Best Chain Staff Training Program
Marriott realized that its five-year-old BarArts program could help more employees “take their skill set to the next level” if it were accessible to more staffers, says Dan Hoffman, director of equipment and beverage specifications, global operations services at the Bethesda, MD-based Marriott International. So the company revamped the program to be a shorter and more comprehensive bar staff training course.
For starters, Hoffman and his team took the BarArts time commitment down from three days to one eight-hour day. The course also now covers drink preparation and technique, bar management, glassware and garnishes, best practices, working with the culinary staff and the setting the stage for the theater of the drink. The curriculum was developed by Stephen Prosser, Marriott’s senior director of design and development for global operations services and Connie Gibson, senior food and beverage manager of the Americas Continent Leadership Team.
The hotel chain trained nearly 250 staff members in 2012, in six major markets including New York, Boston, San Francisco and Atlanta. The program was also incorporated into Marriott International’s Global Restaurant and Bar workshops. Classes include 20 to 30 employees in each market; students are chosen by the properties on an individual basis.
Each student receives a guide in which to take notes, information on where to purchase the tools used and access to videos on techniques. Francesco LaFranconi, executive director of mixology and spirits educator for Southern Wine and Spirits of Nevada, created the video for a previous course.
AN EYE OPENER FOR EMPLOYEES
Hoffman says that one of the key benefits of the new BarArts has inspiring employees to look at and reevaluate their best practices. “We have great bartenders–who have been tending bars for years–but no one took the time to teach them technique, from how to stir a cocktail to how to pick up a bottle,” he says.
For instance, staffers who have been through the program are more likely to reexamine the back bar and see if it is merchandised well and fine-tune other aspects of setting the stage for a great drink experience, from inventory “mis en place” to the lighting at the bar. Hoffman says that many program graduates have made changes to the bar menu, making sure that it offers something for everyone and that it isn’t overly influenced by one type of drink or market preference.
As a result of the program, the hotel has generated $5.8 million in additional beverage sales and operational savings of $150,000 in the Marriott International-managed portfolio year to date. It has also seen an improvement in guest satisfaction scores and staff.
Marriott hopes to be able to offer more Bar Art 2.0 classes this year in more markets, Hoffman says. The hotel may also try to incorporate the expertise of some of its beverage partners in helping with training.
The effect of such training on business is considerable, because a balance in a bar offerings and bottom line execution of the first drink can have a crucial effect in retaining customers at a bar. “If the first cocktail is not perfectly balanced, you are not going to order a second,” Hoffman notes. If the first experience at a bar is top-notch in all respects, he says, guests are likely to stay longer, order more food and “make an evening of the experience rather than have just a single beverage.”
Marriott International Inc.
Based: Bethesda, MD
Number of units: More than 3,700 locations
Annual sales: $12 billion