These articles were posted in the AMMA Facebook group over the space of the first year of operation of Melovino Meadery in Vauxhall, NJ. With persmission from Sergio, I am reposting them here for your enjoyment. — Vicky
by Sergio Moutela
What I have learned now four months after opening for business.
The customers are number one and every decision I make is in direct correlation with what I think the customers want, even if they don’t know it yet. I send out emails 24-hours after each tour & tasting weekend we host asking for our customers to fill out a quick 10 question survey with key items that will help me continue to mold our process and products to nothing short of the gold standard. These surveys have been a great tool as all the results are anonymous so that customers don’t feel like they need to hold anything back. I have received plenty of constructive criticism and amazing positive feedback that also helps fuel the fire within.
The team behind me, helping build this business into something big that we all believe in. Build a great team, show them your 100% commited to taking care of them, and share your vision for where you want to take the business and let them know, they’re coming along for the ride. No one can run a sucessful business (at least like a meadery) all on their own.
I also make it a point to discuss with them my ideas as well as listen to some of their own. These kinds of conversations have resulted in some great new concepts for recipes, improvements in our process, as well as some more efficient production ideas. I always felt like talking out my ideas with someone helps open up the mind and accomplishes more than just talking to myself essentially.
At the moment, the two main components as far as process goes here at Melovino is production work, and hosting tours and tastings, which has been 95% of all our sales.
Production processes have been refined tremendously since day one, and we are already taking steps to take everything to the next level with a bottling line, adding bigger tanks, and a motorized mixing tank, as well as a second commercial pump. Our learning curve has reached a mid-point in my opinion coming from making 5-gallons at a time at home to now making 275-gallon batches at the meadery. We are currently producing 1300 gallons of mead (consisting of 6 different varietals) every production run, every 2-3 months. This will jump to 2800 gallons each run by mid-summer which will then open the doors for us to start our statewide distribution plan, with a target of distributing out of state by the end of the 2015. Mind you, we opened in Sept of 2014.
Tours & tastings have been our gold as far as sales. Not only do we make sure that every person who walks through our doors leaves having a great time, we also make sure they leave being educated and passionate about mead enough where they are able and proud to pass on their newly acquired knowledge about this fascinating “new” product to all of their friends and family. Also, and I can’t make a bigger point than this, online deal sites such as Groupon, Living Social, and Amazon Local have been our key to success… Without those avenues of advertising and exposure, I wouldn’t have been able to pull in a third of the business we have. It has helped get the wheels in motion for word of mouth and branding, and this is all just phase one of the whole picture.
Goals for every tour & tasting:
– Have them fall in love with you and the business, at that point they already have become a great customer
– Have them fall in love with the idea that “WOW, you can make wine from honey and water!?”.
– Give them something to look forward to with announcing upcoming releases so that they are already thinking about coming back
– THEN, serve mead and have them fall in love with the product
I also go into detail as to the meaning behind the names of each of our meads which we try to keep as relevant and cute & clever as possible. That sometimes can be a challenge, as there have been some recipes that I have spent countless hours for months on end in trying to come up with that perfect name, but it’s all worth it once its found, and the customers love it.
Food pairing notes after pouring each mead. People LOVE IT! In many cases, I have noticed that when a certain food pairing clicks with different people (which I am able to observe during the tasting), they always leave with a few bottles of that mead. They might not have considered picking up our Sinfonia for example, until I mention that it is great with blah blah food, or in Sinfonia’s actual case, a GREAT MEAD WITH A CIGAR! You don’t find many of those!
Last but not least with our tours… I am more inclined to the controlled approach as far as our lineup goes. Never liked the idea of a “choose off a list” style of tasting. I am trying to create an experience during our tours, and in able to do that, control and a plan of attack is necessary. This way I am able to take everyone through the same journey as we move through different residual sweetness and styles of mead. This ensures they get to taste a little of everything which increases the probabiltiy of them finding something they really like. Like Steve Jobs once said, “The customers don’t know what they want, until you show them”. And in the case of most attendees to our tours & tastings, it holds true since a majority of them are first time mead drinkers. Suggestive selling can then come into play with selling meads that weren’t poured during the tasting, such as, “Well if you love our Essence, you are sure to love our Sweet Affair Hers then”.
Which brings us to PRODUCT, and I’ll keep this one short.
Variety in flavors, variety in sweetness, and no holds bar creativity.
In my opinion, I don’t think there is any craft beverage out there as versatile as mead, which plays to our advantage in knowing that not everyone is going to like EVERY mead you make. But if you give them options, they will find something they truly love. I believe there is a mead for everyone. Reminds me of when I hear someone who only drinks Coors Light for examply say, “I don’t like craft beer”, just because one of their friends handed them a 120-minute IPA once. Well, if you’ve only had Viking’s Blood and you say you don’t like mead now, just try this…
As for the creativity side of things, I like the idea of making signature recipes. Of course, most meaderies might make a traditional wildflower and orange blossom mead, a pyment maybe, etc… They sell and people love it. But with everything else, man is there is so much room for uniqueness and style from meadery to meadery, it goes without saying, the possibilities are only limited by your own imagination.
I can’t wait to announce the releases of some of the really special meads we will be releasing this year, but until then, it’s best to keep things under wraps!
And last but not least, the best idea I’ve had to date I believe has been to offer a club membership. Four months in, and we have built a list of over 150 members. That’s two cases per member sold per year guaranteed, as well as offering incentives throughout the year of their membership for even more sales. We treat them as family, give them the royal treatment, as we should, because they have truly shown us how much they love our product, and just how commited they are to supporting us.
Owner of Melovino Meadery, Sergio Moutela, has become a notable award-winning mead maker who’s products have wowed even the most discerning and educated of palettes. His mead has been served at the James Beard House in NYC and has won multiple Gold medals in some of the biggest mead competitions in the world, amateur and professional.
Find him and his meads at http://www.melovinomead.com