Is your team up to scratch?

Product range and surroundings are nothing without well-trained staff, say firms

LICENSED trade operators that neglect staff training are missing a vital piece of the puzzle when it comes to providing the best experience for their customers.

As well as giving staff more confidence in their roles, training on subjects such as customer service and product knowledge can help improve an outlet’s overall offer and encourage customers to return time and again, say training providers.

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Mike Cottam, wine tutor at wholesaler Inverarity Morton, which provides WSET courses through its wine school,  said training is the “single most important variable for any on-trade business”.

“You can have the food and drink offer right but if you don’t have informed and educated staff to properly sell that offer then you are limiting your sales potential and, perhaps more importantly, undermining the customer experience,” said Cottam.

“As the frontline to the consumer, staff are in the strongest position to influence spend, and up-spend.”

The importance of in-depth product knowledge was also stressed by Paul Chase of CPL Training.

“All staff members in a customer-facing position should be trained in product knowledge and that knowledge should be regularly updated,” he said.

Staff aren’t just there to serve food and drink, according to Chris Jowsey, trading director at Star Pubs & Bars. They are the X-factor that separate the good premises from the great ones.

Jowsey said: “It’s not the exterior or even the interior of a pub which makes it perfect, it’s the people who work in it. The best pubs all have one thing in common – well-trained, motivated staff.

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“Training makes staff feel part of the team, confident and loyal and therefore less inclined to leave.”

Customers are also more likely to return to an outlet if the staff are well-trained in customer service, according to Louise Ramsay of DG Training.

“Knowledgeable staff can provide good customer service which in turn increases customer confidence and satisfaction and can turn a customer into a regular customer,” said Ramsay.

“This in turn will increase the reputation and profits of the business.”

Training in areas such as social media can also help a venue to more effectively market itself to new customers, according to Jon Exton of digital marketing consultancy Social Ant.

“Social media training should be sought to deepen staff knowledge for those who will be involved with regular updates, as social media platforms are evolving at a rapid rate,” said Exton.

“Some businesses may prefer to arrange courses on social media for all staff so they all have a general understanding.

“Others may prefer to have advanced courses for key members of staff who will need to create targeted advertising campaigns and retarget existing customers or those who visit their website pages.”

Helping staff build their skills can help to raise standards across the industry. And training can be particularly useful for those just starting out in the licensed trade, said Peter Russian of Investors in People Scotland.

“Young people are the future and investing in their career development is an important aspect of growing one’s business in one of the most independent and lucrative markets in Scotland,” said Russian.

Investment in training isn’t entirely up to employers, however.

Gayle Johnstone of Tennent’s Training Academy said that, while employers should invest in “as much training as they can afford” for staff, individuals have a responsibility to themselves to seek out courses.

“Training is the key to success,” she said. “However it is also important for the individual to take part in training to widen their knowledge about our industry as much as they possibly can.

“There are a number of different funding options available for individuals who need a bit of help to access training.”