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Hiring the Right People for Your Winery

Tips for hiring employees who will represent your brand

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The only thing as important as your wine is the people you hire to make and serve it. With every customer interaction or wine club order packed, your employees are a living, breathing testament to your brand and reputation. Without them, you wouldn’t have anyone to share your winery’s story and educate customers about the history of your wines.

When adding to the team, it’s important to take the time to hire the right candidates for the job. You don’t want to hire someone simply because they can fulfill the job requirements. You want to choose the ideal candidate who will exemplify your brand and maintain your winery’s reputation.

Satisfied employees are the backbone of any successful company, but building the perfect team is a lot easier said than done. A good hiring strategy can help you identify the right candidate for the role in question and one whose values align with your winery’s.

How to Evaluate Candidates for Your Winery

Anyone can look through a pile of resumes and find applicants that fit the mark. Before doing that, take stock of your company’s strengths and weaknesses and find the candidate that not only meets the job requirements but adds value to your team in an area that might be lacking. When hiring, you should look for experience, skills, and aptitude. 

  • Experience – Hiring someone with a background in the wine industry is a sure way to add value to your team. With less time needed for onboarding, an experienced candidate will be able to start contributing to the company on day one. Their background knowledge will enable them to provide insights that can help you shape the future of your winery. Plus, with a background in wine, you can spend more time training employees on the history of your wines instead of the basics.
  • Skills – When hiring for a position, take the time to learn about other skills or passions the candidate has. Just because you hire them for one role doesn’t mean they can’t help out with your social media, videography, graphic design, or another area if it’s what they love. Not only does this help your company by saving you from hiring someone else, but it also keeps your core employees more engaged in all facets of the business.
  • Aptitude – Although related experience is important, it’s not the be-all and end-all of the hiring process. Some positions might require direct experience, while less technical positions can be taught to any individual that is enthusiastic and eager to learn about the wine industry. Determine what skills are a must-have for the role and don’t limit your pool of candidates because of a lack of experience. Hiring an employee with the right attitude to successfully take on whatever tasks are thrown their way adds unmatched value to your company.

Standard Roles & Responsibilities

Every member of your team plays a valuable role in keeping the winery running smoothly. Not every winery will have all of these positions, but the skills and experience described in each of these make up a successful team.

Vice President of Hospitality leads every aspect of onsite visitation, creating an exceptionally elevated experience for all guests. This person is responsible for managing events, activities, and the tasting room team. This position reports to the CEO.

Tasting Room (or Front-of-House) Director is in charge of both tasting room and event teams, effectively ensuring that guests are satisfied with their experience. This person oversees tasting room operations while managing ongoing events. This position reports to the VP of Hospitality.

Marketing Manager evaluates and identifies trends in online and in-person sales by analyzing the data and making predictions around future trends for developing cohesive sales and marketing strategies. This person manages all aspects of the winery’s social media accounts, promotes tasting room events, and manages the business’s brand presence. This position reports to the CEO.

Onsite Event Coordinator oversees all aspects of private and public event coordination from initial inquiries to planning and execution. This person delivers superior customer service and is an excellent communicator, manager, and multitasker who works with other staff to ensure a smooth booking process and successful execution of private and public events. This position reports to the Tasting Room Director or Marketing Manager.

Tasting Room (or Front-of-House) Manager is in charge of selecting, developing, and managing the performance of employees and ensuring that customers are satisfied with their experience. This person oversees daily tasting room operations, manages inventory accurately, and assists in other areas as needed. This position reports to the Tasting Room Director.

Tasting Room Manager on Duty (or Shift Manager) selects, develops, and manages employees while ensuring that customers are consistently satisfied with their experience. This person occasionally serves as acting manager to oversee daily tasting room operations and manage inventory. This position reports to the Tasting Room Manager.

The Merchandise Manager (or Merchandise Coordinator) organizes and oversees all activities related to selling, purchasing, and tracking merchandise. This position reports to the Marketing Manager.

Tasting Room Servers are in charge of serving patrons, providing information to help with wine selections, presenting ordered choices, and ensuring that guests are satisfied with their experience. They provide top-quality customer service while maintaining tasting room ambiance and transaction accuracy. These positions report to the Tasting Room Manager and Tasting Room Manager on Duty.

Hiring Considerations for Different Winery Teams

Your winery is multifaceted. From the smiling faces who greet guests when they walk into your tasting room to the licensed forklift operators who make distribution possible, every member of your team has a strength that completes your team. As you work through the hiring process, remember that each team will have different needs, meaning you should adjust your expectations for candidates in each role. While these lists aren’t exhaustive, here are a few of what we believe to be the most important qualities for your winery’s varied teams. 

