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Aligning Brand Evolution with Tradition Join the celebrated winery Cakebread Cellars in this episode to learn about developing workplace culture, hiring practices, and implementing team values in business.

By Emily Washcovick

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Cakebread Cellars

Behind the Review host and Yelp's Small Business Expert, Emily Washcovick, shares a look at this week's episode of the podcast.

Tucked into the peaks and valleys of Rutherford, California, Cakebread Cellars is a magnet for all wine lovers, from the swirling connoisseur to the vino newbie. With its breadth of culinary and wine tasting options, it has something for everyone.

Beginning in 1972 as just a 22-acre chunk of land in Napa County, Cakebread Cellars has grown to over 1,600 acres and 16 distinct vineyards. The winery is a family affair, founded by husband and wife Jack and Dolores Cakebread who bought the land for just $2,500.

Fast forward to 2022, the winery stands out for its unique food and wine pairings. While many vineyards offer some type of food on their menu, Cakebread grows all produce on-site and curates its culinary offerings to complement wine selections. The menu is completely dictated by the seasonality of the produce. With freshness being a core Cakebread culinary value, patrons are guaranteed to enjoy in-season recipes only.

Driven by family and tradition

It's always easier to keep a customer than to create a new one—but what are the distinct steps for retaining customers? For Cakebread Culinary Director Brian Streeter, it's all about making visitors feel welcome, wanted, and appreciated.

"Each winery is sort of a reflection of the owner and their property, and the Cakebreads are very approachable. Very welcoming, down to earth," Brian said. "Nothing makes them happier than sharing the winery with their guests, and that's really our approach to how we treat hospitality."

Cakebread's family roots have had to reckon with its massive growth, presenting value-based questions and decisions to be made about how the organization wants to be known and conduct its business in an evolving industry. The California wine landscape is vastly different in 2022 than it was back in the 1970s, and Cakebread itself has experienced exponential growth—forcing leaders to make important decisions on employment, brand identity, and how to maintain the Cakebread tradition.

"Everybody comes here with high expectations, and you want to meet those expectations, but really you want to surpass them," Brian said. The ability to exceed customer expectations lies mainly in the hands of the staff. A visitor's experience is a summation of every encounter they have throughout their time at Cakebread.

The culinary team, in particular, is relatively small and works closely together. "We have great respect and communication for one another. I don't think anybody feels too proud to help in whatever way, whatever needs to be done."

The success of the team is also a nod to Cakebread's recruitment process—the hiring team prioritizes the organization's values throughout, which helps them find the right people for the job. "We want to have a really good fit. We don't want to waste an employee's time if it's not a good fit for them," Brian said. "It's a detraction from the company if it's not a good fit, so we really try to take our time."

That careful curation of the staff pays dividends in customer satisfaction and experience, and it directly contributes to the energy visitors feel when they walk onto the property. Jamee S., a recent reviewer, spoke to the Cakebread atmosphere.

"Cakebread, in comparison to other wineries that I've been to, feels welcoming and warm. They were not stuffy or snooty," Jamee said. "They wanted you to feel like, even though [they] have an upscale reputation, [they're] still approachable in the way they talk to you."

Staying agile: using reviews as a guide

Reviews. Whether you love them or hate them, they provide an outside perspective on what your business does well and what needs improvement. Many people see online reviews as an opportunity to share the great things about a business, encouraging readers to visit it and ultimately helping the business gain new customers.

"If the scenery looks great, then I want to promote that for the business, especially for other Yelpers to see. I think that's what attracts people to come to the businesses," Jamee said. "They're seeing your experience, and they want to see it in comparison to another winery. Why should we go to Cakebread?"

The cycle of reviews work in tandem with Cakebread's goals for improvement and evolution. Even the less complimentary comments are valued.

"If they do give us negative feedback, we thank them," Brian said. "We're very appreciative that they took the time to share that with us, because if they don't, it doesn't give us an opportunity to learn from it. We're all human. Our goal is for everybody to leave here happy and tell their friends."

Hear more about Cakebread's history and brand evolution from Brian, as well as Jamee's experience at the winery, during this week's episode. Subscribe to Behind the Review for more from business owners and reviewers every Thursday.

Available on: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and Soundcloud

Emily Washcovick

Small Business Expert at Yelp

As Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily is meticulously focused on helping local business owners succeed and grow. Her expertise lies in customer engagement, reputation management, and all things digital marketing. Through speaking engagements and thought leadership, Emily shares industry insights that entrepreneurs in any business category can leverage for the growth and well-being of their businesses. She is also the host of Behind the Review, a podcast from Yelp and Entrepreneur Media, where each episode features conversations with a business owner and a reviewer about the story and lessons behind their interactions.

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