Sunday, April 23, 2017

Coming of Age

The Fraser Valley is fast becoming one of British Columbia's most exciting wine regions. The wineries extend from Chilliwack right into the heart of the City of Vancouver. One area of the Valley is a major tourist route; extending from the Mt Lehman region near Abbotsford to the wineries of Langley Township.

During the past month, Barbara and I have visited two new wineries, Seaside Pearl Farmgate Winery in the Mt Lehman region and The Glass House Winery in Langley Township. A few days ago I dropped by one of our favourite wineries Blackwood Lane Estate Winery on my own.

I was met at the tasting room door with enthusiasm by owner and winemaker Carlos Lee.  I was aware there was patio expansion happening, which was confirmed by the noise of the tractor working behind the tasting room. Carlos showed me his plans for the new patio and viewing area.

This was very exciting as Barbara and I have enjoyed time spent on the patio in the past and will be looking forward to more good times when the upgrades are completed.

The patio offers a wonderful view of Mt Baker and the surrounding countryside where deer and horses wander freely.

The patio provides an outdoor area to enjoy wines, cheese boards and pizza in a very relaxing atmosphere. Aside from being very knowledgeable about the different wines the staff also provides excellent patio service.

But the best part about the winery is still the wines! I enjoyed a couple of hours tasting the latest vintages with Carlos and his Manager, Kim. Believe me, these are not your average wines. The quality is amazing, which is reflected in the price.

We began with the Vicuna Roja a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from their Osoyoos vineyards. The wine has a nice aroma with dancing fruit flavours on the taste buds.

Followed by a 2013 Cabernet Franc with a very smooth and light taste with flavours of strawberry, a most enjoyable wine.  The 2012 Merlot Special Addition offered up a nice sweetness.

Carlos then poured his amazing Reference, an expensive wine but one every collector will want to have in their cellar, John Schreiner (well-known wine critic) awarded it a score of 96.

The bottom line is when you tour the Fraser Valley you will not want to miss Blackwood Lane Estate Winery and all that it offers.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Hospitality It's the Attitude!

When asked the question: Who is the most important person in your business. The answer is, of course, the customer. In most cases, you are relying on the continuous support of the customer and the reference they may provide for your business. The easy part of building a successful business is to get the customer to enter your establishment the first time, the hardest part is to get them to return. If you are like the average company, up to 40% of your customers walk out the door and never come back. What's worse, the "average" business is totally oblivious to their actual churn rate—so they do nothing to correct the problem

The number one reason people fail to return to a business is related to attitude. The attitude of indifference from the individual(s) who they encounter. To repeat that the number one reason for lost customers is the attitude. A poor attitude, poor service, disinterested service is the number one reason a customer does not return. When someone is happy with the services provided by a company the chances of them telling someone are less than 10% if they are unhappy the chances of them telling someone are over 80% the chances of them telling multiple people over 65%

So if you ask your employees who the most important person in the company is; the answer is me. Me referring to each individual employee. Me because it is each personal individual attitude that determines the success of the business.

Since I spent over 25 years in the hospitality business including writing a super host training program and at one time owned two restaurants I am very critical of the standards of service I receive in any business. I have had a few bad experiences as a customer dealing with improperly trained employees and management people. I'll never eat again at Boston Pizza.

There are other ways besides direct contact with a poor attitude that can also result in a business losing customers. Included here; not responding to inquiries either by phone, email or letters or keeping customers, investors, media and stakeholders updated. Your online presence is also a key factor. Respect those who support your business.

The Wineries:

It is not often that I experience a bad or unsatisfying visit to a winery, but it does happen.
I can recall waiting twenty minutes for the winery to open after the stated time on the door.
I've been told I can't offer you more than four tasting because it's against the law. It is not.
(I spit sometimes). I've been told a wine listed on their tasting menu will not be tested because we don't want to open a new bottle. I've even been subjected to a lecture on how good German wines are. What, you're working for a BC winery, not Germany. Oh yes we have been ignored too and on a couple of occasions found the winery door open but no one around.

Perhaps what irritates me the most is when your tasting room host is paying attention to you until some else comes in, be it a regular or a friend and suddenly you are forgotten about. The host must have the ability to include everyone.

At one respected winery restaurant, our waitress seemed to disappear after the main meal was served. When she finally returned she said "Oh I forgot about you"

I do not request any special treatment when visiting a winery. In fact, I prefer just to walk in and see how good or indifferent their hospitality is on a first-time visit.

Where I have more of a concern for a lack of hospitality and a poor attitude is at major wine tasting events. Here you often find bored sales agents and hired day staff. Often these people know little about the wines and wineries they are representing and far too often their cell phone rates ahead of you. You being the person the winery wants at their table and should be impressing; why else is the winery there!

I think it's important that the winery selects the right people to be representing them, skilled at greeting and acknowledging. Skilled at pouring wines, skilled at communications and have a knowledge of the wines and winery they are representing. Do not leave it up to the hotel, the event organisers or your marketing company. It up to you to protect the interest of your business.

Robert's Report