Hear, Hear—Shift Meetings for Beer

By: Larry Chase, head brewer at Standing Stone Brewing Co.

Knowledge is the queen and king of sales. In other words, the more your staff knows about the beer they are selling, the better they will be at selling it. And that’s one reason you opened your doors—to sell beer.

You most likely start with a well-rounded training regimen for new hires, but, continuing education is vital to retain and increase beer knowledge. Shift meetings are one of the best methods you can use to continually train your service staff and keep them informed. A knowledgeable staff can confidently sell beer.

5 Musts for Every Shift Meeting

  1. Preparation. Know what you are going to cover and plan it. One or two topics is plenty. Topics can be planned as far in advance as you like. It often helps to set up topics and discussion points for one entire week. Definitely write down your plan. Written notes provide a reference for those leading the meetings, and serve as a record of what you have covered in the past.
  2. Every shift. Be consistent and set the expectation that an educational gathering will happen before every shift. To make this happen you will need buy-in from owners and leadership on down. While the brewer may lead pre-shift many times, others will need to get involved to ensure that the information is shared at all shifts, including those when the brewer is not available. When all staff starts at the same time getting them together is easy. Staggered shift times make meeting more challenging, but it can be done. Simply set the expectation and schedule to ensure that each staff person meets with the shift meeting leader immediately after clocking in. This does mean that shift meeting leaders might share the same information 3-5 times in one shift (ensuring they will learn the information themselves).
  3. Keep it short. Shift meetings should be five minutes max. By keeping it short, you reduce the information to a more easily remembered quantity. Plus, you’ll more easily accommodate shift meetings for staggered starts.
  4. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Consider sharing the same information across multiple days and multiple shifts. An entire week of the same topic is not too much. By doing so, you’ll be sure all service staff hears the information. And for those who get to hear it multiple times, the repetition helps them learn and remember. Repetition also applies to coming back to topics three to six months later. You’re certain to have new staff who have not yet heard a particular topic, and even those who have heard the information may have forgotten it. Using the written record you created in the preparation step makes returning to topics easy.
  5. Engage. Find ways to pique the interest of your staff and engage them. Be sure to create a two-way learning environment by asking questions and role playing. Have beer samples to see, smell and taste when describing a specific beer. Consider recruiting servers to lead the shift meeting. By teaching, they gain confidence and become more knowledgeable. Involve the kitchen by asking them to prepare a dish to pair with a beer when talking about food and beer pairing. An engaged staff will learn and be better beer sales people.

What to Share at Shift Meetings

Below is a partial list of the knowledge you could share during a shift meeting. Start with it and add your own topics as they relate to your business.

  • Beer descriptions for both year-round and specialty beers
  • Beer and food pairing concepts
  • Beer sales techniques
  • Basic beer knowledge and terms like ABV, IBU and original gravity
  • Ingredients and their flavor contribution
  • How to describe beer
  • Revisit initial new hire training material
  • Why sell beer and why sell specific beers
  • Beer styles
  • How to give remarkable beer service
  • Answers to common customer questions
  • Describe beer through actual smelling and tasting
  • Solutions for responding to set scenarios that will occur with customers

By preparing and engaging your service staff by talking about beer at every shift, you will increase their knowledge, leading to confidence and increased beer sales. You’ll also instill a positive excitement about beer and continually build a beer culture within your business.