I'm a restaurant guy, through and through. My first job was busing tables at age 15 and my last non-wine sales, was as a Somm, and I did practically, nothing in between, but work in restaurants. I have great affection for this incredibly difficult business.
As I see it, there are 2 negative trends with wine programs today.
1) Wine is skipped over, in favor of Beer and Whiskey-I do love beer, and I also am quite fond of whiskey (and whisky). There are too many spots that focus all of their energy on these 2 categories, but completely ignore the wine. Even a relatively casual place that takes beer seriously, can and should, spend some of their energy on developing a wine program. How often do you find yourself looking over a 20 beer tap list and only see 5 wines offered, all of which you could easily find at a well stocked gas station? Some of us default to beer, because the wine program sucks.Solution-find 1 trustworthy vendor. You know the rep that sells you the gas station wine? That isn't your person. They have numbers to hit and you've been an easy mark. The craziest part? There is no cost difference between a well curated wine program and a Gas Station wine list.
2) Staff is under-trained-If you DO have a significant wine program, you have a greater degree of difficulty in regards to staff training. In very few cities, can you hire someone and assume they know the stuff they need to. If you invest in a large inventory and list, you need to spend some additional money making sure the staff knows their stuff. What does this look like?
- A staff that understands what a flaw is, and how to handle it
- ability to pronounce most of the list, properly
- knowledge of which wines on the list, refer to grapes vs. regions and which grapes or regions play a part in that wine.
- Weekly staff tasting/ training
- Someone on staff that checks all of the BTG on a consistent basis.
- teaching the staff to acquiesce that many of their customers, may very well, know more about a particular wine, than the staff, and to be humble in their knowledge.
Neither of these should EVER be a barrier. A great wine program, can put you on the map, and more importantly, elevate a beverage program in ways that beer or booze cannot even touch.