Front-of-House Hires

Your front-of-house staff is responsible for ensuring a positive guest experience. From the moment a customer walks through the door, these team members are providing expertise with a smile. Tasting room servers and other front-of-house employees are the most likely to engage and connect with customers, sharing stories about how your wines got to where they are today. When looking to hire front-of-house staff, consider the qualities you are looking for:

  • Cool under pressure: Anyone who’s worked in the service industry knows that the ability to keep your cool when the heat is on is essential. With high expectations from guests, competing priorities can be difficult for some folks to manage. Providing stellar service is an emotionally taxing task. So, it’s important to assess candidates for their ability to stay calm and confident when the pressure is on. Ask potential employees to share an example of a time when they demonstrated the ability to stay calm when things got busy. If they can talk you through this, they’re likely to be a great addition to your team.
  • Friendly: Obviously working with customers and ensuring they’re happy is a big part of the job. Looking for folks who aren’t afraid to smile and greet strangers is a smart choice for your winery. This can be assessed with a role play scenario: Ask candidates to greet you the way they’d greet a new customer. 
  • Knowledgeable: Everyone has to start somewhere, so this quality is a “nice to have.” Hiring folks who are knowledgeable about the world of wine means two things: first, less training time. If someone comes to you with experience, that means you have fewer basics to teach them and can capitalize on the knowledge they already have. Second, it improves the odds of a positive guest experience. As you very well know, guests love to learn about the wine they’re drinking. Hiring someone with experience means your guests are likely to absorb some of this information.

Back-of-House Hires

The unsung heroes, your back-of-house staff are responsible for keeping things running smoothly when it comes to your production, sales, and distribution. These team members are highly organized and typically come with previous experience attached, especially those working in production (but like we mentioned, everyone has to start somewhere!) Here are a few qualities we recommend you look for when hiring back-of-house staff:

  • Communication skills: Your back-of-house team needs to be able to communicate. With so many moving parts, it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle and forget to share essential information with coworkers. Hiring a team member with strong communication skills will help your winemaking and inventory teams make better wine and keep the things running smoothly behind the scenes. 
  • Reliability: Because it all comes down to the quality of your liquid, it’s important to hire folks who are reliable. Without trust and reliability, you could miss an essential step in your winemaking process if team members aren’t showing up and being consistent. 
  • Detail-oriented: Depending on the position, these team members will be responsible for tracking things like chemistry and composition, maintaining accurate inventory counts, and more. Hiring a team member who is detail oriented and will make record-keeping a priority is essential as you further establish your winery and make the best wine possible.


Whether they’re a front- or back-of-house manager, hiring team members who will uphold your company culture and empower your team to do their best work is essential to a successful business. We recommend you look for the following when it comes to managers.

  • Can give constructive criticism: One of the most important things any manager can do is give constructive criticism. Lifting your team members up when they succeed and giving them a runway to that success when they fail is essential. Many companies fall into the mistake of hiring more authoritarian-style managers who lack this skill, and it can make or break your team. Ask potential managers to describe how they’d have a tough conversation with an employee who repeatedly struggles to execute their duties.
  • Encouraging: This one goes hand-in-hand with giving constructive feedback. Managers who encourage their employees to work as a team and enjoy their day-to-day responsibilities will make your winery successful. Nothing beats a well-supported team.
  • Cool under pressure: Much like your front-of-house team, managers should be cool under pressure no matter what side of the house they work on. These team members will be the point person with every unhappy customer and will be tasked with keeping team members calm during long, busy days. Ask potential managers to talk about a time when they felt overwhelmed on the job and how they handled that with their team. 

How to Avoid Hiring the Wrong Candidates

Avoid making the following hiring mistakes when searching for the ideal candidate:

Don’t Outsource Your Hiring

Outsourcing your hiring can be tempting. After all, you’re adding to your team because there isn’t enough time in the day for you to get everything done. But in a competitive market, you (or a dedicated hiring/HR manager) must be a part of the hiring process. You know your winery and employees best. You understand the wine industry and the must-have skills for the role. You value your company above all else. Despite their best intentions, no outsourced company is likely to take the time to find the perfect candidate — their top priority is to fill the role with any qualified candidate as quickly as possible. Will they fill the position with someone who will also mesh with the company culture and help take your business to the next level? Don’t run the risk of hiring an applicant who doesn’t work out long-term because you outsourced the hiring.

Don’t Limit the Number of Applicants

There are plenty of candidates that have the skills to do the job — the key is narrowing down the applicants and finding the diamond in the rough that your company can’t operate without. When posting your job, you need to get in front of the best talent. To avoid limiting the number of applicants for the role, take advantage of the variety of job boards where you can list the job. From mainstream listing websites like Indeed or Linkedin to industry-specific boards, it’s best to cast a wide net. Speaking of, listing an unrealistic number of “requirements” in a job posting can cause some qualified applicants to stray away from applying to your position.The broader you make your search, the more applicants you can evaluate, giving you the best opportunity to hire the ideal person for your team.

Don’t Become Impatient

It takes time to find the right candidate. The worst thing you can do is become impatient and hire someone simply to have an extra set of hands in the here and now. If they don’t work out long-term, you’ve wasted both time and resources onboarding and training the new hire. Your goal as a business owner is to find qualified candidates that can grow alongside your team. You are also looking for someone who will take personal interest in communicating your brand to customers and sharing your winery’s story. Take as much time as needed for the perfect candidate to apply.

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