How to Operate Your Beverage Wall with Properly Trained Staff
Beverage wall ambassador program and training
When running a self-pour venue, there are many ways to set your venue up for success. However, one of the most important ways to do this is to employ trained staff to work the beverage wall. This role can take many different names – beer wall tender, beverage specialist, beer wall ambassador, self-pour expert, beer tender, or our favorite, beverage wall ambassador, but the goal of this role remains the same – ensure that your guests’ glasses are not empty and that they’re enjoying the freedom to be their own bartender!
Your beverage wall ambassador role will help you reach the return on investment (ROI) of your self-pour beverage wall as quickly as possible. This person will play a key role in executing your beverage program profitably, so you want to find the right person.
Below, we outline several important areas for your search and how to execute this role for your business. First, we will discuss how to hire and train the perfect beverage wall ambassador for your establishment. Besides hiring and training, you will want to ensure your self-pour beverage wall is setup up properly, so the beverage wall ambassador can perform their duties with a breeze!
Do’s & Dont’s When Opening a Self-Pour Establishment & How to Set Up Your Beverage Wall!
- Hiring Your Beverage Wall Ambassador
- Training Your Beverage Wall Ambassador
- Scheduling Your Beverage Wall Ambassador
- Creating a Script for Your Beverage Wall Ambassador
- Setting Your Beverage Wall Ambassador for Success
- Your Beverage Wall Ambassador’s Responsibilities
- Benefits to Expect from Having a Wall Ambassador
Hiring Your Beverage Wall Ambassador
Hiring for this role is similar to hiring any other staff member for your team. Just like with your other staff, you will want to take advantage of online postings, such as utilizing your social media channels to post that you are looking for help to join your team – LinkedIn, Indeed, Craigslist, and similar. A helpful path to take is to incentivize your employees to refer someone from their network. It is a win-win for hiring any new role for your business since your already established employees will enjoy training their friends or family members and will be more likely to help set them up for success. Plus, you will be adding to a friendly atmosphere in your business.
If you struggle to find and maintain talent during the staffing shortage, check out this blog that provides tips and strategies to overcome staffing challenges.
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Traits To Look For
Look for someone personable, extroverted, and who enjoys being around people. They need to have a “bartender” personality and ideally be pretty geeky about the type of beverages you will offer at the wall – for example, a craft beer enthusiast, a “wannabe sommelier,” or someone who enjoys bartending & making their cocktails. This heavily depends on what beverages you offer from your self-pour taps.
Hire bartenders that don’t like the stressful/busy times at the bar, as the volume of customers is significantly easier to handle at the self-pour beverage wall where multiple people can serve themselves simultaneously.
Your beverage wall ambassador should have a good understanding of the beverage industry (knowledge of IBU and ABV, what to look for in wines, etc.). However, experience in the hospitality industry is not required as long as they are good around people. You will want to focus on them being:
- Personable & Social
- Willing to learn
- Good team players
The rest is all coachable and trainable!
PourMyBeer Tip: If they don’t know much about beverages and the different varieties, have them review resources on beer styles, wine varietals, what to look for in wines, and more. This way, ambassadors can recommend drinks similar to what patrons like and advise them as needed when they are looking to try something that they are familiar with at first. With the beverage wall, you will learn that most self-pour first-timers start in the section familiar to them, such as IPAs or lagers. Then they will go into the more adventurous areas they might not typically order a full glass of when in a traditional bar.
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Training Your Beverage Wall Ambassador
First, address the basics of your brand and core values, as you want to make sure they understand what your brand stands for. They will impact your beverage sales, and this role can have a much greater impact on your business than just training self-pour first-timers how to pour their first own beer.
Training On the Wall & How to Use It
You want to physically walk them to the wall and explain the different beverage sections and how they are organized. For example, starting with light beers on the left and moving to the heavier and hoppier things to the right, then the second wall offering a variety of cocktails and wine, and finally, some non-alcoholic options (such as cold brew and kombucha). You should allow them to pour at least 2 – 3 drinks to experience firsthand what it feels like to pour while tilting the glass for a beer at a 45-degree angle and ensuring the glass is close enough to the tap to reduce foaminess. You can have them watch the video below demonstrating how it works!
PourMyBeer Tip: Have a mock screen to explain how the process works at the check-in station.
