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Newsletter September 2013

Front Stage vs. Backstage


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  September 4, 2013
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WISE Bites   Tasting Rooms in the Flesh
Front Stage vs. Backstage   Wine News of Interest
We often talk about the Disney philosophy of “everything speaks”—a concept that suggests service is manifested everywhere your organization touches the customer. These touch points affect the customer’s perception of your brand and puts them in a mood or a frame of mind that can affect their experience at your winery. Every minor detail within these touch points says something about you or your winery to your guests. Everything speaks.   Americans’ drinks of choice
Young adults’ alcoholic beverage preferences have changed dramatically during the past two decades, according to an article by Gallup. In the early 1990s, 71% of adults under age 30 cited beer as the alcoholic beverage they consumed most often; today that number has plunged to 41% among that age group. The decline was smaller with 30- to 49-year-olds, with 43% saying they drink beer the most today (compared with 48% in the early 1990s). Read the article here.
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"WISE Bites" continued   "Tasting Rooms in the Flesh" continued

Another concept we often talk about at WISE is “front stage vs. backstage.” Think of the guest experience as a theatrical production. When guests arrive, the curtains go up, and you (the company and your whole team) are on stage. As the term implies, front stage actions are visible to the “audience” and are part of the “performance.” Front-stage activities are customer-facing and include everything the customer sees, hears and experiences at one of your winery touch points such as in your tasting room, on a tour or online.

Backstage activities are our back-of-the-house functions that are required to make a great performance happen. For example, a server in a tasting room is likely to communicate one way in front of customers but might be much more casual in the cellar or break room. It is likely that he or she does things “backstage” that should never be part of the guest experience.

When something goes wrong in our guest experience, it’s usually because something in our backstage needs adjusting. Innocent mistakes are often made in front of guests such as inappropriate staff discussions. For example: Who is on lunch? Johnny never buffs the glasses! Is Sally having a bad day again?

Seemingly small details (or touch points) can make a big difference. Are club brochures on display, or are they on hidden behind the bar? Is the bathroom spotless, glasses polished, parking lot clear of debris? Is our point-of-sale system providing a flawless checkout process? These details convey ideas about the organization to the customer.

Make sure each touch point is reflective of the level of service and brand image you wish to provide. This requires meticulous planning and execution. Make sure your backstage is in place to help support the front stage activities.


• Developing a map indicating each customer touch point (called a Guest Journey Map)
• Employing unbiased mystery shopping services
• Checking your visual merchandising: Is the stage set to tell your brand story? It’s a performance of staff attitudes, knowledge and sales skills. Lights! Music! Action!
• Perfecting customer experience is a continual cycle of improvement. Shampoo. Rinse. Repeat. In other words, monitor your “front stage” or guest experience, make any changes necessary, and repeat.

Don’t leave the quality of your service and experience to chance. Set the stage for success and give your customers a great experience at every touch point.

Source: WISE Academy,


Rating states by wine-consumer friendliness
“Eighty years after the end of Prohibition, consumers in numerous states still live under archaic laws that disregard their interests,” says David White, president of the American Wine Consumer Coalition. “These laws harm consumers and enrich special-interest groups.”

Some highlights from the report, available here, include:

• 36 states ban the shipment of wines from out-of-state retailers, thus prohibiting citizens from accessing many imported wines and joining most wine clubs.
• 11 states ban the shipment of all wines—domestic and imported—from other states.
• 17 states ban supermarket wine sales.
• 15 states prohibit restaurants from encouraging patrons to “bring your own bottle.”
• Two states—Pennsylvania and Utah—control the sale and distribution of wine. Read more here.

Displaying art in the tasting room:
Are you safe?

Wines & Vines contributing editor Jane Firstenfeld recently uncovered trouble in a Temecula tasting room, but it had nothing to do with typical trials such as rowdy visitors or patrons showing up over-served. No, thieves recently nabbed a painting from Cougar Vineyard and Winery, and owners Rick and Jennifer Buffington want the original work of art back. They’re even offering a reward. Read more here.

