Debbi Fields of Mrs. Fields Cookies has this motto: Good Enough Never Is. From this philosophy, she built a business empire. Making people feel special and cared for, giving customers her very best, was a key ingredient in her recipe for success.
In our world, great winery guest experiences are a well-orchestrated dance between performing acts of service and creating feelings of hospitality. Customers want magic in the tasting room: the magic of wine, winemaking, the beauty of the wine country, the beauty of the tasting room, the joy of people coming together. They don’t want to know that you’re tired, the ice machine isn’t working, sales are down, you haven’t had a break, you’re mad at your boss, or the point-of-sale system is a royal pain. They simply want to relax and enjoy the pixie dust. This is where hospitality begins: seeing things from the customer perspective, understanding what they’re feeling and seeking—and providing that to them in a way that is personal, memorable, enchanting.
On May 18 I went to the Craft Beverage Expo in Oakland, Calif., to see how a conference covering the three primary alcoholic beverages (wine, beer and spirits) works. To me it is confusing to combine so many different aspects of making beverages that require so many different skills. I agree that 75% of the equipment is similar—as reflected by half of the exhibitors that we also see at the wine trade shows—but the attendees were primarily beer or spirits professionals. I am interested to hear your opinions. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Service isn't just “good enough.” Service is the task; it is what we do. Hospitality is how we make our guest feel while we are doing the task. It is the genuine warmth we provide while we pour the wine. It’s a mindset and a choice to consciously decide to give more and do more for each individual customer.
So how can we elevate our guest experiences to provide outstanding hospitality?
Service is suggesting a restaurant. Hospitality is picking up the phone and making the reservation.
Service is the act of ringing up a purchase. Hospitality is the act of finding exactly the right merchandise that goes perfectly with the purchase, to make an upcoming event more special.
Service is pouring a wine and explaining the varietal and the location of the AVA. Hospitality is finding out how the guest enjoys wine and recommending food and wine pairings for their favorites.
Acts of Service:
- Logistics: showing where the bathroom is, where the tour begins;
- Pouring wine, talking about wine;
- Selling wine, selling club memberships, capturing contact data;
- Ringing up the order, taking money or credit card for payment.
Acts of Hospitality:
- Making guests feel welcome, feel comfortable;
- Making guests feel part of the family, part of the winery, part of the wine club community;
- Making guests feel important, feel understood—by asking open ended questions and being an active listener;
- Having fun with guests—when you have fun yourself it’s contagious;
- Making guests feel special through relevant, meaningful surprise and delight.
Surprise & Delight
The “bonus pour” has become a standard practice in many tasting rooms. That is service. However, one size doesn’t fit all, so it’s up to us to figure out what our guests would enjoy most, so that each guest gets a relevant extra pour. That is hospitality.
“I noticed you are interested in the wine club, let me pour you one of the club-only wines.”
“You said the Merlot was your favorite, let me pour you an additional splash while you fill out the order form.”
See the tasting room and guest experience as your guests do. Taste at other wineries and learn to walk in your guests’ shoes. It’s the little things that mean so much. Have a pen, a napkin and water available. Carry the wine to the car. Offer a blanket if your tasting experience is outside and it gets chilly.
More customer engagement and emotional connection has the additional benefit of happier team members. The job can be boring if you are repeating the same monologue again and again each day. It becomes rewarding for both the customer and employee when there is real engagement.
Great hospitality is free. All it takes is a moment of your time to look outward—to put on your metaphorical customer glasses
and to see where you can truly help someone. If you don’t, there are hundreds of wineries out there who will be happy to care for the customers that could have been yours.
Source: WISE Academy,
Wine Industry Metrics
Sales and marketing jobs grew by 14%, while winemaking and hospitality jobs both shrank by double digits, according to the latest release from Wines Vines Analytics. Read More here.
Profits Rise for DtC wineries
An article by Leslie Gevirtz of Meininger’s Wine Business International summarizes the survey about DtC wine sales conducted by Silicon Valley Bank. The survey featured interesting takeaways, such as: “The average tasting room purchase in the U.S. was $102.13. An average Napa winery could count on a tasting room purchase of $246.30; the average for Sonoma was $123.54; while in Oregon it was $76.92; Washington state, $61.89 and in New York, $37.59.” Read more here.
Tasting Room Disparities
Wines & Vines’ senior correspondent Paul Franson further analyzes the survey conducted by Silicon Valley Bank’s Wine Division and shows the disparity between regions. Read his take here.
Turning Visitors into Club Members The North Bay Business Journal looked at the visitors-to-club member conversion rates from another part of the Silicon Valley report and shows the wineries are doing a great job at the process... Their story is here.
World’s Largest Wine Drinkers
This infographic from Forbes illustrates worldwide wine consumption, and it seems folks in Vatican City are very thirsty!
State by State
Wines & Vines contributing editor Jane Firstenfeld explained how a bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson could lower taxes on sparkling wines. Read her story here.
Thanks to a booming job market, unemployment in Sonoma County has reached its lowest rate in nine years. Read more here.
A new bill that would allow state grocery stores to obtain liquor licenses passed out of committee in Colorado, but grocery chains are hedging their bets with a ballot initiative that would allow beer and wine sales. Full story.
Southern Illinois University-Carbondale will offer a bachelor’s degree in beer and winemaking. Learn more here.
A new winemaking scholarship helps Suffolk County students as well as the Long Island wine industry. Read more.
New York wineries seek to create a new wine region: Upper Hudson. Learn more here.
The Oklahoma state legislature is one step closer to allowing grocery and convenience stores to store and sell beer and wine. Learn more.
Grocery stores will begin to stock Ontario wine starting in the fall, marking the first time wine sales will be allowed outside government-run liquor stores and specialty wine stores. Read more about it.
The Oregon Wine Board released a new map for wine tourism that’s worth looking at. See it here.
Major grocery chain Kroger starts stocking wine in Tennessee. Full story.
Texas currently has 290 wineries. The Waco wine country, situated south of Dallas and north of Austin, is part of the growing wine industry. Learn more here.
Rachel Bush, brand manager for ShipCompliant, reviews the state of Washington’s wine business. Full story.
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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.