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Expert Topic Staff Training is Critical for a Brewery’s Success

There are a lot of factors that go into the decision a customer makes regarding if they had a good time or not when visiting a brewery. There is the quality of the beer, the decor and atmosphere, and employee interaction. Server training has never been more important in the beer space, as breweries are faced with stiff competition from not only restaurants but other breweries.

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Beer educator and Advance Cicerone Annette May talked with All About Beer Editor and ProBrewer contributor John Holl about the importance of employees being well trained and knowledgeable for the best possible customer experience.

John Holl: When it comes to server training, proper service inside of a brewery, I imagine that there are some things that it shares with the restaurant and larger hospitality industry, but then also some pretty specialized things to go above and beyond. So when when somebody says to you, what goes into server training in a brewery setting? Where does your mind go?

Annette May: One thing that’s really important about server training is making the employee feel valued and that leads to staff retention. And that’s bottom line. We all know the hospitality industry has such a high turnover with everything.

So an important part of server training is investing the time and sometimes the money into their education, which makes them really feel part of a team and very worthy. When it comes to specifics to the beer industry, oh, gosh, there’s so many. And it starts with the actual product itself beer, which very much like food is notoriously hard to maintain the quality all the way from when it leaves the brewery, when the brewer says it’s ready.

It goes on what I like to call a perilous journey. From the time it leaves the brewery all the way until it gets in the customer’s glass. And of course, not all of that is in the taproom, especially if it’s distributed.

Starting with the draft system, all the way through to the customers glass, there’s a lot of very highly specialized, quite technical things along that pathway that’s really important to train servers on. They don’t need to know every thing about a draft system, but they should at least be able to do some basic troubleshooting and identify problems, and pass those issues on to somebody who’s potentially more skilled.

Then there’s all the things along the way, like glassware, and speaking to the customers, which is very, very important. So there’s a lot of crossover to other industries.

John Holl: Having that knowledge of draft systems or just the brewing process is so important. I’m always amazed when I go into breweries and strike up a conversation only to realize that folks on the other side of the bar don’t seem to know about what they are serving, or worse, give false information about beer or brewing. So, how important is it to the bottom line of a business to make sure training is robust and routinely checked in on and then updated?

Annette May: I don’t think a server needs to know every single thing about the brewing process, I really don’t. I really think they should know the basics. A food server doesn’t necessarily know everything being done in the kitchen, but they should have a little bit of an idea.

Having knowledge of what customers are likely to ask, like about ingredients, a rough outline of the process, the flavors of a beer, that’s important to know. It’s also helpful if they can get out ahead of the myths around beer, like all dark beers and nasty or high alcohol or fattening or bitter, or whatever.

If a server knows that the reason the beer is a certain color, it goes back to how much the grain is kilned during the malting process. And that’s, you know, fairly basic information, but important information, they can then relate that to the customer.

Again, I don’t think they need to know every detail about the brewing process, just a basic understanding. Now, that also ties back to my very initial statement of showing the employee that they’re valued and include them in the whole business and not just front of the house.

By that, I mean, organize for them to spend a day in the brewery, if they have absolutely no interest, then they can see what they need to see, at the minimum, but a lot of them would be really excited to do that. It shows them that they are valued in the whole business, and that leads to a better staff retention.

John Holl: Some owners might say “what if I invest in server training, and they leave?”

Annette May: “What if one doesn’t invest, and they don’t leave.” By that I mean mean they continue to perhaps not serve beer according to best practices. That’s not my quote, but I read it somewhere and it just stuck with me.

John Holl: What about continuing education?

Annette May: I think it is crucial. I’ve read about instances where certain establishments get together before shifts, but there should be, at least, a weekly check in. Talk about new beer styles, or any changes. It’s important to keep all your staff informed of what’s going on. And along with that goes more education

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