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Wine education in the wine country

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par Gildas L'HOSTIS
Ecole Supérieure de commerce de Dijon - Mastere spécialisé Commerce Internationale vins et spiritueux 2011

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4. Wine training an important issue

To develop revenue

According to Dewal and Jones «Wine training has been shown to increase wine sales in fine dining restaurants like the Disneyland Resort's Napa Rose. Michael Jordan, who has led the operations at Napa Rose, has undertaken an ambitious wine training programme for his staff. Currently, 34 of the restaurant's 75 staff members are certified as sommeliers (Wine Spectator, 2004). Jordan believes that this training translates in increased wine sales and a growing local customer base. Because of this personal wine training their staff turnover is virtually nonexistent».

«Sommeliers play an important role in influencing the sale of wine in restaurants, in particular, in smaller restaurants and in fine dining restaurants. Focusing on value for money, winery reputation, type of variety and tracking customer preference are all critical factors that respondents considered when selecting wines and when recommending wines to customers» (Dewal, Jones. 2006).

Selling wine in restaurants can undoubtedly help to significantly increase revenue. Employing a sommelier could have good impact on wine sales and generates a great return on investment (Passot, 2011). It could increase the revenue from fifteen to twenty eight per cent. Wine sales in restaurants in France represent about forty per cent of the total revenue and generate about seventy per cent of the total margin. Antoine Petrus (best young French sommelier) considers that revenue could be much higher with good selling techniques.

In USA in 2008 (Veseth 2008), trends significantly showed that wine sales became more and more important in restaurants as 70% of restaurants reported that wine was a larger percentage of their total sales in 2007 compared to 2006 and more and more restaurants were aware about wine. «Smart restaurateurs and their sommeliers take advantage of the wine boom by offering interesting and hard-to-find wines, which attract wine enthusiast diners and generate higher revenues.

All traditional restaurants do not obviously need a sommelier; waiters can also have good wine selling techniques. It is important to notice that there is a return on investment when the waiters are able to promote wines and that the customers unless eating in a fine dining restaurant do not necessarily expect a sommelier in all restaurants. With a few

recommendations on wine and food pairing for example, based on the wine list and the menu, customers are more likely to order wine. «Using a twelve week field experiment in a restaurant, Wansink et al. (2006) estimated that wine food pairing recommendations increased wine sales of the targeted wines by 44.5%» (Sirieix, Remaud 2010)

In France some restaurants owners tend to undervalue the benefit of wine selling as they don't have any or have poor wine education. Traditional restaurants are sometimes unaware of the wine issue and have a wine list only because it is probably necessary to offer few wines to their customers. Restaurant chains sometimes offer only a limited wine list and moreover often don't suggest local wines even if the restaurant is situated in a wine producing region.

For staff confidence

The main problem when speaking with young students learning at the hospitality school (regardless of sommelier courses) is that they are sometimes as shy as their customers to speak about wine, considering that their knowledge is not good enough to advise the guests. There is a strong trend in France which consists of saying that you have to be an expert to speak about wine. With a minimum of training and a good knowledge of the wine list, everyone can be able to say at least if the wine is strong, light, or dry and give some clues to the wine and food pairing. If training is carried out on wine selling techniques and focuses on the wine list attributes, staffs become more confident and help to increase wine sales. According to Ben Salisbury (Dewald, Jones 2006) Vice President of Global Account Development Stimson Lane Vineyards & Estates, most wine training fails because there is too much emphasis on «wine knowledge» that no one remembers. Simple wine selling techniques can be taught by anyone, regardless of their knowledge.

Restaurants owners sometimes want to highlight wine lists with too many wine references without thinking about their staff's skills, therefore, wine knowledge should be proportional to the wine list.

«The success of wine sales in restaurants partly depends on the knowledge level of employees and managers. In order to effectively purchase and market wine, the restaurant employees and the managers need to possess the necessary knowledge about their products. For this reason, wine-service training is an important part of the entire process of purchasing and marketing wine at restaurants» (Gultek, Dodd, 2006)

On the contrary staff who have poor wine knowledge may sometimes communicate wrong information about wine and also on wine and food pairing, resulting in complaining guests. Qualified staff really helps to highlight the restaurant's attributes for the guests. Employee attitude, behavior, and work effort has a high impact on service quality, satisfaction, and

customer retention in the service industry (Stamper, Van Dyne, 2003; Davidson, 2003; Schneider, Bowen, 1993).

Restaurant owners should consider that continuous training helps to improve wine sales and moreover can help to avoid staff turnover.

Good wine instruction can have a good impact on the waiter's career. Restaurant owners are more likely to employ a waiter who has great competencies in wine service and wine knowledge. «Wine training is a career enhancement activity and therefore can be considered as continuing education. Career enhancement activities can help employees with their career transitions, such as entering a new organization or transferring within an organization» (Gultek 2003).

A well trained staff can also help to draw up the wine list and therefore be involved in the wine purchase process. Giving responsibilities to the staff is an important aspect of the corporate culture and allows them to share the company values and goals.

Everyone is able to bring a plate to the guest. Giving recommendations about wine and food pairing and serving the wine with good technique is a little bit more complicated but not impossible. When the staffs are well trained and are knowledgeable about wine it helps them to view the job differently and also helps to put special emphasis on their career. Guest attitude towards waiters is quite different if the staffs are knowledgeable or not about wine. Wine service technique can also improve the quality of the wine. As an example, pouring a wine in carafe takes no more than three minutes but can have a dramatic impact on the perception of the wine by the customers.

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