They need to feel comfortable pouring, so they can successfully teach first-time customers. Here are some things to remember: if the beer does pour foamy, even if customers tilt the glass properly, the beverage wall ambassador should understand why that can happen. Typically it’s for one of these reasons:
- The beer (keg) is not stored at a proper temperature – it is either too cold or too warm, causing foaminess.
- The pressure for the beer flow is not set up correctly.
- They are pouring the beer into a warm glass (heat causes foaminess).
- Oftentimes it is just an issue of not holding the glass at an angle or too far from the tap.
If the customer pours a foamy beer, explain these reasons and give your beverage wall ambassador the autonomy to use the refill feature on the admin card. Communicate when and how much they can pour for guests, so you do not see higher beverage waste.
Besides teaching self-pour novices how to pour their drinks, they will spend a good amount of time socializing with customers and recommending drinks based on their palettes and preferences. They can explain that your venue offers self-pour because you want to give them the freedom to sample and pay by the ounce (this will be reflected in your pocket later, too)! Customers love the freedom to pour as little or as much as they like without getting stuck with a full glass of something they might not like.
Another task that your beverage wall ambassador will need to get familiar with is how to reauthorize a customer card which is a simple process that takes only a few seconds. Have them watch the video below to learn how!
How to Reauthorize a Customer’s RFID Card After They Hit Legal Limit
Once they know these basics, share our latest user guide, which you can access below. Our user guide explains features of the PourMyBeer system, including keg level management, so they know when the keg is close to kicking.
Training to promote beverage flights
This is particularly relevant if you offer a variety of craft beers. You want your kegs to rotate quickly, so the keg does not sit in the cooler too long and the beer does not become old. Your beverage wall ambassador can point your guests in the right direction. Sampling flights is a helpful way to ensure movement of your kegs.
You will also want to ensure that they are familiar with the variety of available glasses. Some guests will consider this type of education a unique and gourmet experience, which they would not learn in a traditional bar. This is your business opportunity to shine and stand out as a beverage expert/educator!
Scheduling Your Beverage Wall Ambassador
We recommend having this employee on the clock whenever you are open for business and bringing in thirsty customers. However, some smaller establishments with lean staff can’t afford to pay for this role at all times. In this instance, you want to cross-train your other staff members, so they can step in when needed. Have this staff member around to cover the peak times when the beverage wall is likely to be utilized a lot.
Offering Perks & Benefits
Aside from offering benefits and perks for staff, you can do a few more things for these employees to make them feel appreciated and involve them more closely with your beverage program.
To make this role more appealing for potential candidates, consider having this employee involved with ordering new beverages and decision-making about partnering up with new breweries & wineries. Even invite them for tastings with your distributors and reps! The more hands-on you can have them, the better you make them feel like they are an integral part of your beverage wall program.
You can also offer a drink or two after every shift for free, swag, or new products to bring home with them. All these can go a long way!
It is your decision if you choose to share tips with this role or not, but we highly recommend you start this role with an above-average base salary (compared to your waitress). Fill this role with someone generally passionate, social, and looking for a stable job in which they get to do what they love.
Several PourMyBeer establishments pay their beverage wall ambassadors a good (above average) base salary and benefits, leaving the tips out of the equation. Some venues treat this role more like a bartender, with a lower base salary and tips making up the rest. We only recommend this route if you know your wall is set up for success.
Understanding your peak times/busy nights
This is when someone MUST be at the beverage wall at all times to ensure novices are not getting frustrated if they are self-pouring for the first time. It is also the time for the beverage wall ambassador to advise those that do not know where to start on what they might like (and encourage sampling). It’s also the perfect opportunity for your beverage wall ambassador to upsell and recommend which food dishes go great with the particular drink the patron is pouring. (You might want to talk with your entire staff/crew & chef about this.)
Understanding your slower times/downtime
This is the perfect time for your beverage wall ambassador to polish the wall, clean the drip trays, and disinfect the taps and the screens (if they got touched a lot for tasting notes reading). Your beverage wall ambassador can ensure the shelves with glasses are fully replenished with cold glasses and the glasses look polished and shiny.
PourMyBeer Tip: Many beverage wall ambassadors in busy venues will spend extra time polishing glasses and educating themselves about the details of beverages currently offered at the beverage wall, so they know what the particular drink contains when a guest asks.
Script for Your Beverage Wall Ambassador
The script should fit your operations and guest workflow (varying from establishment to establishment, especially since PourMyBeer integrates with many point-of-sale systems, and those do play a role in how the guest is getting checked in and out).
