Operating a sociable business like Bent Oak Winery during a global pandemic requires more than the standard pour of creative thinking.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has not interfered with winemaking, it does require altering operations in the tasting room, even as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott updates statewide orders concerning how businesses operate. Previously, the state and county required food service operators to generate less than 51 percent of their gross receipts from the sale of alcohol consumed on-site and that customers stay seated while eating or drinking.
In response, the team at Bent Oak Winery implemented curbside service, placed greater emphasis on food pairings and focused on seating capacity. The winery currently operates at 50% capacity to keep proper social distancing in place.
Also, a key innovation is an online reservation system that helps control the number of people in the tasting room and eliminates unpredictable walk-in traffic. Other changes include multiple food and wine pairings and a Tastings to Go product. With this offer, customers can bring home a flight of five red and white wines rather than wait for an opening in the tasting room. Also available is a take-home charcuterie board with meats and cheeses, said John Catalano, CEO and winemaker for Bent Oak Winery.
“When we are full, it is a nice alternative for someone who walks up,” he said. “We try to do everything we can to make our customers and employees feel comfortable and safe.”