Peter Vargas, Assistant Manager of Mountain Lake, urges clubs to educate front of house staff on wine basics, by-the-glass lists and more.
Club beverage programs—more specifically wine programs—are one of the most interesting beasts I’ve ever encountered. If you are considered a “wine club” or a club that has a large inventory in wine because your members indulge in it more so than spirits or beer, there might be a disconnect between the front of the house staff and the members who are trying to find the perfect wine on your list.
There are clubs I have worked in and visited where I have seen beautiful wine cellars with very expensive wines. There might be one person on staff who kind of knows something about the wines or producers. But is that enough to sell those $200, $300, or $700 bottles? Or are those bottles just there to look pretty and so you can say that you have such-and-such bottle in the cellar (even if it sits there for the next 10 years collecting dust).
The real question for clubs as we reopen, rehire and reengage is, how do we take our wine programs to the next level with the staff we have now?
Some members know a lot about wine. They want someone to talk to about the producers featured on your list. This is a great way to build a relationship with members so they trust you when it comes time to recommending something they have never had before.
If you oversee the wine program, take time to learn what years are good in certain regions that you feature on your list. You need to know the top producers and have stories ready to tell table-side. A good story sells wine.
Another way you can elevate your wine program is by educating your team about wine basics and beyond. Certifications through WSET and The Court of Master Sommeliers are great ways to do that. The more you know, the more you can interact with members and heighten their culinary experience with a great pairing.
Being a good sommelier, beverage manager or F&B manager requires mentorship to your employees. Take time every week to go in depth with your team about your by-the-glass list along with your bottle list. Teach them about different varietals, characteristics and the structure of the wine, producers, growing regions. Collaborate with your chef to talk pairings.
When you do these things, you are more likely to move wine inventory. You and your team are invested in the club’s wine program. It also gives you and your team a sense of pride to know that they have the knowledge and confidence to speak on behalf of different wines from different regions.
This is what members want and expect from their club.
So, to circle back to my original question—how do we take not only our wine programs to the next level—the answer is we educated ourselves and our team so they can promote a wine culture within our membership.