Watch this video of one of our PourMyBeer family members, aka a customer, from St. Augustine’s, Florida, to see how he trains his employees to explain the beverage wall to their self-pour first-timers.
For more examples, click the button below to access multiple scripts from other establishments!
The script is not for beverage wall ambassadors only. Remember that your beverage wall ambassador won’t be around 100% of the time, even if you have at least one person for this role scheduled at all times while your business is open they will occasionally take a lunch break, step outside to the bathroom, etc.; thus, you want to have all your staff that will interact with the wall and customers around trained for how to explain it.
PourMyBeer Tip: Teach your employees that it is helpful to point at our self-pour graphics or “how it works” videos (if your establishment is utilizing these), as that helps visually when the staff member is explaining the process to the self-pour novices.
Setting Your Beverage Wall Ambassador Up for Success
The success of this role heavily depends on the successful setup of your beverage wall. For that, we created another resource for you, which you can visit here. Among the most important things, you will want to ensure that you do the following for your beverage wall:
- Number your taps so the beverage wall ambassador can easily send guests to specific taps, and navigate anyone around the beverage wall with ease.
- Name your beverage categories. If you can’t label the beverage sections, ensure that the beverage wall ambassador can easily explain them to the guests. For example, start with non-alcoholic options on the left and go from lighter beverages such as beers and wines to liquor taps at the very right.
- Have a TV with a “how it works” video (or at least a “how it works” graphic) above or near your beverage wall so the beverage wall ambassador can point at it when explaining how the system works (this is very helpful when self-pour first timers can visualize what the process looks like).
- Have a visible rack, shelf, or fridge (for chilled glasses) with glassware that is easy to access for guests and employees.
- Have a visible rack or area where guests can drop their dirty glasses.
- If you have a traditional bar, ensure that you are not creating internal competition. Offer different drinks at the traditional bar versus on your beverage wall. The general rule goes that you should offer the national beer selection and real craft cocktail concoctions at the traditional bar while the beverage wall will serve as a tasting journey so you can avoid having your patrons come to the bartenders and ask for free samples. Not only will this save you money (no free samples), but it will also save lots of time for your busy bartenders and give your beverage wall ambassador a chance to geek out, secure their tips, and have higher guest satisfaction.
PourMyBeer Tip: Provide a branded shirt that indicates they are around the beverage wall to help, so customers know who to approach if they have issues at the wall.
Your Beverage Wall Ambassador's Responsibilities
Besides making self-pour first-timers feel comfortable with the technology, they should sanitize the wall, make sure it is clean and shiny at all times, and reauthorize the legal limit. When your patrons hit it, they should also explain it and help with setting up a proper customized message for this, which will resonate with your community. Here are examples of some custom messages:
As for the main responsibilities of your beverage wall, they should include:
- Explaining how self-pour tech works to first-timers
- Recommending what to pour to customers that are not sure where to start
- Explaining the organization of the beverage wall for newcomers (where different beverages are located on the wall, where to obtain ice or garnishes if applicable to your business, etc.)
- Reauthorizing the pour cards for those that “hit legal limit” & explain what the legal limit is so the customers feel comfortable and not like they have done anything wrong.
- Ensuring no one is struggling at the wall
- Ensuring that the signage and “how it works” video is easy to locate/reference
- Making updates if necessary – if a keg kicks and a new one is getting plugged in, the beverage wall ambassador should ensure the right product is reflected on the screen, so the customer knows what they are pouring/being able to learn more about that beverage thanks to our tasting notes
Of course, you can add other responsibilities to the list, but the ones listed above are certainly a great start!
Benefits to Expect from Employing A Beverage wall ambassador
- Increased Sales – A friendly and well-educated employee like this will positively reflect on your overall beverage sales. Their presence helps first-timers, thus making them want to come back to the wall to pour more & sample more. This employee can also help with recommendations and food pairings, which both have a direct impact on higher sales.
- Happy Customers – Happy customers are much more likely to return and bring their friends or family to share the fun experience of being their own bartenders. Returning customers are gold, as you don’t have to spend other resources on attracting new ones
- Better User Experience – Using new technologies can be daunting for some guests, especially for older patrons. Having someone nice & friendly at the beverage wall walking them through this experience for the first time is helpful to provide a positive, memorable guest experience. We have learned that this is positively reflected in the guests tipping when leaving!