Why City Winery Michael Dorf Wants His Customers To Unplug

Posted: Oct 31, 2019

When Michael Dorf opened his first business in 1986, the avant-garde music performance venue the Knitting Factory on New York’s Lower East Side, he fell victim to what he calls “technology overdose.” The club became less about the music and the artists, Dorf recalls, and more about the idea of producing content and making as much profit as possible. As a result, “I neglected my core—my core assets, my core business,” he says.

Then in 2008 when he launched his next venture, City Winery, he vowed not to make the same mistake. City Winery was an entirely new concept—New York’s first winery, which also served as a restaurant, a music venue and a private event space, and Dorf decided to prohibit professional webcasting, streaming and recording. He’s now running 12 City Winery outposts, including ones in New York, Nashville and Chicago. With the latest location in Montgomery, New York, in the Hudson Valley, Dorf is trying something new—it’s the first City Winery in a non-urban setting. Dorf says he’s inspired by restaurateur Danny Meyer’s dedication to customer service and describes what happens at City Winery as “luxury concert experiences.”

“I preferred the focus of my team to be on creating the greatest moment for the customer and the artists—who are our most important customers,” he says. “It’s about making that connection and that experience that night.”

Today In: Leadership
In a world where excessive technology use can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression, Dorf believes that a space to unplug without cell phones or computers can be a saving grace for many, including himself. He may be onto something: His business is booming—he expects to generate close to $90 million in revenue by the end of this year.

By Brianne Garrett 
October 31, 2019

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