The More Employees Learn, the More Employers Earn: Restaurateurs Take Note

This saying has never been more critical… And, it seems to ring more true during an economic downturn.

This is a time when many, many companies are pulling out of their advertising and PR campaigns, when – in fact – if your efforts continue, you’re now the big pebble on a small beach. This is an enviable, top-dog position.

I was just reminded of this when I read “A Well-Served Investment: Effective wait staff training can be cost efficient,” in Cheers magazine, March 2009 edition. Jennifer Michaud, the author, sits on the board of the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers, and is also the director of learnings and development for Minneapolis-based CSM Lodging.

Her story discussed that when budgets are cut, training programs suffer, and yet – knowledgeable servers who understand how to discuss beverages are vital to any operation being able to weather the storms.

Training isn’t costly, she asserts, and I believe she’s absolutely correct, especially when it’s self motivated.

When I worked at Robert Mondavi Winery, we were all encouraged to read during our down times… This is the only job I ever had where reading on the job was considered a positive use of my working time. To that end, RMW had a library from which we could borrow books in order to broaden who we were. Those of us who read had much more interesting wine educational tours, as a result. They were done from rote… they were done from the heart and head.

Buy a few books related to wine, have them available in an employee room, and allow people to take them home to read, with the proviso of returning them.

Subscribe to a few wine magazines, and you’ll have the same results.

Have an employee computer for research, and you’ll develop a much more astute crew. Encourage them to use the computer for on-line courses.

Beyond self motivation, if you want to educate your wait service staff, take advantage of what your wholesalers are able to organize for a restaurant, bar, or grill.

Wine tastings that are hosted by a specific wine company will not only teach about that supplier’s brand, but it will also allow wait servers to ask questions related to those varieties in general; i.e., “What’s the difference between Syrah, Shiraz, and Petite Sirah?”

If you don’t have a wine tasting session that involves that brand coming in to educate your staff, hold your own once-a-week tasting for newly added wines. (It’s hard to go backward for what’s on your currently list, but you shouldn’t have any trouble going forward. For any new addition to your wine list, make a one bottle sample mandatory from the supplier, so you can hold your own staff training.)

Allowing your staff to attend tastings that are happening in your area. Tastings like New Zealand Wines, or the Wines of Chile, etc., when they come to town should be greatly encouraged.

Pre-shift meetings: Talk about new wines that are headed for your wine list, if you haven’t had a tasting yet. Discuss the adjectives that best describe these wines, and keep that list handy. These adjectives are no hidden secret. Every winery creates a technical data sheet, and on that sheet are wine descriptors that have either been written with the approval of the winemaker, if not actually written by the winemaker him/herself. By making those adjectives available to wait servers, they’ll soon explore and understand those flavors themselves. (These sheets are on most winery sites under the trade and/or media section, free for the printing.)

During this recessionary time, it’s more important than ever to keep your loyal fans returning to your establishment. A well trained staff with keep them coming back, as your place being their “favorite,” if not their one-and-only restaurant during these tough economic times.

2 Responses to “The More Employees Learn, the More Employers Earn: Restaurateurs Take Note”

  1. Jeff Miller says:

    Couldn’t agree more. It’s amazing how little understanding many people in the business have about what they are selling. If the wait staff doesn’t bother to learn anything about their wines, then it’s just the blind leading the blind.

  2. Jo says:


    Correct…. It’s still amazing to me that there are those who don’t get a basic concept…

    What happens when you do nothing? Nothing.

    What happens when you do something? Something.

    Or, the old mantra… It takes money to make money. To which I’d add, even if you have to squeeze yourself dry.

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