1. Clean & Plentiful Bathrooms
The reality is that most Agritourism venues with heavy seasonal crowds don’t have enough indoor bathroom facilities to keep up with the demand. That means we have to resort to the dreaded Porta-Potty. This is the worst nightmare of germaphobes’. Your guests may be on their way to having an outstanding customer experience (see our blog post from last week) and a dirty bathroom or Porta-Potty may be the lasting memory that sticks longer that all the great experiences they had that day. Or if their 5-year-old decides they have to go NOW and there are long lines for all the bathrooms.
With everything it takes to keep things running on your busy days, it is easy to let bathroom maintenance take a back seat to other things. Believe it or not, a nasty bathroom will impact how they think of the rest of your operation. They may begin to wonder if this in attention to detail and sanitation carries over to your food safety practices and standards.
On our busy days we had dedicated staff that all they did was attend to garbage and bathrooms. I was pleasantly surprised by how much positive feedback we received and how much that impacted their view of our business. Keep them clean, stocked, and well-lit at night.
Typically, Agritourism venues are off the beaten path so if we don’t offer food for our guests, they will leave when they (or their kids are hungry) and may not come back. We highly recommend that your website lists specifically what your offer for concession options. That way your guests don’t have unrealistic expectations and are not disappointed or have to cut their visit short or know ahead of time if they need to pack a lunch.
Also – a quality concession offering can make a huge difference to your bottom line. If you are not offering concessions that are high quality and somewhat unique to your venue – you are leaving huge piles of case “on the table”.
3. Credit Cards
Believe it or not there are still a high percentage of small businesses that do not accept credit cards. If you are one of them, you need to seriously reconsider. First of all, your guests expect to have that option in today’s society so if they show up with little or no cash, that means that either you may lose a customer or you may limit their spending ability while they are there. You don’t want to limit their spending ability and you definitely don’t want to lose customers.
The thinking of many small businesses is that they don’t want to have to pay any fees. The amount of additional income you will see by offering credit cards will dwarf any fees you will incur. If those fees really bother you, increase your prices by that 2% or charge an additional fee or minimum to your customers for using a credit card. Not ideal from a customer experience perspective but so much better than not offering credit cards at all.
4. Accessible Visitor Areas
Depending on your country / geographic area, wheelchair access may or may not be required or enforced when it comes to farm businesses. We realize that it may not be practical to make everything you do wheelchair or stroller accessible, but you should make sure your general areas are. Things like bathrooms, gift shops, concession, party areas, etc. should all be setup in such a way to allow easy access for wheelchairs and strollers. The more you can make accessible, the greater your customer experience for those that need it.
5: Places to Sit and Relax
People are coming to your venue to have fun and relax. Many of the things we offer on the farm involve walking or other physical exertion. Be sure to offer plenty of places for people to sit and relax. Hay bales, benches, picnic tables, bleachers, hay bale pyramids, or logs all make effective places to take a break. If they have a place to sit and take a break, then they are more apt to spend more time enjoying your farm. This is especially important around yo4ur concession areas.
6: Safe Activities for their Kids
For those that offer activities for kids, parents will expect them to be safely constructed and maintained. Be sure any activities you add are not only safely constructed but inspected daily for sharp objects, bee’s nests, weak points, etc. Make sure you use an opening checklist before you open for the day that includes the details for what your designated safety inspectors should be looking for and a place for them to physically sign-off that the inspection has been completed.
7: Great Customer Service
This is an obvious one. Every one that shows up at our venue and gives us their hard earned money expects certain things. This would include pleasant and responsive staff along with a top quality experience or product with value that meets or far exceeds what they paid for. Fall short on any of these and it will mean that fewer guests will return to your venue and you can forget word-of-mouth referrals.
8: Well Maintained Facility
Keep your venue looking clean and professional. It takes a lot of stuff to keep a farm running but that doesn’t mean we need to store it where our guests have to see it or walk around it. Keep any unnecessary equipment in a non-public area of your farm. Get rid of any excess clutter or junk in the public eye. Keep your buildings well-maintained, painted, and appealing. Don’t park your manure spreader up-wind of your concession stand. Sometimes we get blind to things that we may think look fine but it is just because we are used to it. Get a non-farm business professional friend to come out and give you an honest assessment.
9: Easy Parking
This can be very tricky for some venues. One of our venues had nearly unlimited parking in a field that seemed to always stay dry. At this venue, I don’t recall ever needing staff to direct parking even on our busiest of days. Another one of our venues required a parking crew of up to 10 people to locate empty spots and/or direct people through our limited parking areas back to other limited remote parking areas.
You may not feel you can do much based on facility limitations but a friendly parking crew connected with walkie-talkies can turn a nightmare parking situation into a well-orchestrated ballet. That might be overstating it just a little but it makes a HUGE difference and makes things much easier for your guests.
10: Farm Look and Feel
Most of the time, people are coming to our venue because it is unique and rural and they are looking for that farm experience. Look for ways to accentuate your rural draw. If you are a farm, maybe consider having your staff uniform be overalls or use old tractors and farm implements in tactful ways for décor. The bigger our venues get the more this gets lost. The most successful venues have found a way to do both very effectively.
Take an assessment of your venue. How many of these are you doing well? Ask a few non-farm friends to come and evaluate everything on this list so you can get objective and honest feedback on this critical areas of your business.