In this article: Best practices for training your restaurant or nightlife team on bar knowledge to help them increase sales, reduce errors, and improve customer experience.
When working with hospitality teams, I hear these lines all of the time:
“I’m still not 100% confident with the drink menu”
“Vermouth? Never heard of it. It’s alcohol right?”
“They ordered a bottle. Should I open it in front of them?”
Learning and mastering bar knowledge is a massive undertaking. Unless you grew up on a vineyard or with nightclub owners as your parents, chances are you were a little freaked out by learning the ins and outs of a bar when you first started. I know I was.
If you are managing a restaurant team, or working in any venue with a bar program, here are a few best practices to keep in mind when you’re training your team, or trying to master the menu yourself.
The way you write your menu matters. Of course it matters most to your guests, who are using it both to decide what they are going to drink with their meal, and how they feel about the restaurant they are sitting in.
Make sure the menus your guests see are organized and aesthetically pleasing, and of course fit your brand. Check out this article for tips on how to create a great drink menu.
Also, make sure that you are giving your guests the most useful information. At a draft house, I want the entire beer selection to be in front of me. If the bar is known for its bourbon selection, I don’t want to have to rely on the waiter to recite all 100 bourbon brands to me - put a spirit list on the table please!
Get super clear about what your bar program does and does not offer. Consistency is key, so I would suggest staying away from too much product interchanging. Of course trying new products is a great way to get creative, but if one week you only have Grey Goose vodka and the next you only have Ketle and the next you only have Titos…well, you see how confusing that can get for your guests and especially for your staff.
Make sure you know what products you are offering, what their prices are, and that your POS system is up to date with what you decide. Of course using a great inventory system that integrates with your POS is a good way to go here.
Once you have your bar program organized, you’ve created beautiful menus that you’re proud of, and you’ve made sure that your inventory and POS systems are good to go, it’s time to make sure that everyone on your team has access to all of the new information!
I swear by flashcards when it comes to memorizing any food or drink menu. There are great tools for making flashcard decks that can be shared, and even one built exclusively for restaurant teams.
If you can use technology to make using a learning tool like flashcards easily available to your team, they will be more likely to spend the time memorizing the info they need.
When it comes to communicating with your team, the systems you use are important. Make sure you are using a system that is easy to update, and easy to share.
For some venues, this simply means installing a white board in the server station that the bar manager updates everyday. For other venues, using a digital platform is a better option.
Use tools that make sense for you. If no one really likes using technology, use physical tools like whiteboards that people are familiar with. However, if everyone is already on their phone all of the time, using a digital platform with push notifications could be a great tool for you.
Whether you are struggling to train a green bar team, or anxious about mastering a massive wine list for a new job you’re about to start, it’s important to remember that learning takes time.
You can’t know things until you know them, and sometimes we have to do things for a while before we really feel confident. Have some patience with others and with yourself! Creating a culture where people feel comfortable to ask for help when they need it is important.
Never performed wine service and worried about it? Ask for a lesson!
Worried you’ll get confused when a fancy businessman orders a dirty-gin-martini-extra cold-not shaken with exactly 6 even-sized olives? Ask someone to break down martini lingo for you.
Hopefully this article gave you a few ideas to start organizing and simplifying your bar program, and best practices for training both new and experienced employees. Sign up for our newsletter for weekly articles like this one!