Savor the Central Coast continues to lose money

January 17, 2015

Savor The Central Coast-Inga Swearingen & bandThe numbers are in for the fifth annual Sunset Savor the Central Coast and though it continues to lose money, organizers report the event had a $4.48 million economic impact. [Tribune]

Savor the Central Coast is a four-day food and wine festival that includes wine tastings, an abundance of unusual and traditional delicacies as well as cooking aficionados sharing some of their special talents. Sunset magazine and the San Luis Obispo Visitors and Conference Bureau host the Santa Margarita Ranch event.

This past event, held in Sept. 2014, had 6,342 unique visitors while 2013 had 7,287 unique visitors. Even so, the 2014 event ran $76,186 in the red while the year before it had a $136,080 deficit.

Visit SLO County made up last year’s $76,186 shortfall.

Nevertheless, organizers report the 2014 event was a success generating tourism dollars to San Luis Obispo County. Of the 9,500 attendees, 36 percent were from out of the county.


I like Savor and have been about three times. We try to support local events as much as we can afford to. I think the Santa Margarita Ranch is the perfect spot for Savor. It’s not hoity-toity and really gives a feel for what this area is all about. We have some amazing chefs here doing some fantastic food pairings. We have amazing wineries that are on par with the Napa Valley wineries but don’t charge anything like what the prices are in Napa.

It’s an interesting way to market our area and show off the beautiful scenery besides. It’s easy to sit in judgment about how much these things ought to make, but by the time you pay people to work the 4 day event, plus all the other added expenses (renting restroom facilities along with tables and chairs, tents, advertising, printing, hospitality, ETC.) one would be lucky to break even. I hope the committee that puts Savor together thinks of new ways to bring in more local artisans, wineries, eateries, etc. to help off-set the costs. Perhaps lowering booth rentals to encourage more participation might help.


I like this event and have attending the main event a few times. When I’ve taken the shuttle from the Cliffs hotel, the line to board was huge. And after talking to the people in line, many were staying at the hotels along Shell Beach Rd. So I hope the money loss is tightened this year, and I think the impact for area also exist. It’s not an evil, alcohol only event (I’ve been to a couple of those like the one in the park every year in Paso – bad or no food and cheep to attend with everyone drunk – no thanks). So many businesses and towns are there to represent themselves, and every year it’s a little different.

Reality Check

In the years that I have attended the Savor event, the only venue that I enjoyed was the “magical” tent with wine and simple finger foods on the Pismo Beach Pier. The other venues have been disappointing; not much fun trudging through dirt or across uneven grounds into drafty tents / barns, etc; each outfitted with torture chamber ready seating and featuring peculiar food. I draw attention to small roast pigs served intact on trays in the middle of the tables. ICK! If one was undaunted by the sweet little smiling faces of the pigs, the logistics of serving the delicacy was nightmarish. Anyway the enjoyment value of the Savor experience(s) versus the cost is definitely a deficit.

I believe Visit SLO is the Countywide visitor and conference bureau. They are funded by both County TOT from Hotels in the County boundaries and additionally, they vigorously apply pressure to local cities to “donate” 1% – 2% of their City’s TOT to the Visit SLO kitty. So if a City has $10 of TOT the Visit SLO wants at least $1.00 of that money. They must have some annual report that shows revenue and expenses?

TOT is an important funding stream for Cities with hotels and tourism. I’m not sure I would call it tax payer $ because TOT is usually paid by “out of town guests”. However, the point is well made that if the cities’ TOT didn’t go to Visit SLO, Cities would use it for projects to promote their own tourism and to mitigate some of the impacts that tourists have on the local residents.

How is it that they don’t at least break even on the Savor events, their high ticket prices should well cover all the auxiliary expenses? Regardless of whether the Savor events make money or not, the decision making that goes into supporting the event and hosting the events is well beyond the reach of the average resident to effect any change. The September 2015 events are no doubt well into the planning and contracting vendors, vintners, chefs, venues, etc process. Every year the gurus who do marketing for the cities claim that the event is an important tool in their efforts to promote more tourism. Out of area participants at 36% seems rather a low count considering the costs of promotion to out of area entities and execution of the event.


There was a $76,186 deficit paid by Visit Slo to make up for the ‘shortfall’.

WHO is this paid too? Sunset Magazine, the Santa Margarita Ranch, the guest chefs?

A $4.48 MILLION dollar positive economic impact and they still come up short!

And WHERE does the $76,186 come from. The TOT (transient occupancy tax) of which a portion of this tax can be spent by Visit Slo without any question as to why there is a loss.

Do you think the hotels, restaurants, Santa Margarita Ranch, the guest chefs and the many outside venues LOSE money?

