By Dave Rudman
I’m thinking of a common misconception in the hospitality business. It is often subtle, but it is debilitating. I can tell within a minute of being on property whether management subscribes to this misguided notion. I see it in the way your hostess behaves, in the way your server speaks to me or in the way your bartender mixes my drink. This misconception is systematic to a business, because it could not be more immediate to what business is, and it has to do with making money.
But it isn’t about HOW you make money. You make money by selling goods and services. A glass of wine is a good; a service is the romance a sommelier imbues it with through their words and actions. You make money by selling your product, and having those products attached to service that adds value to that product.
What so few operators understand is WHEN you make money. Most think, “I make money when I’m open for business, especially on the busiest days, at the busiest times.” That’s not when you make money; it’s when you collect it. Don’t make the mistake of trying to make your money at the wrong time.
Consider a common complaint that operators make: “My servers aren’t upselling at the table.” When servers passionately upsell your product, the effect can be profound for your bottom line. But in the heat of the moment, is that server prepared to upsell? Are they familiar with the premium options available? Have you even made them available to sell?
All these questions have already been answered long before your server is tableside – during that server’s first two weeks of training on the floor, learning from another server who had their first two weeks of training with another server and, eventually, you can go back far enough to hit your opening night, when everyone was new. Did you make the decision THEN to give your staff the power, motivation and capability to make you money?
This year, put yourself in a position of comfort and confidence that you made your money months ahead of the busy season by setting the right tone for your operation — by equipping your staff with proper training and education.
When you have this mentality, you come to celebrate that money isn’t made in the busiest times. That’s when you have the least opportunity to think and to influence. Instead, you make your money when it is slow, when you have time to ensure your operation will collect every dime during busy season.
- Understand the value of education. Shortsighted operators fail to invest in education because they don’t understand the annuity that an educated staffer becomes for their business. Great operators view education as a benefit, and, uniquely, one that returns its cost. By investing in education, you will attract and retain the best talent, who will repay you again and again with their superior knowledge and passion.
- Beware of brand marketing. Stocking great brands and knowing about their provenance is important. But knowing a story about a brand’s founder, or exactly where each of its ingredients is sourced, isn’t education, it’s marketing. Organizations such as the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) exist for this purpose: to provide objective fundamental education in wines, spirits and sake for professionals and enthusiasts. A WSET qualification holder offers broader knowledge of categories and processes, arming them to upsell effectively.
- Be consistent. Make learning a part of the culture of your operation, regularly and with knowledgeable individuals leading the way. It should be open to all. You might even choose to make parts of it open to your customer base. The culture will feed into itself and you will have staffers emerge as your “rock stars,” seeking more knowledge on their own time and bringing it back with them to work.
- Lead by example. Learn alongside your staff. If you can teach, teach them. Don’t worry if you can’t; it shows them that you want to learn too and that they themselves should never stop learning.
It is never the wrong time to change your mindset and start making the money you deserve! Do you have this misconception about when you make your money? Now you can fix it moving forward.
Dave Rudman is the Director of Business Development for the U.S. Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET). Previously, he spent seven years working in distribution and began his career in restaurant hospitality.