The Grapes of Cash: How to Secure a Winery
Wineries have grown by a third this decade, offering a potentially untapped security opportunity. Find out how to uncork this lucrative niche.
A longtime favorite of societies as ancient as the Greek and Roman empires, wine remains a mainstay in the modern diet for many U.S. adults. In recent years, consumption has soared to new heights and to keep up with demand new wineries are opening across the country.
According to Statista, the number of wineries in the United States has grown from 6,357 to 9,654 in the past nine years — a rate of more than 50%. This growing market represents many hidden opportunities for security professionals.
If you pay close attention to the operational needs of these passionate entrepreneurs and driven corporate entities, you might see many places your company can offer valuable solutions.
As any wine fanatic worth their weight in grapes can tell you, it takes tremendous effort and dedication to produce quality wines. Winemakers must closely monitor their crops, keep track of temperatures during fermentation, handle business operations and entertain guests who come to sample the fruits of their labor.
The whole process is intentional, with hardly any room for error making control and reliability top priorities. At the same time, an inviting atmosphere is crucial for maintaining a favorable image to guests, meaning it would be undesirable to have shoddy craftsmanship or make poor aesthetic choices on the property. Let’s take a closer look at security for wineries.
If you’re noticing where professional security services might be helpful to this demographic, it might also be worth noting that your expertise — whether you’ve focused on residential or commercial won’t hold you back from breaking into this market.
According to Chuck Petrusha, President and CEO of Advanced Security Systems, an Electronic Security Association (ESA) member based in Eureka, Calif., the needs of every winemaker will be different.
“I wouldn’t put the winemakers in a box, because they’re as different as the brands on the shelf. If I were to categorize them as a whole, I would say they’re a cross-section between a farmer, an entrepreneur and an artist,” says Petrusha. His company, which operates in multiple locations in Northern California, provides a range of security services to corporate, hobbyist and boutique wineries.
Petrusha and his team recently finished a full-scale integration project for Merry Edwards Winery, a boutique vendor in Sebastopol, Calif.
“We put in a full-scale access control system, a multipartitioned security system, a code-compliant fire alarm system and a complete surveillance system — and integrated all those,” says Petrusha. “We also do off site monitoring of some of their environmental controls for the different components of the winemaking process, to track things like high and low temperatures.”
Petrusha says the project took a little more than a year to complete because his team had the unique opportunity to be involved in the planning phase of the facility.
“When we first started, it was all blueprints. We went in with an open mind, listened to what their concerns were and described the benefits [of what we were offering],” he says.
His team walked the customer through the requirements for the facility, such as what was necessary to meet fire codes, and used that as an easy way to start the conversation about other integrated systems.
“They had really no concept of what they wanted at first. Some of the folks had not operated an alarm system in the past … so we basically took them through how they were going to operate all of it,” adds Petrusha.
A security system at a winery can be quite a complex operation to the uninitiated. There are often many separate buildings that serve a variety of purposes and different groups of people.
“There’s a tasting room, which is a retail establishment a lot of times, so we partition that to operate in and of itself because it might be opened when a production facility is closed, like on the weekend,” adds Petrusha. “And then in most cases there’s an administrative office — either in the same building or on the site so that’s a separate partition or a separate security concern. They each have their own operational guidelines and timelines.”
On top of the many needs of a facility, the owners are often concerned with aesthetics, and how security cameras and access control systems might impact the guest experience.
“The customers were more interested in the look of the camera than the functionality. Once it was in, they really wanted the functionality, but the concern was that they didn’t want guests to feel like a security threat. They just wanted the system to blend in and become a part of the beautiful surroundings,” says Petrusha.
Winning Wine Ways
The important thing to remember about wineries, according to Petrusha, is that they have diverse security needs. They must know the status of their crops, ensure the safety of guests and maintain control over access to privileged areas — all without ruining the view.
However, if your company can meet all of a winemaker’s security needs, Petrusha believes word could spread fast.
“The other thing that we found out about the wineries is how close-knit all the owners are,” he says. “Once we did a service for one, it blossomed and the referrals started coming. The more edified vendors that we could have in our client list, the more they were promoting our virtues and getting us more customers through the referrals. And that’s where we’re at today.”
His company did not intentionally target this market, according to Petrusha; the word just spread after they did good work. When they started getting more and more business in this sector, he says the team made it a point to go to agricultural fairs in the area to keep in touch with clients and form new relationships.
“It’s not really a hard sell at those ag fairs; it’s more of a ‘how are things going,’ shaking hands, making sure your current customers are happy and giving them another opportunity to reach out,” says Petrusha.
He estimates his company now serves around 100 boutique wineries, and just as many corporate ones. For integrators looking to provide services to this growing market, Petrusha offers some advice:
“Realize your company’s potential as you walk into the project, so that you don’t get in over your head. A winery has many facets of security needs and fire alarm system needs, so don’t shortchange the customer or yourself by walking in and just offering a burglar alarm.”
By approaching this opportunity with an open mind, understanding the unique needs of each winery and following through by maintaining relationships, integrators might hope to take advantage of this growing industry. Cheers to a fresh harvest!
Steven Calhoun is Communications Specialist for the Electronic Security Association (ESA). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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