When training the service staff at restaurants about wine, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Some of the people in the crowd are probably 21 years old. This might be the first wine they have ever had.
- Nobody is born knowing what a good wine is or a bad wine. They just know that alcohol + grape juice = this odd flavor that they’ve never thought about before.
- Approach it as a problem and solution exercise. Problem: they are intimidated by talking about wine. Problem: wine doesn’t sell itself the way beer does. Problem: they are terrified the customer might ask a follow up question.
- They don’t give a rip about terroir, acid levels, type of oak, or winemaking techniques. What they do care about is land stewardship, biodynamic or organic farming, and family ownership.
- What matters in the end is money in the pocket, and explaining that if you sell one more glass of $10 wine per shift over the course of the year it adds up to significant tip money will be math they have not done before.
- Assume they will not like the wine you are training them on, but train them how to talk about it anyway.
- Don’t mention the margins on wine or that “this is a big moneymaker” for the restaurant. They will avoid selling it out of principle.
- Make sure they know your name. Give them your business card. In that crowd might be the next local wine superstar, and if you led those early trainings then you’ll have an in with them that nobody else has.
- Give them a way to take notes, rather than just handing out a sell sheet from the winery. Better yet, have them take notes on a sheet you design for them, with blanks to fill out or choices to check … a test that you lead them through as a group. Your goal is retention of the information.