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As the song says, the times they are a-changing. Toast Martinborough turned 25 in 2016 and a lot of thought went into refreshing the iconic event so it was “grown-up, safe and fun” for guests.

Heading into her third year in the role, event manager Anna Nielson  is relaxed about event liquor laws and says that, with very few exceptions, guest feedback rated 2016 as “one of the best in years”. 

In a post-event survey, 81% of participants said they would recommend Toast Martinborough to friends and family.

“The law is the law. We decided to go back to hospitality basics, put the health and safety of our guests first, and treat it as an opportunity to improve the Toast experience. 

“Looking after your guests is the definition of hospitality. It’s paramount. With that foremost in our minds, everything else pretty much fell into place, including compliance with the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act.

“Toast Martinborough will always will be a quality event. As a premium wine region we serve high quality food in many different styles to complement fine wines.

“Our biggest change was to close winery sites earlier and invite everyone to enjoy The Beat Girls in Martinborough’s beautiful Square, with food and non-alcoholic drinks stalls. Local Martinborough people were welcome to come along too, free.

“Anecdotal feedback rated this innovation very highly, with festival goers welcoming the chance for a boogie and a cold drink before getting on their buses home. Inevitably a few organisational improvements were highlighted, and we will streamline the communications and getting everyone there,” Anna commented.

What else changed?

  • Our light-hearted video ‘Toasted Not Roasted’ scored 47,648 Facebook views. 
  • Dropping paper francs for electronic wristbands was universally popular, speeding up food and wine payment. Even better, refunds of unused funds were possible for the first time.
  • Switching from glass to high-tech Globelet tumblers eliminated broken glass on buses, roads and winery sites.
  • Closing some roads to non-Toast traffic and making buses one-way made walking or crossing roads much safer. We’ll look at fast-tracking some buses to the more distant wineries.
  • Free water everywhere meant guests were better hydrated, and the ‘no wine going out the gate’ law meant some valuable ‘time out’ walking between sites.
  • Increased training for staff. 
  • Food suppliers offered more substantial food items early in the day.

“Luckily we didn’t need the emergency evacuation plan, ready to go in case of another earthquake. We knew exactly how all our guests would be fed, watered and sheltered if necessary and developed what will be an annual plan alongside emergency services,” Anna added.

“Some of these things are part of implementing the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act and we worked closely with the Police’s Alcohol Harm Prevention Unit to make sure we were all on the same page. We never felt they were trying to close Toast down; just wanted it to be successful, lawfully. 

“In a Creating Safer Communities Together bulletin, the police said “partnerships at Toast Martinborough created a safe event” and that “changes agreed between police and organisers this year meant the event did not experience some of the issues seen in previous years, and no one was arrested. The wineries themselves participated in the planning and the result has been a great event with a reduced undercurrent of harm”.  

“We’ll continue to streamline for 2017. One high-tech advance will be to monitor crowd flows in real time, so we can ensure buses (and other services if necessary) can handle potential choke points. 

“Ultimately, it’s all about ensuring our guests enjoy this wonderful event, alongside our winery sites expressing their own flair within the overall personality of Toast,” Anna summarised. Heading into her third year in the role, event manager Anna Nielson  is relaxed about event liquor laws and says that, with very few exceptions, guest feedback rated 2016 as “one of the best in years”. 

In a post-event survey, 81% of participants said they would recommend Toast Martinborough to friends and family.

“The law is the law. We decided to go back to hospitality basics, put the health and safety of our guests first, and treat it as an opportunity to improve the Toast experience. 

“Looking after your guests is the definition of hospitality. It’s paramount. With that foremost in our minds, everything else pretty much fell into place, including compliance with the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act.

“Toast Martinborough will always will be a quality event. As a premium wine region we serve high quality food in many different styles to complement fine wines.

“Our biggest change was to close winery sites earlier and invite everyone to enjoy The Beat Girls in Martinborough’s beautiful Square, with food and non-alcoholic drinks stalls. Local Martinborough people were welcome to come along too, free.

“Anecdotal feedback rated this innovation very highly, with festival goers welcoming the chance for a boogie and a cold drink before getting on their buses home. Inevitably a few organisational improvements were highlighted, and we will streamline the communications and getting everyone there,” Anna commented.

What else changed?

  • Our light-hearted video ‘Toasted Not Roasted’ scored 47,648 Facebook views. 
  • Dropping paper francs for electronic wristbands was universally popular, speeding up food and wine payment. Even better, refunds of unused funds were possible for the first time.
  • Switching from glass to high-tech Globelet tumblers eliminated broken glass on buses, roads and winery sites.
  • Closing some roads to non-Toast traffic and making buses one-way made walking or crossing roads much safer. We’ll look at fast-tracking some buses to the more distant wineries.
  • Free water everywhere meant guests were better hydrated, and the ‘no wine going out the gate’ law meant some valuable ‘time out’ walking between sites.
  • Increased training for staff. 
  • Food suppliers offered more substantial food items early in the day.

“Luckily we didn’t need the emergency evacuation plan, ready to go in case of another earthquake. We knew exactly how all our guests would be fed, watered and sheltered if necessary and developed what will be an annual plan alongside emergency services,” Anna added.

“Some of these things are part of implementing the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act and we worked closely with the Police’s Alcohol Harm Prevention Unit to make sure we were all on the same page. We never felt they were trying to close Toast down; just wanted it to be successful, lawfully. 

“In a Creating Safer Communities Together bulletin, the police said “partnerships at Toast Martinborough created a safe event” and that “changes agreed between police and organisers this year meant the event did not experience some of the issues seen in previous years, and no one was arrested. The wineries themselves participated in the planning and the result has been a great event with a reduced undercurrent of harm”.  

“We’ll continue to streamline for 2017. One high-tech advance will be to monitor crowd flows in real time, so we can ensure buses (and other services if necessary) can handle potential choke points. 

“Ultimately, it’s all about ensuring our guests enjoy this wonderful event, alongside our winery sites expressing their own flair within the overall personality of Toast,” Anna summarised.