The Importance of Beer Training For Guest Satisfaction

Image: Cicerone Certification Program

Every operator knows the importance of continuous training for their staff. But with limited time and resources, how does one determine what those trainings should be?

The growing segment share of spirits and wine may be luring operator attention away from beer but to ignore this staple offering would be a mistake. There are several thousand breweries across the United States and an event greater amount of beer options.

That means that the ability to intelligently help guests make beer selections is a crucial front-of-house skill.

We sat down with Pat Fahey, both a Cicerone trainer and Master Cicerone himself (one of only a few dozen) to better understand why beer is an important part of any bar or restaurant training, and what he will cover during his BeerSavvy Training at the 2019 Nightclub & Bar Show.

"Beer has always been and is still very much an important part of a person's experience. Going out and grabbing a beer along with food is an extremely common thing and so, it's not just about selling more beer. A part of it is about selling a better experience to your customers so that they come back. Ultimately, that's what you really want to see if repeat customers because you've given them an experience that stuck with them." — Pat Fahey

The point of view may be a bit biased but it's also from an industry expert who has trained thousands of bartenders, servers, and managers at all levels of experience. Despite the wide range of seniority and years behind a bar, "we find that nearly every person has that 'Wow, I didn't realize that' moment and realize how much there is to know about beer, and maybe even how little they knew going into the training," says Fahey. "I thought I had an understanding of what was going on within beer but there's a lot more out there than I knew. That's a common takeaway that we see from these classes."

Beer Training

Attendees start with the basics of flavor profiles and being able to describe beer as a brewmaster would. Understanding which adjectives and language to use is helpful when trying to match the expectations of the guest with the taste and flavor of the brew.

From there, trainees move on to understand the wide range of styles of beers. The BeerSavvy Training course covers 6 flavor families. Since there are many more styles than just six, Cicerone training covers many more by using a comparative methodology that allows students to speak to a wider range of styles than those covered in the class with actual samples. This breadth of knowledge is key to suggesting beer styles that may be new to your guests and making them more comfortable and confident in their selection, leading to more sales and guest higher satisfaction.

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The final component of the class is a dive into service. After all, a great beer served incorrectly can detract or ruin the brew. BeerSavvy Training participants will walk away with an understanding of how various aspects of beer can be mishandled between the brewery and the consumer's glass, a problem that's remedied easily with correct training. Fahey will cover different ways in which flaws can arise, as well as the basics of pouring. You'd be amazed by how many people don't have the basics of pouring locked in or pour incorrectly because they were taught by somebody who themselves did it wrong.

Beer Rotation

With so many beer options, an often asked question involves how to design, program and execute a beer menu. Fahey notes, "My general view is to maintain a balance with and see what your customers like. At the end of the day, those are the two most important things. A beer list gives you more ability to be flexible than most other parts of your program. There are few restaurants that can say an entire category of food isn't doing that well and wipe it off the menu, but you can do that in beer.” It's important to have a balanced list but if certain beers aren’t selling, savvy managers will know to remove them from the menu and try another option that may fit the consumer base better.

Similarly, when it comes to rotation, it's good to determine your formula for change based on your sales. Keep the strongest sellers on at all times, have a section of your draft list that rotates, and use those rotating selections as a test to see what new beers your guests like. If sales stay steady for a new line, look to replace one of your permanent taps with the fresh draft.

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Fahey suggests that “to keep repeat customers engaged and interested, keep their standbys draft untouched, which they’ll appreciate, but always have something new for them to try as well. It can be tricky but strive to have a balance of those two things.” While there are places where a list that never rotates works and there are places where a list that only rotates works, those are the extremes—most operations are better off somewhere in the middle.

Join Master Cicerone® Pat Fahey at the 2019 Nightclub & Bar Show for a four-hour journey to help you build a stronger foundation of beer knowledge. His session, BeerSavvy Training with Master Cicerone® Pat Fahey, is being held on Tuesday, March 26th at 9:30 a.m. Participants will receive a short book of readings and resources to help them prepare for the Certified Beer Server exam. Combined with the class, this book will prepare individuals to take the exam and join the ranks of more than 100,000 beer professionals who have achieved this certification. (Note: The cost of the class does not include the exam.)

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