Imagine walking into a sales showroom to buy a car and the staff knowing nothing about the cars. It is doubtful you would buy from them. Now imagine walking into a pub/bar and asking about the drinks offering and recommendations and the staff having no knowledge of the product they are selling. Unfortunately that happens more than it doesn’t in the on-trade. In Britain, bar work is often seen as a stopgap rather than as a career choice, not least because wages are low. Consequently, there is a regular turn-over of staff, and many licensees do not bother to train staff or cannot risk the financial outlay of paying to train people who might quickly move on. But there are proven commercial benefits for employing trained staff. They are good for business because they:

  • Perform better and have more confidence
  • Have the knowledge and confidence to upsell to customers
  • Give customers a better experience so they spend more
  • Feel valued, are happier, enjoy their work more, stay in the job for longer meaning a lower staff churn

Offering staff training opportunities attracts better job candidates. Better candidates means better customer experience, increased sales, and returning customers.

When the on-trade reopens after the latest lock-down venues will be competing to attract a clientele that has become used to drinking at home and socializing through video conferencing. Prices in the on-trade are higher than home-drinking, so customers will be expecting a premium experience of quality, service and knowledge from staff. Many employees might be new to the job so they need to know about what they are selling in order to give a first-rate service.

Table service will remain at least in the short term and that makes it even more important that staff know what they are selling and can advise customers especially if there is no written menu describing the drinks offering, and if customers are unable to stand at the bar to see the drinks choice.

Here is a scenario where a sale is lost because the staff member had no drinks education.

  • A customer asks if the wine menu contains a red Bordeaux. It doesn’t but there is a Cabernet Sauvignon. Unfortunately the staff member does not know that Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the main grapes in red Bordeaux and does not have the knowledge to advise the customer what to buy.

This is a scenario where the staff member has the knowledge to engage with the customer and upsell.

  • The customers have ordered 2-course meals of starter and main and want advice on which beer will match their food. The staff member suggests perfect beer matches and also tells the customer there is a particular beer that matches brilliantly with dessert. On this advice the customer orders desserts and the matching beer. The staff member not only sold more food and beer, but also gave the customer an interesting new experience.  The customer is impressed and posts a positive social media review of the venue.

Customers value a hospitality business more if the staff are educated, they review it favourably on social media, and become returning customers. Conversely, a venue is devalued if staff don’t know what they are selling, and customers do not return. Good is not enough in a competitive market, customer experience has to be excellent. Training staff in drinks knowledge contribute towards excellence.

My company School of Booze has an e-learning platform that offers convenient and good value online courses in beer, cider, and wine. The slogan is Your Device, Your Place, Your Pace’ because staff do the learning when it suits them not suits me.

Jane Peyton is an award-winning drinks educator and founder of the School of Booze. To discuss your training requirements, please call her on +44 7729 601 590 or look at the School of Booze website here.