Yesterday I held a wine training session for the staff of a local steakhouse.The owner has been working with me to update his wine offerings and train his staff. This initial meeting was to assess and improve their wine knowledge and serving techniques. It quickly became evident that there was a great disparity in knowledge. The manager knew a great deal and was eager to lean more. Others were in various stages of understanding with one admitting he was a neophyte. Falling back on my educational training, I tried to make it interesting and informative to all. Their wine list has about twenty-five selections, so I focused on the most obvious choices, a Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay for whites, and a Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon for reds. I have found over time that most servers will only concentrate on four or five wines to suggest no matter how many selections the wine list has.
The main concern here was to show the differences in style and intensity of the wines and have them use appropriate terms to describe their characteristics. While the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was acidic, I demonstrated how that acidity nearly disappeared with cheese samples. The concept is that most wines are meant to complement food. The trick is to get the best match. Selling terms were discussed such as crisp for acidic, and full bodied for tannic. We reviewed the menu items from fish and chicken to pork and steak. Each server now had a better understanding of wine and food matches and could now make appropriate suggestions.
Table service was another concern. Wine understanding and matching suggestions need to be put into practice at the table. Basic procedures were revived such as placing the wine list on the table, presenting the wine ordered to the buyer, properly opening the bottle, and pouring for the guests. Most servers were familiar with this practice, but now had a greater uniformity of style in wine service.
It’s difficult to create a staff of superior wine servers, but the understanding that appropriate service adds significantly to their tips is a grest motivator. The goal is to have the server and the customer benefit from the interaction. By the way, the restaurant has increased its wine sales and profits since intiating the new wine list offerings and hopefully this training will carry wine sales to higher level.
The presentation can be seen in the traing section of this website.