We have decided to make a few changes surrounding our cellar door. For reasons fully explained below, we have decided to shift our opening hours to Fridays and Saturdays from 2pm - 6pm year round.
Over the past few months, we have been working internally to understand what the role of our cellar door is and what our expectations are from it. In its current state, it was drawing from us a disproportionate amount of focus away from the beer which wasn't feeling right to us. Here are our opening hours from Friday 3 August onwards:
Fridays and Saturdays - 2pm to 6pm
Open for takeaway sales only from 10am to 4pm on Tuesdays to Fridays (excluding public holidays)
Closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Good Friday and Easter Saturday
Not a hospitality venue
The primary reason for the change in opening hours is our realisation that the cellar door is not a venue. It’s not a pub, it’s not a small bar and it isn't set up as a proper, hospitality venue... it’s a production space that opens for tastings served by the people that make it. At times, we have had great parties in the space and it can operate quite functionally as a 'bar'. However, outside of this, it is a place of solace for lovers of wild ferment beer and indeed fermentation in general. We're not here to cater for the masses, we cater for the passionate. Things didn't sit right to even be considering more bums-on-seats turnover driven choices surrounding the space, the way we serve our beer and the entire experience of this place. Ultimately, we don't want to chose between justifying our opening hours and diluting who we are.
A second, far more personal reason for the shift is to move towards a scenario that works more in-tune with our families. One of the major reasons I had spent a little less time at cellar door was to spend that time with family. There's an inherent problem with this though that I had failed to consider... being at home means I am not at cellar door. In the end, this has toyed with my mind... by doing right for one aspect of my life, I let down another. Surely there are a number of solutions that could help with managing my own expectations of what is possible to achieve in a day... but ultimately we have decided to move towards shorter opening hours each week that are more friendly to our families.
Greater focus on service, interaction and education
We have also decided to do this in order to focus even more on our service. By having more intimate opening times, we will be able to consistently deliver a better offering. Starting from having the beer served to you by the person who made it, we expect this will be a refreshing experience for anyone who wanders in.
Breweries operating as bars
We have seen a growing trend of groups both within and outside of the industry take advantage of the unique licensing position afforded to breweries to open venues which on the outside look like production facilities but essentially are bars. Whilst we hold no ill-will towards these venues who provide people with a place to drink - and wish them luck - we have chosen a different path for our beer and want the cellar door to be more reflective of this.
This brings me to our last reason, we wanted a structure for our business that we could continue for years to come. Wildflower is very much focused on the future, so much of our beer is saved for later times... we have to take the long view. To that end, we want the way our business works to be able to work with us for years to come. As families grow, we get a little older and let’s face it, as the market likely changes, we want to be prepared to be comfortable with the way we operate. When I thought about small breweries that have operated for many years, my mind went to Belgium and France. Many of our most respected places have very modest opening hours that in my opinion are there because they provide a more sustainable work/life balance. Places like Cantillon, Dupont, de Dolle, Thiriez, de la Senne, Tliquin and drie Fonteinen all have relatively modest cellar door hours without any of them being open after 6pm. This isn't just a European approach, high-profile US breweries like Casey Brewing & Blending (which is open shorter hours than most) and Hill Farmstead (which closes at 5pm) have also adopted this approach to their taprooms and cellar doors.
As a small family business and making and selling only extraordinarily small volumes of beer each year.... we don't have the resources, or really the strong desire, to hire additional staff to specialise in certain areas of our business. Instead, we must be realistic, take the long view and forego opportunities when they take us away from the more important things in our lives.
-topher & chris