Tags Posts tagged with "Central Coast"

Central Coast

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What Makes an Outstanding Guest Experience? 

apologies for my absurdly blurry photo. The session itself was unbelievably clear!

Wivi Central Coast hosted a session considering the question what makes an outstanding guest experience, looking primarily at how tasting rooms at wineries can offer exceptional hospitality. The discussion was led by Barbara Talbott of Glen Larkin Advisors and moderated by Morgen McLaughlin, the executive director of the Santa Barbara Vintners. Previously, Barbara helped build the Four Seasons brand defining its exceptional focus on service and hospitality. She has since turned to consulting, speaking and writing about how to translate such experience to direct-to-consumer brands. Her ability to share a depth of insight through clear examples and tips for the attendees was impressive.

In making sense of the guest experience, Barbara suggests thinking of it in relation to three primary stages of experience. Doing so helps you define how you want to uniquely approach each stage of the guest’s time with you in the tasting room. The three stages are the Arrival, the Tuning In, and the Closing Experience. In thinking of each of these stages you can ask what you want to define that stage of the guest’s time with you. Answering that question can be guided by thinking of your job in the tasting room as providing hospitality with a purpose. The wine is a very important part of it but as direct-to-consumer sales have increased more and more the wine has become simply a vehicle for creating a larger interaction. The question is to ask what you want to offer.

In determining what you want to offer, Barbara says, be authentic, be real. She emphasizes that hospitality is offering a memorable experience. Consumers know what is real and what is genuine and in today’s market that is what people are looking for. It is also what will make them want to invest in your brand to return again or join a wine club. She explains that, “Hospitality is knowing just a few things. It is knowing who we are and what we want to offer.” Seamless hospitality comes from understanding our own values, interests, and strengths and how we want to offer those to the guest. Her favorite expression of this idea is the known saying, we should be who we are because everyone else is taken.

The goal in defining your experience in the tasting room is answering this is who and what we are, and this is what we are offering in just a few words. As one of several examples she mentioned, the Sonoma winery Gundlach Bundschu, affectionately called GunBun in the region, uses the simple statement, “Come slow down with us.” In one phrase they have delivered a picture of what their guest experience is all about. GunBun comes from the idea that “we take our wines seriously but ourselves not so much.” The guest experience they offer is unpretentious, friendly and family oriented, also hosting a regular music festival as the head of the winery today loves music. The choice to integrate music into their winery experience reflects what the family cares about.

A second example Barbara listed was Scribe, just around the corner from GunBun. There the brothers behind Scribe refer to their experience as a visit to “our farm.” The experience reflects their own background growing up on a farm, gives a sense of spending time in nature, and is defined by being leisurely, outdoors, and at the same time with a lot of interaction with host. It is a very beautiful while also simple, rural experience. Barbara then went on to describe an experience at Nicholson Ranch winery. There everything is grown and made on site, and the family has chosen to create a true estate experience offering in depth exploration of the soils and vineyards, or a relaxed tasting alongside the vineyard, or a sit down tasting inside.  The owner-winemaker is often there pouring the wine. In each case, the experience is one of being next to the winery/vineyard and in that way part of where the wine being tasted originates. Finally, Barbara referenced Domaine Chandon. There the signature experience revolves around sharing with people the process of making methode traditionelle sparkling wine while enjoying the wine made there. In this way, Barbara offered four distinct examples that were each shaped by the wineries answering what they can uniquely offer.

In deciding what it is your winery can uniquely offer Barbara suggests thinking about a few simple tips. In a few words, what is the feeling of the experience that you want to stand for. How do you want to bring it to life for the guest. Do you want to offer a place to relax? A place to borrow the rural lifestyle? To travel vicariously? To deepen wine knowledge? She points out these are all things one can offer beyond a mere wine tasting while the guest is tasting wine. In designing a tasting room and the experience offered there, there are numerous decisions that must be made from what kind of music will be played, to how the space will be designed or decorated, to whether or not food will be offered and if so what kind. She clarifies that if you know what feel you want to bring to life for the guest all of these other questions can be answered much more easily.

Another key point to answer is what exceptional basics do you want to offer – what things in your guest experience do you want to do really well?

Finally, she emphasized the importance of visual elements within the tasting room, be they photographs, videos, or maps, as examples. She suggested that visual elements should be present in the tasting room but that the key is to make sure they are authentic to the winery and the people there. Once they are in the tasting room then they can be used to connect visitors virtually to the experience and the place, and referred to throughout the tasting as a means to do that.

Copyright 2017 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

 

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WiVi Central Coast

Phil Markert speaking at WiVi Central Coast 2017

Wine Business Monthly hosted a day long conference yesterday on winemaking and viticulture WiVi here in Paso Robles. The day included a series of sessions on all aspects of the wine industry. In vineyard care there were sessions on canopy management or vine diseases. In the cellar they looked at managing phenolics and then later focused in on winemaking choices in Pinot noir. For hospitality side there were sessions on creating a unique customer experience and then later tips on managing the tasting room. Krush radio, 92.5 fm, was even on site all day doing live on-air interviews with some of the speakers. Mixed throughout the day were also tasting trials focused in on winemaker experiments with side-by-side tastings looking at the effect of particular techniques in contrast to others.

