our staff.”

How does he manage the frequent updates efficiently? One key source is using The site contains all of the wholesale products listed in the regular monthly print version of Beverage Media, online in an easy-to-navigate database. All told, 50,000+ SKUs in the NY Metro market are accounted for, searchable by multiple criteria. The site allows for communication and ordering capability as well.

“With only 200-ish wines on the list plus 15 beers and a full bar, I use simple Excel spreadsheets to track purchases and inventory levels,” says Osborne, “but I use the BeverageMedia website for much of my ordering.  I find it to be very easy to pull up my product portfolio on my iPhone and walk my stock rooms and place my orders on the fly. I get confirmations via email, can track my past purchases, search for new products and maintain my product lists with very little effort.”

So while patrons of this Manhattan standby continue to revel in Raoul’s menu consistency, on the wine side, their familiar-feeling wine list is being revised almost weekly behind the scenes.

For more information on getting access to for searching and ordering from distributor portfolios online, please call 212-571-3232 or email

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