Check out the board of directors for Visit SLO… do you think they lost money?

Do the wineries, food vendors and sponsors get PAID to attend the event resulting in a loos?

Is the accounting for the Savor the Central Coast event subject to public record disclosure since it is TAX money?


Jorge Estrada

The Santa Margarita Ranch would logistacally serve the County better than Paso Robles with certain circulation improvements. Yes there are open areas and for that reason circulation improvements can actually happen. The Ranch is not what it was decades ago, when those Texans owned it, so now the public should decide what to call the parts now owned by different parties. I say let’s call it all Santa Margarita and consider a planning document that will bring into public view, yesterday and promote tomorrow.

A “dirt field with a barn” is a bit miopic.


You reap what you sow.


If there is any positive benefits of Savor then it is too deep for the people of this board to understand. I’m sure there are benefits that are more obvious than what can be detected in the bottom line.

I read that the wine industry accounts for over a billion dollars to the local economy. I also read that wineries and their wine events raise over a million dollars a year for local charities. Other than sitting behind a computer screen complaining about everything and making fun of people what do you do to help our community?


Pay my taxes, and they keep asking for more, a little here a little there, and the amount increases every year………. What do you do?


It’s only another pizza per month that you’ll have to give up!


Yeah, only a fee dollars a year increase, a few dollars to the city, then a few to the schools, then a few to the water dept, a few to the fire dept, a few dollars increase if gas tax, a few dollars increase in food prices, a few dollars to sewer, trash, on and on and on and on…….


The quiet1 sez “I also read that wineries and their wine events raise over a million dollars a year for local charities.”

Do you have a citation for that?


The wine/tourism industry makes all kinds of claims as to how much money they bring to the county. I have never seen this documented, so if you know of where this is shown in statistical records, I would be interested in seeing it.

Regardless, I don’t think that county taxpayers should be subsidizing tourist events. If they can’t pay for their own event, then how are they bringing in the money they claim to produce, and who is the beneficiary of the money–hotels and restaurants? Then where does the bed tax money go? In Paso, most of it goes back to the tourist industry. I think that Paso only keeps 20% and this goes to extra city services– for tourists.


Citizen-where have you looked to see if any funds from wine and food charity events are “documented?”. I’m sure a theater brings in money or Cal Poly brings in money for tuition. Just because you or I doesn’t see the $$ doesn’t mean it isn’t “documented”. If you dont see it-does it mean the money goes into a black hole?

If anybody lives in this county reads the paper or watches the news they have to notice the charity events. Do you need to see the money in order to deem these events worthwhile?

Curious if any of the anonymous posters on this board can list the charities that they are involved with? It’s easy to sit at the keyboard and criticize everybody and every thing every day. This board, CCN and most things about it are vitally important to this community. However-careful to shoot holes at businesses or industries that has GREAT intentions and far reaching benefits. Whether you physically see the money or not the bottom line is that wineries have donated tens of millions of dollars to the community over the years.

There is a bummer to the local wine business though. It’s the most recent billionaires and large wineries. They are definitely sucking the water and spirit out of the business. The community can do without those greedy wineries.


If there is any positive benefits of Savor then it is too deep for people of this board to understand. I cant comprehend. I’ll bet there are benefits that are not in the bottom line.

I read that the wine industry accounts for over a billion dollars to the local economy. I also read that wineries and their wine events raise over a million dollars a year for local charities. Other than sitting behind a computer screen complaining about everything and making fun of people what do you do to help our community?


open a bottle of whine


+1 for wit.

+1 for no youtube link (gasp)


This is precious. The event loses money. Visit SLO makes up the deficit. Visit SLO is supported with tax dollars from city and county bed tax (which should belong to all of us, right, and not get turned over to the tourist industry?). The event reports an inflated positive “economic impact” without accounting for any of its adverse economic impact (like attracting rich people from urban areas who decide to buy one of our “inexpensive” houses for far more than its worth). Interesting to note that the positive economic impact is based on a formula that has stuff like every tourist dumping a grand into the local economy for a couple of days here — hah, do you believe that?


Nailed it!


These events are largely nothing more than socially acceptable way to get inebriated and to gorge oneself on rich food. No wonder it’s a loser.

If someone said “I’m going to spend the next 3 days with my friends sitting around a TV watching sports, drinking Coors and scotch and eating take-out, they would be judged to be slobs. If however they said something like “I just spent a long weekend sampling different pairings of delightful foods and wine”, people would be impressed.


Nailed it!


Ah, but what if they paired a White Zin or Riesling with a Frank’s Famous Hot Dog? That just might be a conundrum… a tasty conundrum!