After operating our tasting room for more than 30 years with a completely free tasting policy, we have decided to make a change.
For the vast majority of you, this shift will be (hopefully) invisible. We have put together a policy that we think is fair and consumer-centric in its flexibility and waive-ability.
Below is the memo we are giving to our tasting room staff. It explains the methodology and philosophy behind the policy and its implementation. I am always in favor of honesty and transparency when it comes to decisions that affect our customers, which is why I am making what would otherwise be an internal document available for public consumption.
Paid Tastings at Kiona Vineyards and Winery
What - Paid tasting at Kiona Vineyards and Winery
How Much - $7 per person
Why - To dissuade free drinking
How - Collect at end of tasting if no bottle purchases made. Waive up to two tastes with the purchase of a bottle. A taste = one glass. Two tastes = Two people tasting with two glasses.
When - TBD (Early June target)
We are implementing a paid tasting at Kiona Vineyards and Winery for those that consume our wine/services and do not make a wine purchase. For the majority of our visitors, this change will be seamless, and hopefully, invisible.
This is not a decision we take lightly. We are not implementing a paid tasting to create a new revenue stream for the winery, and as such, have put together a lenient, fair, and generous set of consumer-friendly guidelines that accomplishes the following goals:
- Dissuading the use of our tasting room, staff, and products as a place to be served alcohol for free without any intent to purchase,
- Encourages the purchase of bottles (and),
- Captures the essence of our previous “free tasting” policy from a consumer-friendliness perspective.
Waiving the taste
Our policy allows for up to two (2) tastes to be waived on a single transaction (transaction must include at least one (1) bottle of wine). This allows us to side-step the potential sticky business of trying to determine couple-status, and makes it clear to our visitors that we are more interested in selling them a bottle of wine than collecting a tasting fee.
Tastes are to be paid for at the end of the tasting. We find this advantageous for several reasons:
- We don’t have to worry about applying a credit to wine purchased at the end of the tasting as would need to be done if the tasting was paid for in advance.
- It is a friendlier way to conduct business.
- Visitors are faced with the proposition of either paying for their tasting, or purchasing a bottle of wine in the same decision-making process. We hope this results in foregoing paying for the tasting in favor of walking out with a bottle.
Only transactions that include at least one (1) bottle of wine are eligible. Glass pours do not qualify. Food, artwork, and merchandise purchases do not qualify. A maximum of two tastes may be waived on any single transaction.
Up to two (2) tastes may be waived per visit per wine club membership.
Up to two (2) tastes may be waived per visit per industry member.
We do not anticipate (nor do we want) paid tastings to be a big income-generator for the tasting room. The idea here is to push people who previously would have tasted through our lineup and walked out the door without spending a dime into buying a bottle of wine. As of this writing, we have twelve (12) bottles available for $15 or less, making two (2) waived fees essentially equal in value to the purchase of a bottle. It is much better in our view to have a person walk out with an affordable bottle of wine than to have them pay the tasting fee and leave empty-handed.
We have designed the policy to be invisible to those that want to buy wine in the first place, and a better “deal” to buy a bottle for those that don’t.
As the representative behind the bar, this is an important distinction to make. A lot of tasting fees are a money-grab; it was our intention to make this a very transparent policy that doesn’t take our visitors for granted.
A Bird’s-Eye View
In all aspects of our business, presentation matters. That’s why we hope to make a concerted effort to remove the word “fee” from our vernacular. Our tastings are to be “complimentary with purchase.”
Nobody likes fees. Bag fees, ATM fees, setup fees; they all stink. The term has a negative connotation.
The notion of the tasting “costing” $7 is something that we want to try to mitigate. The tasting only costs $7 if no purchases are made. We realize by not collecting up front we leave ourselves open to walkouts, but the idea of taking money up front and then “refunding” it is cold and business-like. We only want our paid tastings to affect those that make the conscious decision to not buy wine.
If, at the end of a tasting, a person (or couple) is confronted with the choice to pay $7 (or $14) and walk out with nothing, or spending as little as $10 on a bottle of wine, we’re hoping they walk out with the bottle.