Educating Servers on Beverage Trends

We work in a very competitive field, where new concepts open every day. It is important that we, as managers, keep abreast of changing trends in the industry. It is important to both encourage and assist our staffs to do the same.

How do we go about educating our staff?

First of all, hire a staff that is passionate about what they do. We can shout facts at them all day, and some employees will memorize them, but most will forget them almost immediately. On the other hand, if the information we give them is something they truly care about and love, they’ll likely remember it, or at least the gist of it.

Second, keeping education and training on the front of our minds should always be important. While sometimes “all staff meetings” that cover every menu change and service point are necessary, they’re also an easy formula for information overload.

Instead of throwing too much information at our servers once a quarter, if we constantly (on a weekly or even daily basis) feed them small bits of information, they are more likely to retain it. Historically, a technique I’ve used is establishing a bulletin board and have a “beer of the week,” “wine of the week,” and “spirit of the week.” For the first few days of each week, we taste the product in pre-shift and discuss it. I find or create tasting notes (focusing on being useful and interesting, rather than just crafting a list of facts to memorize), and post it on the board. I also keep easily-accessible binders for our staff with all of the old tasting sheets. Nowadays, as restaurants and employees have become ever more tech savvy, these bulletin boards can be replaced by phone applications. These apps allow you to quiz your staff and allows them to access those same tasting notes from anywhere. Actual tasting will still have to be done the old fashioned way! Whatever way you decide to educate your staff, make sure you are doing it consistently and often.

Finally, allowing staff to feel engaged can go a long way. Ask for their honest feedback about new products you bring in, as well as feedback they receive from guests. Ask what questions they are asked during service that they can’t answer. Share those answers with the whole staff during your pre shift meetings. 

Go one step further and make sure all of your staff feel like you are open to ideas of new products to carry. Are guests asking for something? Did they have a new beer or cocktail that they loved somewhere? Encourage them to tell you about it. If it fits the concept, bring it in and try it out. Give the employee credit for the suggestion (with the staff, or maybe even a note on the menu).

This serves a dual purpose. Not only does it encourage your staff to go out and learn about new, fun products, it also helps us do our jobs better. Realistically, as much as we would love to be out and about exploring other bars and bottle shops for new cocktail, beer, wine, and spirit ideas, we’re working 40-70 hours a week, often during prime drinking hours. Encourage your servers to go out and learn about new products, while simultaneously doing the legwork to keep abreast of any new trends you may have missed because you were busy running the restaurant.



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