Reopening. What to Expect.

The U.S. Travel Association with MMGY Global recently released a report on travel intentions in this season of COVID. No surprise that fewer people will be traveling in the next six months.

Factors that have the greatest impact on willingness to travel will be whether there is a decline in the spread of COVID19 and when the CDC reduces its advisory level for travel.

Of the respondents:

  • 68% of travelers feel safest traveling by personal vehicle
  • 32% said they’d be willing to drive at least 300 miles (one way) to reach a vacation destination
  • 57% of travelers say they are more likely to book US-destination travel
  • Young travelers are more likely to engage in travel activities in the next six months

What does mean for wine country?

It’s unknown whether overall traffic to wineries will decrease long term, but visitor counts will look different since most regions are required to moderate the number of guests seen at one time and implement social distancing.

In talking with hundreds of wineries, two common issues have bubbled up to the top of most pressing to overcome as wineries open back up their tasting rooms.

ISSUE #1: PPE Meets Hospitality

With fewer visitors and already declining revenue in DTC/Tasting rooms due to closures, how can we make the most of this situation? How do we keep the magic alive, even with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and regulations like 6-feet social distancing, more sanitizing, etc.? Here are some insights from our WISE wineries:

Before Guests Arrive  – if we can be proactive and communicate with guests prior to arriving about what to expect, having a flawless guest experience is more likely.

  • Communication in many ways: Signage with compliance guidelines at winery, with guest expectations – website and emails with pre-visit messaging – policies communicated in a helpful, positive way.
  • Some associations have printed or downloadable materials for their member wineries. The more guests see these at each winery, they less likely they are to push back.
  • Use reservation information to learn more about them and get to know them before they come in – start the relationship early.

Show Lots of Service Heart to help smooth the edges of these new and trying times:

  • Greetings with generous pours, deliver instructions in a light-hearted way
  • Have owner / winemaker walking around the grounds thanking visitors for coming
  • Being a little more dramatic with hand gestures and speaking with the eyes

Mastering Masks – it’s a challenge, for everyone, so here are some ideas to help make it a little bit easier:

  • Face shields so guest can see the whole face of our team members
  • Wear badges with pictures of the staff, so guests can see the ‘full’ face of their host
  • Have signage, training on policies with staff, and for those who don’t have to enforce but want to encourage, thank others for wearing masks, loudly enough for others to hear.
  • Allow extra time for “fresh air breaks” for staff to have a chance to breathe deeply. Have access to water stations for staff, and if possible, provide healthy snacks to keep energy up.

Operational Creativeness to work around PPE without tarnishing the magic is important.

  • Laminated info or table tops that can be easily cleaned off between guests
  • No more tasting bar experiences? Use the tasting bar as a display of wine bottles or merchandise to subtly discourage people from going to the bar for tasting
  • Use QR codes to convert for contact data capture.

Surprise and Delight guests as much as you can:

  • Welcome pour with personalized tasting menus – recognition without the hug
  • Providing a special taste of unbottled wine as a reward for visiting
  • Offer tasting kits to be sent out for virtual tastings – if they want to keep the memories alive / or share it (remotely) with friends or family encourage them to sign-up for virtual tastings to enjoy when they are back at home.

For the most part, people are understanding that times are challenging for everyone and our ‘usual’ is not the same anymore. We can always give them a small reminder with messaging: Please be gentle, we’re learning too.

ISSUE #2: Engagement with Guests (with masks on) and Generating Sales (plus club sign ups and data capture).

There is no question that engaging with guests has become more challenging, and without engagement, sales suffer. If it’s at all possible, create an environment that allows staff to safely interact with guests to build rapport through positive profiling (not negative profiling, but asking open-ended questions that help staff better understand what is of interest to guests). With fewer guests at a time (due to restrictions), we have many wineries reporting a higher average order size and club conversion rate when we build rapport appropriately.

Here are some creative ways to increase your Triple Score

A few tips for effectively presenting the wine club, asking for the sale, and collecting contact data:

 Encouraging Club Signups

  • When club members bring friends, extend the club benefits to those friends. If you don’t have one already, consider launching a referral program for club.
  • If you are not putting wine club brochures on each table, ensure you have extra signage or mentions on your tasting menu with the features and benefits bullet points. Some guests respond to auditory, others to visual; appeal to all guests by having both.
  • Try curating different club packages to get people in the club, with respect to reduced income; offer 2 or 4 bottle shipments instead of 6, combining shipments, etc.
  • Offer virtual tastings complementary for club member wine releases… and/or a little something extra to encourage engagement/signups

Mores Sales & Higher Average Order Size

  • Consider bringing out library wines, multi packs, small lots – just different things that might engage people
  • Have laminated collateral such as order forms, price lists, and specials easily accessible to guests (table tops, place settings, etc.) – use erasable markers for easy cleaning
  • Ask for the sale. It’s obvious, but not every host asks for the sale every time…and make the ‘ask’ specific to what they are enjoying. There isn’t a wine called ‘Anything’ so get creative with the ask and let’s not just say ‘Anything to take home today?’
  • Notice the bag/box that is being filled for the guest purchasing wine – only 4 out of 6 spots filled? Ask the guest if they want to fill those spots… if they are shipping, let them know that it won’t cost them (much/any) additional to add some wine.

 Get Creative with Data Capture

  • By-appointment helps for data collection, but don’t forget to capture it from the guests of the person who made the appointment
  • Use social media to capture data
  • As noted above, use reservation information to learn more about them and get to know them before they come in – start the relationship early.

Fear has two meanings. Forget-Everything-and-Run or Face-Everything-and-Rise.

With some preparation and engaging our teams, together we can overcome fears and rise. Now, more than ever, WISE is here to support you however we can.