Minors Successfully Selling Alcohol In Your Restaurant

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QUESTION FROM: Andre in NE

“How do people handle training servers, particularly college kids 18-20 who know nothing about alcohol to sell alcohol and take alcohol orders without asking the customer a thousand times what they said “Tanqueray, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc”. I want my staff to be confident in taking orders and selling alcohol, just not sure what the best way is to get them there. Thanks!”


HH ANSWER:

I’ve been successful in teaching minors how to sell alcoholic beverages by first teaching them “How To Taste” beverages, I begin by teaching them how to taste non-alcoholic beverages and finish with having them study the nose and mouthfeel of alcoholic beverages since one’s nose can sense more than 1,000 flavors so...no consumption is required.

If you don’t have the time or financial resources to have your underage staff undergo a full day or two of tastings/training, I’d recommend (at the very least) having them make a “cheat sheet”.

List the alcohol, basic flavor profiles, (vintage years and vineyard location for wine) and the ingredients for signature and common drinks alike (this is imperative for up-selling as well).

In short - give them a list of what you carry and make them learn it (i.e., quizzes).

A small taste for the guest is also a great way to sell something that both the guest and the server may not be familiar with.

It’s amazing how many owners don’t ensure their staff is (at the very least) working with a list of: beers, wines, vodaks, gins, whiskeys, whiskys, rums and tequilas, etc... that they offer in a check presenter or somewhere on their person.

If the staff can’t memorize what they have to sell...they should at least have a list they can read to the guest.

While it’d be nice if everyone took the time to train their staff on the history, source, color, aroma, taste profile, preparation method, mouthfeel and finish of every alcoholic beverage on the menu(s)... Don’t get wrapped up in training mixologists and sommeliers - it only takes 10minutes (max) for a server to make a list of available beers, wines and spirits for most restaurant staff to reference tableside. If it takes much longer than that you can’t afford not to invest in a training program or two.

After all, if a guest wants to know whether or not you’ve got Glenfiddich 19 at the bar - they need a “Yes” or “No” a lot more than they need a lesson on Speyside vs Highland single malt whiskies.

Hope that helps,
Josh