What are you drinking?

(08 /06 /2016)

Guest blogger Willow Hart from the Storytelling Creative shares her experience in the hospitality industry:

Do your staff know what wine your business has on offer and how it goes with your menu? You spend hours tasting and sourcing the perfect wines to accompany your food, and often wine is where you will make a lot of your profits, so it is important that your staff really know the wine list.

If your wait-staff are predominantly students who aren’t planning on staying in the hospitality business you run the risk that they think Passion Pop or rum and coke go perfectly with every meal. This is not always the case.

So what can you do to expand their knowledge and palette? I’m going to use a bad example and a good example to show you how you to include wine education into your business.

At a prominent restaurant in Brisbane with an extensive wine list of over 100, the manager decided that all wait-staff and kitchen staff should taste all the wines. The wine reps were called in, the glasses set out, and pens and paper provided. The manager wanted everyone to have a mouthful of each wine and take notes. My friend at the restaurant was one of the floor managers and is possibly the worst drinker I know, complete Cadbury.

So they started on the white wines. My friend was determined to lead by example, beautiful descriptions were being written down describing each wine’s unique taste. By wine number 15 she had moved on to one word describers – good, yuk, yum. By wine number 25 she was using stars and smiley faces for the notes. She never made it to the reds or sparkly wines. This is one of the most ridiculous ways to teach staff about wines. Plus the kitchen and wait-staff all had to work the dinner shift after the wine tasting, I believe they were all upselling the wine that night but I can’t imagine that the customers got the most professional customer service.

A fine dining restaurant, my friend also worked in, in Canberra has an excellent method for teaching their staff about wines. The restaurant holds regular staff meetings and includes an agenda item to talk about one or two wines at each meeting. The Head Chef and Owner run this section of the meeting. Everyone is encouraged to try a mouthful of the wines and then a group conversation is had about the wine. What is great about this method is that it introduces and demystifies the jargon and language associated with wines.

At the second restaurant, the Owner and Head Chef accepted that most of the staff would only be employed with them while they were completing their university studies but still spent the time showing them what was the appropriate language to describe wines. After the meeting they also updated a copy of the menu to include which wines best went with the meals – for each meal they included three options to take into account customer taste and budget requirements. These lists were put up near the till, behind the bar, in the kitchen, in the staff room and next to the roster to help staff become familiar with the wines.

Educating your staff is not a once a year activity, it needs to be an ongoing activity and you will see an amazing shift in your staffs pride of work and customer service.

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