It’s the Bus or Us!
Ok I know I am not going to make friends in the wine bus tour industry with this one but it is something I feel very passionately about and feel it needs to be addressed. I have spoken to several wineries and wine customers about this and they all seem to feel the same, and it is not good! I know we all advocate that wine taster be responsible and have a designated driver if going out for a day. But to be honest most of us in the wine industry groan when we see a bus pull up. Though in defense of some of my friends in the tour industry it is the bad ones that make it hard for the good ones. Some of my friends get the idea that tasting rooms are not set up in most areas for 30 to 45 people to hit the door with no notice and still have the wonderful experience that we want all our customers to have. They are responsible and call a head and work with us to make it a great experience on both sides. That said here is my article.
Wine tour buses are nightmares! Not only for us the poor staff at the wineries but also for our other non-bus customers who are there when they arrive or that try and come in when they are there. Now let me say I am not talking about the small tour bus companies and the limos. These tend to be groups of under 12 , these tend to be more manageable for both to handle. But the large tour buses of 30 to 45 that descend with no notice and “take over a tasting room” tend to not only frazzle the staff but drive out any one that was there or anyone trying to come in.
I personally believe that they should not allow large tour buses on already overly busy weekends like Barrel tastings or have them on a schedule that allows for a separate space for them and their party atmosphere. My feeling is that there are other ways to make this work for all the parties involved. I understand they are a business and need to operate as such but some small changes would I feel make everything work better for all parties involved.
That said here are some of the changes I would love to see wine tour buses do to make it work better for all of us.
1. Call ahead for an appointment to come to the winery. This allows the winery a chance to schedule at a time that works best for them and allows for staffing to make for a more enjoyable experience for everyone on the bus and the others visiting the winery. We may charge for larger groups and then can sometimes have foods, food wine pairings and a separate private experience set up just for your guests!
2. Treat the tour as a tour not a party bus. I know you want to make it fun for your guests. But I think you will find that a clientele that is out to taste, learn and purchase will come back many times to tour and will refer many clients. Only plan on visiting a few wineries in a day and allow time for them to purchase wines and a place to store them after they do. I would suggest in hot weather a few coolers and a way to track which wine belongs to whom. Encourage them to try and buy or get info of shipping available. You will definitely make friends at the wineries if you are not just bringing your guests for a “free drunk” .
3. Watch your own clients. If they are getting inebriated have food and water on the bus. Encourage them to eat between wineries and drink plenty of wine. Discourage drinking alcoholic beverages on the bus. We are regulated in most states the same as any other server. We have to check ids and of course we can NOT serve anyone who is already impaired.
4. Don’t do tours on big weekends. That said I know they are major money makers for you so let’s see what we can do together to make it a great experience for both your guests and mine that are not part of your party. I have already given you the first three things that will be a great help on those big weekends. We at the wineries are already geared for a large crowd that weekend but when we are hit with 45 people in party mode on top of a full tasting room we are in meltdown mode probably. So if we know you are coming and a possible time we can have a separate/extra area, staff and food just for your guests. This allows them to have a great time and still allows our other guests to have their own fun experience. One thing we might be able to do is have a special Barrel or Holiday weekend just for the tours. This makes your clients/guests experience more exclusive experience.
I know that these things are going to take an effort on both sides but I really feel that the outcome will work for both groups. I have seen an increasing number of wineries that are just not allowing buses and large tours. Most I feel would be more open to the buses and tours if they felt they were working in tandem with the wineries to build the business.
Again this is a subject that I am passionate and I in no way am speaking for the whole industry but I can say from personal experience that these have worked with the bus/tours that we work well with. I don’t want to see any group not welcome at the wineries. We all just need to work as a team and we can find ways to make all of this work!