Team effort for gourmet food pairings
In opening its new VGS Tasting House & Garden in St. Helena, Calif., VGS Chateau Potelle Winery teamed with the Michelin starred restaurant La Toque to create food pairings for each wine tasted. Winery owner Jean-Noel Fourmeaux du Sartel explained, “Since our wines are made for food, every wine tasting includes a food pairing. Who better to provide the food bites than Ken Frank, one of the most creative and wine-savvy chefs in Napa Valley?” The fee for four wines with food bites is $45 per person, and wine and food pairings change approximately every 10 days. Call (707) 255-9440 or visit for information and reservations.

The impact Americans
have on the wine world

In his Aug. 7 article in the Wine Spectator, Ben O’Donnell says members of the baby boomer generation and Gen X make up the majority of today’s wine consumers. But many forecasts predict the large millennial generation (ages 21 to 34) will shape the future of the wine business. What impact are they already having? Read more here.

Wine Industry Metrics

Direct-to-consumer wine sales
top $1.5 billion

DtC sales totaled more than $56 million in July, bringing the 12-month total to more than $1.5 billion, according to a story by Wines & Vines staff writer Andrew Adams. DtC sales for July were 15% higher than the same month during 2012. While it accounts for a small portion of DtC shipments, the 12-month value of Pinot Grigio/Gris was up 24% compared to last year. Read more here and view the complete set of Wines & Vines’ wine industry metrics here.

Wine Tasting Education

Gauging TCA sensory thresholds
TCA levels vary in wines, and so does the individual lowest level sensory threshold in a neutral wine. Enartis Vinquiry, a major wine lab, is able to evaluate people’s individual thresholds by performing a series of triangle tests using white wine containing 1-6 parts per trillion TCA. Learn about this and other events sponsored by Enartis Vinquiry here.

Marketing Education

How can small wineries drive business?
Bay Area professional groups collaborated to sponsor the first-ever boot camp to discuss marketing strategies for small wine producers. Expert panels covered topics from earning customer loyalty, social media and direct-to-consumer sales. Read more here.

Wine clubs try drinking games
to draw new members

In this article, CNBC personal finance and consumer spending reporter Kelli B. Grant uncovered ways that “independent” wine clubs are increasing member participation. Do you use similar techniques to increase your wine club participation? Contact me here, and your input will be published in the next Tasting Room Focus eNewsletter.

Follow-up after wine tasting event
Powell Mountain Cellars sent a simple and convivial follow-up email after the Family Winemakers Grand Tasting event held in San Francisco, Calif., in August. This is one great example of how wineries can take advantage of connections made at large tastings or industry events.

Wine Product News

Orion incorporates new gratuity features
Orion Wine Software, a leader in winery management solutions, updated WiMS, its integrated point-of-sale (POS) system, to include a gratuity feature that allows wineries to offer table service and accept gratuities. David Oliveto, owner of Stevenot Winery, said, “The new gratuity feature in the POS is fantastic. It has increased our employees' hourly pay and, because of that incentive, we feel they are becoming more conscientious, which is helping our club sign-ups. I’d recommend it to anyone who has a tasting room!” Read more here.

Disco Wine Aerator

Burn, Baby Burn!
As wine drinkers pour wine through the Disco Wine Aerator decanting funnel, a festival of lights begins flashing in seven colors. Read information from Wine Appreciation Guild here

Extending the olive branch
A few months ago we told you how some wineries are expanding into custom olive oils. VML, a Russian River winery, used this message to publicize their offerings via an email to their club members.

A compelling, cost-effective alternative
to wine keg systems

Vinocopia Wines launched its new wine barrel system at the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America conference. Using the WineFresh packaging and connector system, the Vinocopia Barrel uses replaceable and recyclable 4-liter plastic inserts to house wine in reclaimed oak barrels, which protects wine from air, light and heat. Learn more here.


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Jacques Brix is vice president and director of sales, West Coast, for Wines & Vines. This column is based on his personal experiences at winery tasting rooms and events.



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