Zagat and the parent of such brands as Smirnoff, Guinness, Johnnie Walker, Tanqueray, and Cuervo has created Drinkwell at idrinkwell.com based on reader surveys of the establishments through the standard Zagat.com vetting process.
The concept was conceived at Diageo, according to Steve Wallet, vice president/channel marketing for the spirits marketer. He declined to reveal the financial aspect of the relationship. The premises included in the site do not have to carry Diageo brands, but must be Zagat-rated establishments and "must agree to carry only premium products," he said.
"When people go out they often start the evening with cocktails, and that experience--good or bad--can set the mood for the entire night," says Wallet.
The program is as much a trade marketing effort as it is a consumer push, since the Diageo name does not yet appear anywhere on the drinkwell site. The brand will show up in some point-of-sale materials and at some point, the drinkwell brand may be featured on packaging, but there are no plans at this moment, Wallet adds.
"Zagat is well-known among consumers as the world's most trusted source for millions of people on where to eat, drink, stay and play around the globe. As such, the Zagat brand is side-by-side with drinkwell on the idrinkwell.com site." In addition, drinkwell establishments are Zagat-rated, not Diageo-rated," Wallet explained. "Diageo's role is primarily behind the scenes--partnering with world-renowned beverage experts including Dale De Groff, Steve Olson, Paul Pacult, Dave Wondrich and Doug Frost to provide training opportunities for restaurants and bars that are drinkwell-accredited."
As part of the effort, the experts are offering an official on-premise and online "drinkwell Academy Staff Training Program."
Bartenders who attend the four-hour on-premise course or successfully complete six hour-long online lessons will become "certified" mixology experts. Training will also include menu planning.
Drinkwell-accredited establishments will receive a black and brushed metal plaque to place in their establishment, similar to the burgundy Zagat Survey decal.
Consumers can find the site from the Zagat.com home page, and it will also be featured on some of the Diageo brand sites, Wallet says. A PR campaign, pop-up live event on Oct. 2 and search engine marketing round out the marketing effort. Digital Grit built the site and is handling search marketing.