Your bartenders want you to train them. They want you to encourage them to seek spirit, cocktail, wine, beer, food and pairing knowledge. The bartenders in your employ are optimistic and want you to respect them for learning about the history of their craft and honing their techniques.
According to Donna Hood Crecca of Technomic and information she shared during the 2018 Nightclub & Bar Show, 67 percent of bartenders expect to serve more knowledgeable guests in the next three years. They anticipate that their guests—your guests—will learn more about beverage alcohol during that short time frame.
This makes sense when you consider that Technomic discovered 61 percent of bartenders believe they’re serving guests today that are more knowledgeable than they were three years ago.
When presented with the following statement, 46 percent of bartenders surveyed said they agreed:
“Patrons are becoming so brand savvy that bartenders have little influence on the brands they order.” Almost half—48 percent—say that their guests seek brand and beverage information and recommendations via social media channels. And, unfortunately, 41 percent of respondents who work at independent establishments (39 percent who work at chains) said their guests prefer to learn about beverage alcohol from social media instead of bartenders.
These revelations, which must be demoralizing for your bartenders, show their optimism. Bartenders still consider themselves highly influential when it comes to interacting with guests. An impressive 97 percent still make personal recommendations.
So, while 42 percent indicate that familiarity with a brand (or a brand being a guest’s favorite) influences guest decision, 41 percent feel that their recommendations are also influential. Happy hour promotions (28 percent), other promotions (21 percent, with 25 percent indicating these are more important for spirit-based choices), and friends/family (19 percent) round out the rest of the decision influences.
When asked what they think will help move the needle in terms of bar sales, 53 percent of bartenders answered with promotions that focus on new drinks, brands or products. When it comes to discount-based promotions, 75 percent agree that they’re highly effective. These revelations make two things clear:
- Your bar staff needs to be trained to make effective spirit, beer and wine recommendations.
- To be more effective, your bartenders need continual education.
Luckily, Technomic found that 89 percent of bartenders surveyed work to increase their own beverage knowledge. Seeking to be better educated means making more influential recommendations and serving guests better. As an owner, operator or manager you should always support employees who are actively seeking ways to improve the guest experience and guest engagement. Invite brand ambassadors to your establishment to host bar training sessions. Share reports and informative articles with your staff. Never discourage this form of self-improvement.
On the topic of brand ambassadors, Technomic asked the bartenders they surveyed if they agreed with the statement, “Brand ambassadors are credible resources for education about brands and how best to use them at my bar.” Overall, 64 percent of the bartenders agreed or strongly agreed (90 percent of chain bartenders, 53 percent of independent bartenders). The bartenders surveyed also indicated that they want more interaction with—and support from—spirits, beer and wine wholesalers and/or distributor reps (68 percent overall).
While 86 percent of bartenders surveyed say they feel educated and confident behind the bar, they also don’t feel like experts. The following categories were identified by Technomic as those in which bartenders feel the least confident:
- Japanese whisky (40 percent)
- Imported wine (27 percent)
- Craft beer (26 percent)
- Sparkling wine (23 percent)
- Cider (23 percent)
Survey your own bartenders in several beverage alcohol categories to gauge their confidence. Depending on your bar’s niche and inventory, organize the categories along the lines of spirits, beer and wine, and go from there. You’ll identify any weak spots in your bar staff and be prepared to take the next steps in improving their knowledge.
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Boost bartender knowledge and, logically, you’ll likely see guest engagement, staff retention and revenue go up. Your bar staff clearly wants to be knowledgeable than their guests (again, your guests) so give them the training and resources to enhance their sales skills. Promotions certainly motivate sales but an informed, educated bartender remains your strongest sales asset.