Picture this for just a moment: Our tasting room team is rocking it, and the Yelp reviews are glowing. Customer satisfaction, sales and conversions to wine club and email list are off the charts. Is this our lucky day, just a dream too good to be true, or is it the result of our careful planning and impeccable execution?
We all want a process to ensure that we get these results consistently. To make that happen, look no further than the nearest swimming pool. The concept is simple: Have a laser focus on one event/ experience/ swimmer at a time – the swim lane – and for the purpose of the exercise, ignore the rest of the "pool." By having this focus, we can examine each step of the guest experience and what has to happen with our staff (front stage) and behind the scenes (back stage) to create an outstanding experience at each step along the way. We often get lost in the "pool" if we don’t focus: It’s all in the details.
Our guest journey goes something like this: We welcome our guests, kick off our service, present our wines, add value and wrap up. A lot has to happen right with our staff and in our backstage preparation in order to earn those sales and glowing reviews. So let’s dissect this experience and see what it takes to pull it off.
1. We welcome our guests.
They notice that our tasting room is neat and clean; tasting and tour choices have clear signage, and they feel welcome with an immediate greeting and ice breaker.
- Staff: We hired the right staff who really enjoys connecting with guests and filling their needs with our wines. Our staff is very well trained and knows how to build rapport with guests (thank you, WISE Academy).
- Back stage: The parking lot and grounds are well maintained. The tasting room, merchandise area and tasting bar are tidy; the lighting and music are appropriate, and the menu and signage are clear.
2. We kick off our service.
Our guests choose what experience/wine tasting flight they want to enjoy.
- Staff: Our host is friendly, knowledgeable and interested in them. He has learned about our brand from the winery owners/leaders and tells stories about what makes our winery unique. The host guides the guest in the choice of tasting, building rapport by asking open-ended questions to determine their preferences.
- Back stage: The brand essence is clearly defined and communicated to tasting room staff. Each guest is set up with the menu, price list, club brochure, order form and a pen. Glasses are clean and buffed. The wine is open and flawless.
3. We present our wines.
Our guests learn more, experience warm and professional service, and enjoy our gracious hospitality.
- Staff: The host is familiar with all the wines being poured, having tasted them with the winemaker, and presents each wine with enthusiasm and knowledge. Wines are presented in order, and pointed out on the order form as they are poured. Water is provided, and the host continues to build rapport with analogies and stories.
- Back stage: Different glasses are used for each wine. Dump buckets are within easy reach. The tasting menu is clear and the order form/price list shows the club prices.
The Caves M Plouzeau in the Loire Valley stay
cool even in 90° weather.
Just came back from a three-week trek in the old country – and specifically in the Loire Valley. The weather was hot (in the 90°s), and the Cabernet Franc vineyards were looking great.
I did not visit many wineries, but the Caves M Plouzeau in the town of Chinon are reflective of the many underground cellars located below the area's vineyards. Excavation for this one was started during the 12th century, and most of the rocks cleared away were used to build castles in the Loire Valley.
While the environment of this tasting room may be old, the experience is completely modern!
The second photo looks toward the tasting bar as a couple of overhead electric heaters hang from the rock ceiling and attempt to lessen the chill of the cellar.
The tasting is free, and I tried some rare Sauvignon Blanc. (The Chinon white is Chenin Blanc by AOC law, so this one was dubbed a “Touraine” appellation.) One of the several reds being served is made from vines planted during the pre-phylloxera era of the 1860s.
You could visit the long galleries by yourself and come back to the tasting “barrels,” where the young man pouring wines was knowledgeable and friendly. The experience was that of a typical modern tasting room – but in a 1,000-year old environment!
"Tasting Room Forum" continues below.
4. We add value.
Our guests are impressed with the right amount of interesting information. They appreciate the personalized service.
- Staff: The host has a service heart and makes a dinner reservation for the guest at a local restaurant that features our wines. He presents features and benefits of the wines and offers food pairing information to get them salivating. A bonus wine – something really special that reflects the guest’s preferences – is poured. The host guides the guest to the club offering that seems the best fit for their preferences and invites them to join.
- Back stage: The wine club staff has coached the tasting room staff on the features and benefits of the club. The order form, club brochure and pen are available, and they are classy – just like our winery.
5. We wrap up.
The guest completes the wine club application, orders wine, leaves happy and writes a glowing review of our winery on Yelp.
- Staff: The host welcomes them to the club, making sure that the application is legible. He prepares the wine order, puts collateral in the bag (based on the interests of the guest that the host found out about during the experience) and helps carry the wine to our new club member’s car. The host thanks them for coming and invites them to return soon.
- Back stage: Thorough point-of-sale training for the host ensures that checkout is quick and error-free. The guest receives an email the next day, thanking them for their visit, welcoming them to the club, and inviting them to connect on Facebook and Yelp. The host, during down time, hand writes a thank you card to the guests welcoming them to the club, and mails the card.
Our reward for following this process is long-term customers, new wine club members, strong sales and fantastic reviews from happy customers. There’s no doubt now that it’s due to our thorough planning and impeccable execution. Isn’t it time we get our feet wet and focus on our swim lanes?
Source: WISE Academy,
Winery Profitability Up?
The Wine Industry Financial Symposium will take place Sept. 21-22 in Napa, Calif. A survey was conducted in August to test several financial trends and gauge the status of wineries. The results – at least for the 3,989 California wineries (as of today) – show that owners feel positive about the increase of profitability for their businesses. Read the survey results here.
Wine Industry Metrics
July 2015 numbers indicate moderate growth, typical of July, and trouble for Syrah. Read it all at Wines & Vines.
Calendar of Events
Lots of events are happening in September. Take a look at our calendar here, which includes university courses being offered. You may be interested in the Winejobs.com Summit (a conference for human resources professionals) happening Sept. 17 in the Napa County town of Yountville.
Distilled Spirits for Sale
in California Tasting Rooms?
Not done yet but getting closer! A compromise with the distributors association may open the door to allow craft distillers to sell their products DtC. Read more on the subject from the Press Democrat.
Nevada: Want to visit Nevada after your stay in Vegas? Don’t tell anybody, but the wine agro tourism of the state is doing quite well…
New Jersey: As part of the “Jersey Fresh” media campaign of New Jersey, state dignitaries visit Cava Winery and Vineyards and recognize the positive impact for the region’s economy.
Minnesota: Nancy Ngo of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports on the phenomenal growth of the wine industry in Minnesota. Our winery count for the state is 57.
Tennessee: The City Winery in Nashville really is a working winery, in addition to a restaurant and bar, as reported by Chris Chamberlain. What a great concept! (Check your local legal ordinance for feasibility in your area.)
Virginia: Fauquier County, Va., passed new restrictive legislation in the continuing saga of neighbors vs. wineries. Virginia now has 260 wineries, and the economic impact is probably in the $1 billion range. Susan Svrluga is a reporter for the Washington Post and gives us a clearer view of the challenges.
Please send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.