Your wait staff and bartenders are going to determine if you successfully sell craft beer. Their craft beer knowledge is vital to your bottom-line beer sales and profitability, so make sure that they know beer. In order to maximize your sales, your staff needs to understand the differences between the different styles of beer and how to describe how they taste (whether they personally enjoy them or not). Your staff needs to be educated enough about beer to be able to help guide your customers to the beer that is best for them. Your customers will ask your staff for recommendations, so make sure that your staff knows your beer selection forwards and back. Your staff should know which beers are lighter; which beers are hoppy and bitter and which beers are more malty and dark. Make sure that your staff knows which beers are brewed locally and has some knowledge about your local breweries, because craft beer drinkers like locally brewed beers. It is also important to communicate and educate your staff weekly and daily on the pricing of the craft beer that you carry so that there aren’t any surprises for your customers when they receive their checks.
The easiest and quickest way to train and educate your staff is to reach out to your brewery and beer distributor sales reps. Ask them if they could conduct training and tasting sessions with your employees. Most sales reps will jump at the opportunity to help you and your staff learn how to better sell their beer. They can bring in samples for your staff to try and point-of-sale info sheets that will make selling your beer easier. Make educating your staff fun and they will be more receptive.
There are hundreds of books about beer that your employees can read to educate themselves. It would benefit you to buy and keep several beer related books on premise that you can loan out to your staff. One of the easier reads that I recommend is Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher. Tasting Beer will walk readers through everything from the history of beer to food pairings. Give your staff incentives, such as free beer, to read the books about beer in their off time.
The Internet has an infinite amount of information that you and your employees can use to discover more about the beers that you sell and about beers that your customers will request for you to carry. The Brewers Association has a couple of great Web sites that you can check out at craftbeer.com and brewersassociation.org that go more in depth on the brewing side of beer. Other sites that will help you find out more about specific beers include beeradvocate.com and ratebeer.com. Beeradvocate.com and Ratebeer.com both allow consumers to submit their ratings on beers they’ve consumed. This info can be helpful when ordering beer that you’ve never tried before.
If you really want to get in depth with beer training and education for your staff, you can have your employees participate in the four-level Cicerone Certification Program online at cicerone.org. Nearly 80,000 people have completed Certified Beer Server Certification.
Educating and training your staff is an ongoing process that will help you be more successful selling craft beer.
Keith Coffman is the owner and operator of Lost River Pizza Company.