Most bars and restaurants have figured out how to make money in hospitality: by selling goods and services. But too few understand when they make their money.
Many operators think that they make money when they’re open for business—especially on the busiest days, and during the busiest times. But that’s not when you make money; it’s when you collect it.
In the hospitality business, you make that money usually when you are closed—on off-days, at off-times. Because it’s during those times when you make your decisions about who you are and what you value—and everyone on the team is watching.
For example, think about upselling at the table. When servers passionately upsell your product, the effect can be profound for your bottom line. When they fail to, you lose money.
But in the heat of the moment, is that server prepared to upsell? Assuming you have premium options available for guests to trade up to, do your staffers know about them? Can they describe them?
Here’s another scenario: Say your hostess brings a party to their table, and they want to order Champagne right away because they are in a celebratory mood. But your hostess doesn’t know anything about your product, because she’s “just a hostess.”
By the time someone with the proper knowledge got to the table, your guests were hungry and decided to skip the Champagne. You’ve left that money on the table.
How could you have avoided this? By providing more education and instruction, particularly during the first two weeks of employee training.
Laying the Groundwork
Think back to your opening night, when everyone was new. Did you make the decision then, to give your staff the power, the motivation and the capability to make you money? That is really when money is made. By the time the server or hostess is tableside, it’s too late.
Suppose when training a new hostess, you have her sit in on weekly wine trainings and let her spend a night shadowing your sommelier. Not only will she be able to jump in to help answer questions or serve customers when needed, but when she trains a new host, that new host will better understand your food and beverage program.
And if the hostess training him was just promoted to server because she is now armed with formidable knowledge, the new host will see a path for himself to move forward as well.
Money isn’t made in the busiest times, because that’s when you have the least opportunity to think and to influence. You lay the groundwork for making money when it is slow, when you have time to think and time to invest in the proper training that will ensure your operation will collect every dime.
Here are a few tips for improving your sales with staff training.
1) Understand the value of education. Staff training has an upfront cost. Short-sighted operators fail to invest because they don’t understand the annuity that an educated staffer becomes for their business. Great operators view education as a benefit—one that returns its cost many times over.
Show your staff—and the community—that you invest in education. You will attract and retain the best talent, who will repay you again and again with their superior knowledge, training and passion.
2) The best learning is not attached to brands. Stocking great brands and understanding a bit about their provenance is important. But knowing a story about a brand’s founder, or exactly where the unusual ingredients are sourced, or the script for selling it, isn’t education, it’s marketing.
There’s room for that, but don’t confuse the two. A number of organizations such as the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and other certification programs exist for this very purpose: to provide objective, fundamental education in beverage alcohol for professionals and enthusiasts.
3) Be consistent. Make learning a part of the culture of your operation. It should occur regularly, with talented and knowledgeable individuals leading the way, and it should be open to all.
You will have staffers emerge as your “rock stars,” seeking more knowledge on their own time and bringing it with them to work. You might even choose to make parts of the education open to your customer base.
4) Lead by example. Learn alongside your staff. If you can teach, teach them, but don’t worry if you can’t. This shows them that you want to know, and that they themselves should never stop learning.
Dave Rudman is director of business development for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET).