Cheers January/February 2013

Cheers is dedicated to delivering hospitality professionals the information, insights and data necessary to drive their beverage business by covering trends and innovations in operations, merchandising, service and training.

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Beer Service is Booming Proper guidance and training help operators sell more brews By Lucy Saunders B eer sales once seemed simple: Ask what the customer wants, grab a bottle, open it and hand it over with a smile. Now, it's more complicated—operators sell dozens of competing brands, offer tasting flights, plan for seasonal releases, stock specialty glassware, conduct promotions, tastings, host beer dinners, brewmaster visits, and more. "It can be just as overwhelming for new hires as it is for new customers," says Sam Wynne, assistant beer director at the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium in Houston, TX. "When you present a large beer menu, about 40% of our customers don't know where to begin. Our staffers have to know how to guide them." For certain, guidance is key to sales, notes Patrick Libonate, director of on-premise and draught strategy for Heineken USA. "According to our market research, bartender or server recommendation was cited as one of the top-three reasons for trying a new beer and for enhancing the overall drinking experience." Staff training promises to simplify selling beer, according to experts like Samuel Merritt, a consultant and the founder of Civilization of Beer in Tivoli, NY. "About half my work is in the on-premise sector because of the growth in craft brew brands, and surge in awareness among consumers," Merritt says. Freshness and flavor matter immensely to savvy craft beer consumers. Merritt is one of about 650 certified Cicerones in the U.S. The Cicerone Certification Program, founded and directed by Ray 24 | JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2013 Daniels, "has given us a great platform for beer education, and when retailers are able to get all their staff Cicerone certified, they post the certifications on the wall," Merritt says. Evidence of Cicerone certification is good for customers to see, Merritt explains. "I find it just as reassuring to see a sign posted behind the bar showing the date when the tap lines were last cleaned, because investing in draught quality is really another form of customer service." You have to remember that "draught systems are a big investment," says Wynne, "because you need to know ideal flow speeds, mechanics of fonts and lines, chemical cleaning solutions and maintenance—training has to cover all of that." Investment in staff training may feel risky for a bar owner, especially in competitive markets or college towns where staff turnover is high. "Some retailers will pay staffers for the time spent in training, but will split the registration fee, and reimburse the employee six months later," Merritt says. "It's a way to control costs up front and realize the value of training through staff retention." BRANDS OFFER INSTRUCTION Both importers and breweries see the value in staff training, and several have designed their own programs. For example, the Passion4Beer (P4B) program offered by Heineken USA educates

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