Reopening Tasting Rooms also Opens Opportunities for Winery Hospitality Teams

Sandra Hess, founder of DTC Wine Workshops and Wine Consumer Engagement Specialist Shares Top Tips

June 10, 2020 – San Francisco Bay Area

After nearly three months of Shelter in Place for many, tasting room teams are welcoming back guests and preparing for safe visits. Consumers are craving exploration, focused on self-care and ready to enjoy nurturing experiences. Now is the time to thank for loyalty, maximize the winery experience and minimize long-lectures about the polices. I begin every one of my training sessions with the above quote from the great, late Maya Angelou. Her words ring true today more than ever. Each one of your hospitality team members has the opportunity to make guests feel welcomed, recognized, appreciated, inspired, encouraged, intrigued and so on. For years, we have coached our winery clients on how to prioritize hospitality and to effectively convey information about the 3-P’s, “Pets, Picnics and Parents”. Now, we address a 4th P, “Pandemic”. With that said, how can your winery hospitality team ensure that each guest has a high-touch experience, every time during the reopening phases? We’ve got you covered! Here are Top 5 Tools to begin using today:

1 Invite your Loyalists Back First

There has Never been a Better Time to Thank for Loyalty than Now Your long-term club members and top customers have had a lot of winery choices during shelter in place. The new Virtual Winery Experiences and Wine Exploration Kits have opened up many opportunities to explore new wine brands. This is the time to thank those who reached out to support your wine brand during the pandemic as well as those members who doubled their club release orders, gifted wine bundles to others, etc. Invite your loyalists back first! Personally reach out with phone calls and emails to let your loyalists know you can’t wait to welcome them back. Offer to make the reservation on their behalf and use this time to answer any questions as there may be sensitivity about how to visit. Be sure to stay on top of the phones as many of our clients have seen inbound phone calls double this past week. Decide if you need to forward the phones to cell phones so that guests always get a live person. Consider use of Live Chat Tools within your winery website Home page, Visit page and Contact page to offer real-time support.

2 Message Policies Pre-Visit & Maximize Guest Experiences

Require that guests review and accept “Visitor Policies” during the online reservation with effective use of reservation software or a required form field in website or MailChimp forms. Lead with welcoming messages and then get to business. Also, leverage visual cues such as Chalk Art Sandwich Boards positioned between parking lot and walkway to remind guests of the Visitor Policies in a friendly, artful manner. Consider adding a page to your website that covers all frequently asked questions about “How to Visit during Covid-19 Reopening”. This link can be included in the Visit page at time of making reservation, included in reservation confirmation emails, handed off to staff as a training tool and shared with referral partners to keep updated on latest visitor options, safety standards, etc.

3 Communicate with Confidence and Care

All customer touch-points should be revised to ensure messaging both written and verbal communicate confidence. Visitors want to be assured that your management and hospitality teams are on top of latest safety standards and protocols. Remember that the top two tools in delivering High-Touch Hospitality every time are #1) Anticipate Needs and #2) Deliver the Unexpected. Communicate that your team has prepared well and ready to welcome back guests for a relaxing and fun time. Don’t bore your guests with too much information by creating concise talk-points and messaging points for staff training. Be sure to staff a manager at the host stand or greeter area. Guests and employees need to understand “who’s in charge” at all times during the reopening phases. This person should demonstrate high-touch hospitality, lead with confidence and have the authority to make decisions on the fly. Use clear signage about where to go for Reservation Check-In VS Member Check-In, Outdoor Restrooms, Order Pick-Up, etc. to encourage proper way finding and avoid confusion as well as overlapping of guests. AND…don’t forget to wrap up every visit with a surprise and delight. While we understand that every guest needs their own pour bucket and minimal exposure to printed materials, etc. we also know that you can handoff pre-packaged items, etc. Can you partner with a local bakery to purchase pre-packaged cookies as a “care package” for the road home? This small gesture also represents comfort and care at a time most needed.

4 Never Let the Guests See You Sweat!

We all understand that some staff members may be a little tense during the reopening phases with so many unknowns. Train your team on a handful of scenarios that may come up during the reopening phases. Take time as a group to review the Covid-19 Industry Guidance doc from Cal Osha updated June 5th HERE. This will allow your staff to ask questions and work through the unknowns together. If some staff members aren’t comfortable hosting guests indoors, then be sure to assign them the outdoor spaces. This is the time to use emotional intelligence to tap into the needs of staff as well as guests. Our clients leverage a set of 10-15 “High-Touch Hospitality Service Standards” in all guest interactions and equally important to leveraging these standards is the ability to “Flex When Things Go Wrong”. To ensure your hospitality team is prepared and confident about the reopening plan, conduct a few Dry Run Training Sessions with the top “How to Flex” scenarios ready to go. Here are some examples:

  • What happens if a guest arrives without a mask?
  • What happens if long-term club members arrive without a reservation?
  • What happens if guests arrive early/late for their reservation?
  • What happens if groups don’t arrive together and at the same time for their reservation?
  • What happens if a group asks to switch tables for a better view, etc.?

5 Use Visual Cues that Communicate Exploration, Relaxation, Nurturing, Fun…

During the reopening phases, the hospitality team won’t have as much time to interact with guests as they are used to. Be sure to place visual cues throughout guest spaces that help educate, inspire and inform. Perhaps flat screens on walls where appropriate, projected images or storytelling pieces against white tent walls for outdoor experiences, website videos that can be easily referenced and viewed by a guests smartphone. Think about ways to create interactive, high-touch storytelling pieces through 1-2 minute videos in pre-visit communications, at-visit storytelling moments and post-visit follow up messages. This could be an excellent time to offer SMS Text communication with a link to Video Storytelling pages on your winery website. Don’t forget to encourage conversion through the winery website if more comfortable for the guest. Can guests securely purchase wine or signup for membership in 2-3 minutes from their smartphone within your winery website? NOW is the time to ensure your website design interface and transaction tools are updated and ready to offer 2-3 clicks shopping experiences in 2-3 minutes or less. Since members credit cards are stored on file, the handling of cash or credit cards won’t be a concern. For non-member guests, decide if your team is ready do leverage website Ecommerce and Membership Sign-Up Tools from the guests smartphone. A solid guest Wi-Fi network is key for success here. Be sure to dry run these scenarios if your team decides to go this route.

To learn more about DTC Wine Workshops or share your ideas about this article, contact us HERE.

About Sandra Hess

Sandra Hess, founder of DTC Wine Workshops and the DTC Consultant Network is a subject matter specialist and public speaker on the subject of direct to consumer wine sales.