con·nec·tion kəˈnekSH(ə)n/ noun
  1. a relationship in which a person, thing, or idea is linked or associated with something else.
In terms of your winery, the specific definition of connection would be: A guest’s relationship in which the tasting room host, the wine, or the winery experience is associated with your winery
In our experience (through hundreds of mystery tasting projects), the relationship with the tasting room host is the most influential part of the guest’s connection with your winery and it starts with “Hello.” This may seem basic, but do not take this initial connection lightly. Did you know that guests often feel a twinge of intimidation walking through your front door? This is especially true if they’ve never visited before. Think about yourself when you’re out tasting at a new place. You walk through the door, you take the place in, but now what? Every tasting room has a different set-up and processes, so even experienced tasters can feel awkward if they’re not immediately welcomed by a host to warmly greet and direct them. (I emphasize warmly because “Hey” over your shoulder isn’t exactly the greeting we have in mind, and you’d be surprised at how common this is!) It’s our job to alleviate any uncertainty and make our guests feel welcome and at ease.
As simple as this task may seem, we’ve noticed this is often a challenge for many wineries. In some cases, it’s because the tasting room is so busy, in other cases when the tasting room is slower, the host may be attending to other duties and will prioritize finishing them before connecting with the guest. As understandable as both of these scenarios are, they’re still unacceptable! If you know your tasting room is slammed Thursday-Sunday, invest in staffing a host to be stationed at the door to greet and direct traffic. If days are slow, be sure your staff understands that the initial greeting is non-negotiable and they should stop what they're doing to come out from behind the bar and make an immediate and personal connection.
Your tasting room associate is the star of the show and can make or break an ongoing relationship with a guest. Make sure they understand their influence and the importance of the guest relationship by investing in them! Invest in training for tasting room staff, invest in incentive plans for them, and make sure your expectations about the initial greeting are clear and non-negotiable. Remember, your guest’s relationship with your winery is directly related to the connection/experience they had with their tasting room host, and that starts with “Hello!”
If you need help choreographing your guest experience, please email us here.