How a craft bar can effectively train & educate even the most novice servers and bartenders

Last updated January 19, 2023 · By Dylan Blake

Darian Everding manages London Underground, a craft beer and whisk(e)y bar in Ames, IA.

Like so many places in the industry, London Underground has seen an uptick in staff turnover in the last couple years. For a craft bar, that kind of turnover matters: you often have to do a lot of training with new folks to get them up to the necessary knowledge level.

During this period Darian has found a formula for staff training and education that's brought London Underground success with all their staff—from the most novice all the way up to the beer and whiskey nerds.

Check out the interview video and read on to learn 8 ways Darian educates staff and gets them invested in London Underground's bar success.

Level 1: the truly novice

If you're new to beer, working at a place that has a big beer program can be mortifying. This is especially common these days because of the huge turnover the industry saw during/after covid.

To help with this, Darian has a list of "Level 1" factoids. These are things that don't require any real knowledge of beer, but which can make servers and bartenders more confident and thus make guests more likely to trust them.

Here are a few examples Darian cites:

  • Inform staff what's been selling well. If nothing else, they can tell customers what's popular.
  • Let staff know what keg is fresh or what new cans or bottles came in. Again, if nothing else, they can tell guests what's new.
  • Connect the dots between similar beers (or even better, do so on your menu) so that staff can make recommendations. You want them to be able to say:"Oh, you liked Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. You know we just got in this local Pale Ale from..."
  • Bring in reps to give tastings. It's another way and place that staff can learn about beers. If they don't yet know how to talk about beer, they can at least take something—even just 1 fact—from that tasting and then talk to customers about it: "Yeah, so with this beer the brewers used [insert hop name] because..."

If you equip staff with even just some of those, they're already in much better shape to get guests trusting them.

Level 2: Getting staff invested in your bar program

During our call Darian took a long pause and said this: "Investing in your staff is the number one way to get an ROI, hands down."

This is so important because if you invest in your staff, they become invested in your bar program and are way more likely to effectively sell your products.

Here are some of the ways the London Underground team accomplishes this:

  • If there are beers staff members like but you don't carry, bring them in and let that staff member do their magic. If it's their favorite beer, they'll certainly be able to sell it.
  • Let interested staff members assist you when placing an order from a distributor or brewery. They'll be invested in making their choices a success.
  • Take staff trips to breweries or distilleries. It's fun, free for staff, and it's in an environment where they can learn about the products you're selling. (London Underground does these once per quarter.)
  • Give an allowance for staff training, like getting Cicerone certified or becoming a Certified Spirits Specialist.

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