You might ask yourself why you should do wine training for your restaurant at all. After all, the servers and bartenders sell some wine anyway and rely on their previous knowledge or what you tell them about the wine when you introduce it.
However, structured wine trainings can help your restaurant tremendously. Here is why:
And the best thing about wine training for restaurants is that it doesn’t have to cost anything. All you need is wine and someone who knows enough about it to teach others. Or you can hire a professional.
Your employees’ knowledge about wines differs. Maybe some of them have worked with wines for years and others are just starting. Maybe some of them have taken formal wine training (such as WSET) and others have not. Furthermore, even the employees who seem to be proficient winos may have gaps in their knowledge.
To make your tastings and classes valuable for everyone, I would recommend starting with the bare basics – how wine is made, what are some of the main wine regions and grape varietals, etc. I actually wrote a post about the basics that every server and hospitality professional should know, which you can check out here.
I’m sure you remember group projects from school or college. Whether you liked them or not, they are a part of every syllabus for a reason – students can learn from each other and discover new things together. Similarly, during interactive wine tastings, your employees can learn from each other, not just from you or the sommelier. What is more, wine is subjective, and hearing various observations from different people should increase your employees’ confidence in regard to wine.
Once your staff becomes more advance in wine, you can organize fun blind tasting like this one.
However, if you expect everyone to participate, it is crucial to create a supportive environment. It is not difficult – just take everyone seriously, be respectful, and make sure everyone else follows your example.
One wine class is better than no wine classes, but regular tastings are much better than one. Again, I’m sure you’ve heard in school how important consistent studying is. And again, there is a lot of truth to it. Your employees will retain much more information if they hear it on a regular basis. One wine class may help them better understand how to taste wine, but it is not likely to add any retained knowledge.
A wine tasting journal is a great help when you want to learn more about wines, or just remember the details about the wines you carry at your restaurant. Unless all your employees are seasoned sommeliers, they are very likely to forget the specific notes about some of the wines you have tasted together. Looking over their notes from time to time will also help them retain more knowledge in the long term.
I believe that gaining wine knowledge is an incentive in itself, but not everyone would agree with me. And a little incentive has never hurt anybody. You could have a little contest to sell the most wine bottles in a week, where the winner would win a nice bottle of wine or something comparable. Knowing that there is a prize to win would motivate your staff to polish their wine knowledge and sell those bottles.
No matter how many contests you organize, your employees will not want to participate in wine tastings if they don’t find them valuable. You can do so by finding out what your staff is interested in and what they would want to know more about, and tailor the tastings to their needs. Having an opportunity to drink delicious wine helps too (I’m speaking from experience), so don’t be stingy and open that good bottle of Bordeaux for people who work every day to keep your restaurant running.
To sum up, organizing recurring wine training for a restaurant can be a great way to boost your sales. There are, however, a few ground rules that make it effective.
It’s important to create a supportive environment where everyone is learning something. For your employees to retain knowledge, the tastings should be held on a regular basis and the staff should be encouraged to keep a wine tasting journal where they write down all the notes. You should also make sure that the employees are motivated to participate in those classes.
If you follow my guidelines, I can guarantee that your staff will thank you!