With so much to know about tequila, “staff has to be continually trained—it’s ongoing,” says Adam Weber, beverage manager/partner at Chicago’s Takito Kitchen, a just-opened modern taqueria featuring Mexican-inspired cuisine.
“You want educated servers, so they’re not like ‘lemme go ask’ every time someone asks them a question,” Weber adds. “It’s like going to the gym: you don’t just go once and say, “There, I worked out—I’m done.” You have to keep going back.”
After the first immersive sessions, however, Weber thinks it’s best to keep trainings short and focused for better retention—a half-hour to 40 minutes at the most. Several operators say they do pre-shift tastings, honing in on one tequila, or comparing one with another, daily or weekly. “You want to try to do as many tastings as possible, as many times as possible, so that they get closer to the product,” says Silverman of Agave.
Once staff knows tequila, personal favorites will emerge. “And there’s no better way to interest guests in tequila than having staff excited about sharing what they know and personally love,” says Juarez-Sweeney of Barrio Tequila.
In Chicago, Carnivale celebrates staff favorites by featuring them in a “bartender’s choice” flight that changes every 60 days or so. A recent bartender’s flight, which sell for $18, included Don Julio Blanco, Casa Noble Reposado and El Tesor Añejo
Sales incentives, such as cash and trip giveaways, also help motivate employees. “Once staff buys in, sales follow,” says Ritter of CRO. “So to incentivize that, we reward top sellers of featured items on a regional basis. “
Likewise, Steven Sloter, Las Vegas-based general manager of two Tacos & Tequilas rock ‘n’ roll Mexican restaurants, awards servers responsible for highest category monthly sales of a particular brand with gift cards, cash awards and other prizes.