One of the seminars that was particularly exciting to hear was a presentation by Phil Markert who spoke on trends in wine sales through the retail sector. Phil oversees wine and liquor sales for the retail grocery conglomerate Albertsons/Vons/Pavillions overseeing all of Southern California. Prior to the sale of Safeway to the larger group he was a Vice President for that company overseeing merchandising for non-perishables (that is, wine sales here too). He has been in wine buying for these stores for over 30 years, 22 of which he has been buying in Southern California, and 8 years buying nationally. As Phil explained, the wine sections of these grocery stores are managed essentially as a wine store that happens to be within a grocery store. Phil has taken a brilliant approach at building connections between these Southern California locations and wineries, as well as with winemakers and restaurants. He shared a wealth of insight on both actual sales trends happening regionally and nationally, and on tips for promoting sales that benefit all sectors.

Phil Markert at WiVi

As Phil explained, the health of the wine business in Southern California is strong. There has been an $85 million increase in wine sales, an 18% 2 year bump (dude. That’s huge.). The stores within the Albertsons/Vons/Pavillions group are organized individually, while still interconnected nationally, in order to promote connections to the local community both through events and offers specific to the local community, and also through the promotion of local products. For this approach to work effectively, he said, stores need to be managed by local districts in which stores share general trends and locale. In the case of wine this strongly benefits regional wineries. In the Paso Robles store, for example, of the 50 top selling items 42 are from Paso Robles. He has seen a huge trend towards local products in stores across the country. The interest in local wine purchases in Sonoma, for example, even outpaces that of Paso.

In designing the buying strategy for wine, Phil described the core guiding principles. As part of these guiding principles, they had to define what it means for a product to be local. First of all, the product must come from within a relevant radius of distance to the store. But, in this sense there are two different senses of local – the broad definition is simply within the state, so in our case, California. Second is what they call hyper-local, referring to products ultra close to the actual store – within 5 miles, 20 miles, 30 miles, etc. Secondly, for the product to count as local it has to illicit an emotional response where the customer feels as though the product is part of their identity, or part of the regional identity, or almost as if the product belongs to them somehow. He further commented that for the millennial customer there is a strong interest in knowing where the product comes from, who makes it, and if it has a unique history or legacy. Most of all, the customers’ sense of bond or connection with the product or company drives sales. In selecting brands to feature, then, the wine sections of the grocery store like to look for wineries that have an intimate connection with the community through community activities, donations, partnership, etc.

In current retail trends, the focus on localization has been the most effective strategy for promoting retail sales. While there are overarching trends across the country, markets more strongly show micro-trends that demand local management and planning. Phil clarified that in tracking these in wine sales he actually turns to the sommelier community as a predictor for forming trends. By looking at wine lists from restaurants within the neighborhood or town (depending on size of the area) surrounding the store he has been able to predict appropriate buying strategies. Later in the Q&A we also discussed the role sommeliers have as table side educators and guides for customers who are already known to have the expendable income to spend on wine and how this drives sales outside the restaurant as well. (Restaurant goers are already a self-selected group of people willing to spend money on food and beverages.) What this means for wineries too, then, is that if they can penetrate the restaurant market of their extended community they can naturally increase their customer-interest base for retail or DTC sales as well.

In looking at specific trends happening more broadly – there has been a huge increase on sales for premium splits, 375 ml bottles. He believes this is primarily driven by two buying sectors. Millennial are more experimental in their buying habits wanting to try both premium and oddball wines. The 375 ml bottle allows experimentation more readily than a full-size bottle. The Boomer population has also been buying more premium splits. Currently around 60% of the Boomer population is single, so they are buying more premium splits to drink on their own. He said there is also an increase in sales for 375s in picnic communities.

At the same time, there is an increase in sales for premium magnums. To make this economically feasible the wine sections of the grocery stores are focusing primarily on magnums that are $75 or less. They have also seen an increase in wine sales sold in tetra packs, or cans.

At the same time that local sales are increasing, there is also an increased interest in international wines. For the Millennial population this supports the interest in experimentation. For the Boomer population, international wines are still associated with premium branding.

In terms of overall styles, rather than regionality, there has been a massive increase in interest in crisp, clean whites, higher acid rosés, and to some degree also fresher reds (though more especially high acid whites and rosés). The increase in retail trends in these styles of wine, Phil explains, was predicted in the restaurant sector first by tracking the increasing interest in these categories from the sommelier community. Importantly rosé sales have become a year round phenomenon. There were significant rosé sales for Thanksgiving, as well as Valentine’s Day, for example. In the last 52 weeks alone there has been a 292% sales increase in rosé alone. (DID YOU SEE THAT MAKE SURE YOU SAW THAT BECAUSE WHOA.) The greatest increase has been in French rosé but there has been a proportional increase in local rosé sales as well.

(As an interesting side note: the increase in retail sales of rosé happily correlates with production trends happening in California as well. There has been a steady increase on wineries making rosé, though I don’t have those numbers – this point came up from conversations later in the day. It is a happy coincidence this turns out to be true as there is also need for this increased interest. The increase in red blotch in vineyards through the state has led to more producers picking for rosé, for example, as well. Red blotch impacts leaves more severely later in the season making it more difficult to ripen red varieties. By picking early before the leaves are as impacted growers can guarantee they are able to use the grapes and simply make another style of wine from it instead, rosé instead of red. This is not insignificant, however. Rosé is usually not sold for the same price as red so there is still economic loss in this solution though not as severe as simply being unable to harvest.)

Copyright 2017 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.