The Connoisseur Nation.

After 15 years in the industry and having witnessed the various changes in trends and trade during
that time, I’ve now coined another phrase: “The Overnight Connoisseur”…. Or the customer who
thinks they know more than they actually do about a particular product and reps it hard.


This is a trend I’ve noticed more and more over the last few years and it’s pretty obvious where it’s
coming from. The explosion in back shelf products and craft beers has changed drinking habits
quite noticeably. Small batch gins and other spirits, more and more boutique brands and local
breweries are not only becoming staple products in our bars, but are also gaining serious
recognition and awards. I’ve noticed big changes in product movement at my venue, with more and
more back shelf sales, and a move away from the basic house pour options that back in the day
made up the majority of our revenue.

With a wider range of product comes a need for a wider range of product knowledge, which is an
area some do better than others. A lot of people will latch on to a certain product because of its
design and “cool factor” rather than for the product itself. A prime example of this is a customer I
had recently, who had just heard about Hendricks gin, and was explaining it to his group of friends
how it was cucumber infused and really cool and they should all try it. However I also heard him
say clearly that he doesn’t like cucumber but “all the rich lawyers in my office drink it so I kinda
have to…”. So I have a group of customers drinking a premium product with a high price tag which
is obviously good for business, but this customer is drinking a product he potentially doesn’t really
enjoy due to his perception of the image around it. Where’s the problem you ask? Well I’m a
bartender. And I work in hospitality, which is defined in the dictionary as: “the friendly and
generous reception and entertainment of guest, visitors or strangers”. Basically, I’m in the business
of making others feel good. It’s about them, not me, and in this case, well I have 5 other premium
gins sitting on my back shelf. There’s probably one there that would suit this particular customers
tastes better, and improve his drinking experience. In my mind that’s what it’s all about. Giving the
customer the best drinking experience they can have. It’s my duty to make that happen, and that’s
where the training comes in. For this to work, well I need to know stuff. I need to know about those
other 5 gins and what those brands are about, what differentiates them from each other, not to
mention how they differ from Hendricks! Then I can start the rapport with the customer and
potentially improve his drinking experience both now and for the future. At the least I will be giving
him an informed choice.

This is how I like to approach training with my team. I want them to think about the customer
experience, not just regurgitate what’s on the back of the bottle. They need to be able to translate
that into an accessible format for the customer and give them the tools to make their choice. This is
the key to educating your customers and up-selling them to different products and brands. It’s
impossible to know every cocktail, or stock every product. But what you can do, is know everything
about what your venue does and offers. Regular product knowledge trainings with your team only
lead to a positive outcome. It energises your staff and encourages them to take the industry and
they position more seriously. It makes you proactive and creates unity in your venue. And it means
the customers are informed and more likely to try different things and buy more premium products.

In short….Everyone wins. So I encourage you to book in a product training session with your team.
If nothing else it’s a good excuse for a cheeky team bonding over a few brews!

By Mike Fowler – HopsoTrain – Trainer/Consultant & Bar owner

Feb, 18, 2016