In an industry as competitive as Food and Bev, boosting employee loyalty is ongoing battle. Aside from the number on their paycheck, it’s important that the staff feels that their time spent at work is genuinely rewarding. Perfecting team culture is one way to do that, but we should also be looking to enrich each employee’s long-term Food and Bev career. For this, continued education is the name of the game. By providing employees a platform to learn and grow in their field, we can bolster loyalty and improve overall performance. After all, it will be at your establishment that employees will apply their newfound knowledge. So, in that spirit, we’re bringing you a few handy ways you can provide enrichment and education for your bar staff.
We’re starting with the easiest and most popular item here. In fact, there’s a good chance many of you have already done this one. But, winery and brewery visits are popular for good reason. They are often inexpensive (or free!) and provide employees a great way to get to know local producers. If you consider that your employees are essentially salespeople for a product, the more they know about that product, the better! In addition to this, having shared experiences is a great way to build camaraderie within your team. As far as we can tell, visiting local producers is an easy win.
One of the most beneficial things about being in our industry is the connections made just through day-to-day work. Owners and managers can use these connections to the benefit of their employees by arranging to invite guest speakers. For example -- say your bar is known for its impressive whiskey program. Perhaps a master distiller or a representative from a distillery can give a short lecture on their work? This is an inexpensive (or more likely, free) opportunity that is a great way to provide continued education for your staff. Generally, brands are happy to arrange this, given that it is a mutually beneficial endeavor. The producer gets a chance to do some outreach, while your employees are able to broaden their knowledge on a given subject.
If you’ve got some particularly passionate employees, giving them an outlet to educate others is a great way to provide continuing education. Consider allowing staff members to present to their fellow employees about a spirit, wine, or subject that they find fascinating. This will empower your employees to empower one another, providing a doubleheader of both enrichment and team-building. If you choose to go this route, though, ensure that it is entirely optional. Even the most dedicated employees likely won’t appreciate being forced into a presentation. Let your staff members’ passion fuel these presentations, and you’ve got a fantastic education opportunity. Further, these presentations don’t need to eat up too much time -- even ten or fifteen minutes before service is plenty to get the job done. What’s not to love?
Not those festivals. It’s probably best that Coachella and Burning Man be experienced off company time. That being said, if you live in a city with a thriving Food and Bev scene, you can probably expect a few Food and/or Wine festivals to come around each year. These festivals and events often feature the best that a city has to offer, in tiny, bite-sized portions. Industry members can typically get discounted or even free passes, as well. Encourage your staff to go and experience these events. Seeing firsthand the best that your city has to offer is hugely beneficial in the constant quest for perfection that often defines our industry. What’s more, hooking your employees up with free tickets to a food festival is sure to foster some amount of loyalty.
OK -- stick with us here. We know it’s not exactly reasonable to finance a night on the town for all of your employees. But, if you can bring a few staff members out to your city’s latest new spot, and foot even 20% of the bill, that will do wonders for loyalty and employee education. One of the most popular reasons that employees go find another job is to experience what other places have to offer. By organizing these types of field trips, you can provide some of that while also perhaps walking away with a few good ideas. Experiencing the local Food and Bev scene is just good competitor analysis after all -- if you can help your staff do that, why not?
Hopefully, you’re hiring people who are genuinely passionate about their work and the products kept on-hand. Employee tastings are a great way to allow your staff to explore and discuss things they love, whether that means beer, wine, or spirits. These can be as brief or as lengthy as you want, but introducing employees to new products is a great way to enrich their experience at your establishment. You may want to organize tastings when a new product comes to the menu, or when old standards simply need a revisiting. Staff tastings allow your employees to compare notes and ideas on specific products, which can come in handy when designing new house cocktails or brainstorming future ideas. All of that leads well into our next point...
Another one in the category of empowering your employees to empower one another, we suggest having regular behind-the-bar brainstorming sessions. Whether your staff has new ideas for cocktails, procedures, workflow, or anything else under the sun, give them a chance to shine. Regular brainstorming sessions give employees a chance to tap into their creative side, which is something that is all-too-commonly ignored in the business. It’s easy for staff to feel like they’re on an assembly line, especially if they didn’t directly have a hand in menu development. To avoid this sort of unfulfillment, open up the floor to input and new ideas. Employees will surely be surprised by how much they can learn from one another.
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