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The Intersection of Creativity and Technology: How We at Charles Krug Are Greeting 2021 Head-On

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by Jim Morris

Expert EditorialA typical day at Charles Krug is not for the faint of heart. There can be Wine Club members in our Membership Lounge, groups of people enjoying tastings in our Cabanas in the Redwood Cellar Gardens, guests from the Wine Train enjoying a private tour and tasting daily, a private corporate event at the Carriage House, and a Comedy show in the evening in the Tasting Room.

As Vice President of Guest Relations, the routine of managing large crowds is not new to me. What is new is the various and creative event ideas my team will need to execute this spring/summer as things begin to reopen.

Charles Krug Winery is proudly Napa Valley’s oldest winery and still family owned by the Mondavi family (4th Generation). But we are in a unique position of being one of the few wineries that can host events large and small at the winery. In the crowded landscape that is Wine Country, it is important to stand out from the crowd and create experiences that bring people to the winery with the goal to encourage return visits to take advantage of interesting and different choices. It is our aspirational goal to be the “cultural hub of Napa Valley” and we will do so by supporting community, wine, and the arts.

While innovative and attractive to potential customers, these affairs add complexity to routine procedures. For example:

My staff will need to service groups on the grounds with different goals, cadence and experience levels. How do we provide a leisurely and luxury reserve tasting to one of our best Wine Club Members and at the same time navigate the mid-day group from the Wine Train in and out with time to buy wine and sign up for the Wine Train Club?

A traditional centralized checkout is guaranteed to be congested with a large number of groups streaming in and out in addition to regular couple and individual tasters. People don’t like to wait in line, and delays at check-out equal lost revenue. Traffic flow is a real problem for us.

Our industry recently experienced what it was like to lose a channel or two overnight – pushing eCommerce and emails to the front of the marketing mix list of tools. So, in addition to hospitality concerns, data capture is also a goal. With so many people, it is nearly impossible for my staff to go around and collect addresses from all the visitors. Visitors that come on property and leave without a recontact opportunity is a loss for the company.

And the elephant in the room that trumps all challenges is COVID. Guest still arrive and expect to be served, but how do we keep distance and hygiene controlled when there is a line at the checkout?

Sound familiar? These are universal issues and I think I’ve found some solutions. First, we moved to all commerce on iPads and no longer have a centralized checkout. This not only improves the traffic flow but allows for social distancing.

In addition, this Spring we’re planning on implementing a new technology to take this a step further. As a long-term eCELLAR customer, we reached out to the platform which, for years, has encouraged hearing our input. Paul Thienes, (CEO of eCELLAR) built eCELLAR on customer requests and it is in their DNA to evolve with our needs.

So, this Spring we will roll out the new eCELLAR’s PUSH PAY technology to all areas of the tasting room. This new technology allows our customers a no-touch checkout from their seats with their own device or smartphone instead of having to go through a traditional checkout. Now our server simply shows a QR Code and/or emails a receipt to the guest who can then self-check-out on their own phone. eCELLAR I really feel PUSH PAY will help elevate our bar higher for excellent customer experience, fast checkout, and safety.

With new innovations like PUSH PAY, a little luck and some creativity in planning events, things are looking bright for 2021.

Expert Editorial
By Jim Morris

Jim Morris’ is currently the Vice President of Estate Management and Guest Relations of CK Mondavi. His tenure in the wine industry spans nearly two decades and includes a wide array of winery activations, Direct to Consumer management programs, and sales supervision. Prior to CK Mondavi he was tasked with overseeing the opening of Flanagan Winery’s Healdsburg tasting room and their existing winery’s full-scale renovation, acted as the lead in launching the tasting room experience of MacPhail Family Wines at The Barlow market complex in Sebastopol and he helped create, design and open Truett-Hurst Winery in Healdsburg.

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