Going with the wine training Flow


Earlier this year, Matthew Clark and Flow struck a deal allowing the wholesaler to offer the online training resource to its customers. In this special feature, Matthew Clark Innovations Controller Mike Fisher and Flow founder David Wither reveal the background to the deal and how it’s boosting wine sales and knowledge in the trade.

What is Flow and what was the motivation for its development?
David Wither: “Flow is an innovative package of online training modules covering all areas of training required for the hospitality industry.
“The motivation behind developing it was simple – as Montpeliers we operated eight sites employing around 300 staff, all of whom we needed to intensively train to a very high standard to ensure the quality of service that our business was known for and our customers demanded.
“After opening Tigerlily we felt the need for a more efficient alternative to conventional training methods, and looked to other industries to see how they overcame the traditional obstacles to training.
“We then took all the training we had been delivering in our training centre over the previous 16 years and worked with market leaders in software development to create this unique range of training products for our industry.”

What are the main benefits it brings businesses and their staff?
DW: The main benefits are the ability to overcome the traditional obstacles associated with training in the licensed trade – lack of time and cost, and of course the huge potential to drive standards and maximise sales that comes with a highly trained and motivated team.
“Staff receive first class, certificated training in a range of disciplines that enables them to carry out their jobs with confidence and to progress their careers.”

How widely is online training used by the licensed trade? How does Flow compare to and supplement more conventional training?
DW: “Online training is a new concept to the majority of operators in our industry, although some of the larger companies have used online training to cover compliance training before, in particular food safety.
“Flow is currently unique to the market in offering such a broad range of hospitality training online.
“Compared to more conventional training it means that staff can train at a time, place and pace that suits both them and the business, it cuts down on a lot of the costs associated with training, it ensures a consistent message to all trainees, and to a very high standard, and importantly it engages staff by its use of interactive activities, dynamic graphics, video and voiceover, whilst appealing to all the different learning styles.”

How many businesses across the UK are now offering Flow?
DW: “We are currently working with over 400 companies in the UK at present, from smaller independents up to some well know national chains, and across many different styles of operations. We are now working with around 250 Matthew Clark customers across the UK.”

What attracted to you to working with Matthew Clark?
DW: “We were attracted to working with Matthew Clark as a respected business with an innovative approach and a strong training ethic, so our partnership with them has allowed us to reach a much larger customer base throughout the UK via their field sales team.”

What attracted Matthew Clark to Flow?
Mike Fisher: “Matthew Clark is continually seeking new ways to help our customers grow their businesses in effective and cost efficient ways. This may be through developing our existing range and services or, as with Flow, being able to offer new and innovative products to our customers.
“We want to be able to build partnerships with companies which can provide best in class to the hospitality industry and through our considerable experience promote those products to a wide and varied customer base. Flow provides a market leading approach to training for the hospitality industry and as such Matthew Clark is proud to have developed this unique partnership.”

How does Flow compare to and supplement the training Matthew Clark already provides?
MF: “Matthew Clark has always prided itself on being able to provide training across all drinks categories through our internal account management teams and supply partners. This training is often provided in customer premises, Matthew Clark premises or recognised training centres.
“However due to the very nature of the hospitality industry with long and varied hours it is difficult to reach large sections of the staff who work in the business on a day to day basis and harder still to maintain that training effectively.
“By considering multiple training areas affecting hospitality and using the flexibility provided by online training Flow has overcome many of those issues.
“So the partnership between Matthew Clark and Flow and the different styles of training actually complement each other and ensure we are able to provide a far broader training solution for our current and new customers.”

What difference can Flow make to staff knowledge about wine and spirits and ultimately to sales?
MF: “Flow training was developed to allow all staff, whether already working in or new to the industry, to develop a set of core skills based primarily around providing exceptional customer service and also ensuring legal compliance
“Good customer service stems from knowledge, confidence and an ability to adapt to a variety of occasions, as well as patience, understanding and a great attitude.
“The Wine and Bartender modules combine a thorough working knowledge of the primary wines and spirits that you find on a day to day basis with the skills to recommend, serve and present the drinks to the customer.
“This may be shown by helping create a safe environment and good atmosphere, recommending a customer a good wine to match their meal or simply being able to pour and serve a good pint at the bar.
“The overall customer experience will effectively decide how long they stay, how much they spend and whether they will return – all ultimately affect sales and profit.”
How would you assess the level
of wine knowledge in the
MF: “The overall standard of wine knowledge in the industry is very mixed and often dependant on the type of venue, personal preference and training methods available.
“Our aspiration is to drive up the base level of knowledge across the industry, whilst continuing to provide training and development for all levels above that.”


Image: James Johnson of the Coachman Hotel, Kilsyth, says the skills and confidence brought by Flow is driving the business forward.