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How to help staff sell wine with confidence

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Related tags: Wine

Training must be engaging, interactive and make wine approachable and simple for staff to understand
Training must be engaging, interactive and make wine approachable and simple for staff to understand
Lily Brierley, training manager at Enotria, explains how hospitality business owners can make their staff more aware of wine lists and encourage them to openly talk about wine with customers in a bid to maximise drinks sales.

In order to help pub, bar, restaurant and hotel staff sell wine with confidence, training must be engaging, interactive and - above all - make wine approachable and simple.  It’s also crucial that training is bespoke and pitched at the right level, as the knowledge and approach needed in a busy bar will differ significantly to that of a fine dining restaurant. 

Many staff members will be young and new to the world of wine, often preferring to drink spirits and beers. For them wine can appear a daunting, ‘stuffy’ and confusing place but, by providing simple frameworks in an engaging environment, even those completely new to it will be encouraged to have a conversation about wine with customers. 

Using content from Enotria’s training programme, here are 10 simple tips to help staff sell wine with confidence:

  1. Those in the know can forget what it was like at the beginning – put yourself in your staff's shoes.  Regular small tastings, more formal trainings or encouraging your supplier to bring in relevant, engaging winemakers will bring the wines to life – it is hard to sell something you have not tasted.
  2. Some wine names can be tricky to pronounce and be a barrier to making recommendations – nobody wants to feel like they are saying the wrong thing. Providing phonetic spellings and encouraging practice can really help confidence levels.
  3. Encourage staff to guide your customers to your wine list and be proud of what you offer. Many people default to the ‘safe’ option without knowing what exciting wines are available.
  4. Identify the key wine service moments in the customer's journey. Just like offering water and side dishes, following memorable steps can enhance service and increase spend.
  5. Asking questions about what styles of wine people like is a great start; are they more into ‘Light & Lively’ or ‘Big & Bold’ reds? This will help you match their wine choice and save time.
  6. There is no need for staff to learn everything about each wine. Focus on four to five wines of varying styles and make sure all staff understand these – and have had a chance to taste them.
  7. Long and complicated tasting notes do not work; bring the wine to life for the customer. A wine described simply as ‘Delicate & Dry’ (style), from the highest vineyard in Chile (simple fact) which is the manager’s favourite (recommendation) is a much more interesting way to go about things.
  8. Serving wine with confidence is not just about having a little knowledge; it is also about having the right attitude. Recommending with a positive and friendly attitude can really influence a customer’s choice.
  9. If you are scared of wine, laying the potential complexities of food and wine matching on top can positively terrify! Grouping dishes into broad categories, such as 'rich' and 'creamy/ fried', and partnering these with 'Big & Bold' or 'Dry & Delicate' wines, mean staff can be immediately armed with an easy, complimentary suggestion.
  10. Think about different occasions. Staff are often proud of their ability to identify and cater for certain situations – be it a celebration or business meeting.  Connecting these situations to specific wines can improve service and, potentially, profitability.

 For more advice on how to help staff sell wine with confidence, visit www.enotria.co.uk​.

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