Have You Identified Your Organization’s Wine Pain?

This is a reproduction of the LinkedIn article I wrote a while ago, for the benefit of followers of this blog.

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painpointFollowing my last post – 5 Key Ingredients That Make Great Restaurant Wine Lists, one of my LinkedIn contacts very rightly observed that in spite of having the best wine lists some F&B establishments fail to create the necessary buzz around their wine programs and struggle to stay relevant in highly competitive markets. So what else could be the reason for them to lag behind? Let’s explore…

Businesses exist not only to make money but more importantly to solve problems faced by its current and prospective customers. In fact they make money and thrive because they clearly identify the problems and solve them. In business jargon these problems are referred to as pains or pain points. Simply put they are the shortcomings which prevent organizations from achieving business excellence.

Although at a micro level among larger scheme of things, wine offerings and services related to them in the hospitality sector also address many of its guests’ needs and issues they face regularly. So it is critical that such pain points are identified as early as possible and solutions found with equal urgency.

During the course of my wine and hospitality career, I have come across a number of issues which afflict the hospitality industry’s wine and beverage operations. Some of these are generic, but most are specific with a direct bearing on guest satisfaction, their expectations and in turn the success (or otherwise) of the wine program.

Generic pain points:

1.) Lack of a strong wine culture: Although highly subjective and abstract, it still occupies the top of the list of wine pains of many organizations. A ‘wine culture’ is typically intangible in totality as it comprises of many related factors. Most of us in the industry know that there is no short cut to improve the wine culture of an organization, but the good part is that if you have devised a clear and definitive wine roadmap/vision, it will not be an uphill task either.See which of the following points mentioned below applies to your organization’s wine pain.

2.) Maintaining guest loyalty: Hotels and restaurants go to great lengths to retain customers, and in today’s fiercely competitive environment it is not surprising that guests have become more adventurous in their choices. Unless the wine offerings and service standards related to them are continuously upgraded and refined, scoring high on guest loyalty would be a challenge.

Those who have been successful in creating a niche for themselves in wines have done so by making it as one of the key features of their overall hospitality profile and important differentiator from the competition. Why not adopt a similar approach when it comes to your wine program?

Specific pain points:

1.) Inadequately trained and skilled wine team: It is a no brainer – behind every successful wine program there exists a team of highly skilled professionals. This is probably also the most common thread which links top food & wine destinations around the world. Conversely, lack of adequately trained manpower can spell doom for a wine program, irrespective of
how refined every other component of the wine initiative is. It is therefore of utmost importance that your frontline wine staff are empowered with all the knowledge and skills expected of a professional cadre.

2.) Lack of quality wine infrastructure: To ensure flawless and highest quality service delivery a robust wine infrastructure is must. Whether it is advanced storage and cellaring facilities, variety of glassware, service equipment, assorted accessories or a highly user-friendly POS system, a shortcoming in any of these components could pose a negative effect on the overall wine operations thereby jeopardizing the organization’s business objectives.

3.) Lack of innovation and imagination in wine offerings: Today’s wine drinkers are some of the most aware and informed consumers, which in turn have led them to be more expectant (rightly so) of the quality of wine offerings. This genuine need of your guests calls for out of the box ideas to drive your wine program. Luckily, wine offers so many options for innovation that one may never run out of ideas which will keep you ahead in the ‘race’.

4.) Lack of focus on technology: Wine is all about ‘personal touch’ but that does not take away the complementary role technology can play in enhancing both the guests’ wine experience as well as streamlining operations. Right from incorporating state of the art automatic wine dispensers and storage systems to having POS (Point of Sale) software integrated with latest CRM (Customer Relationship Management) options or highly efficient cellar/inventory management tools, technology can play a vital role in making your wine program that much more competitive.

5.) Poor inventory management: One of the most overlooked pains, poor inventory management is at the heart of many woes that affect F&B establishments. While most of it concerns back-of-the-house operations, on many occasions substandard stock management also affects guest dining experience. They lead to erratic availability, and in worse cases non-availability of wines, poor stock rotation, valuable cash-lock-in, oversupply or supply crunch and many other issues.

6.) No auditing, performance tracking or improvement mechanisms in place: Smart businesses, especially market leaders, have one thing in common – they all excel in identifying areas of continuous improvement in their products or services. The systems to locate problem areas may differ but the ultimate aim of achieving excellence through refinement remains an universal success mantra. The F&B service sector is no different. You simply cannot afford to maintain ‘status-quo’ in your service offerings. From creating best-in-class audit check lists to employing cutting edge training methods, every wine program should endeavor to continuously improve and upgrade their products and operating procedures.

Have you come across any other wine pain points in your organization or during your career? Let’s hear about them.

Cheers,

Niladri (@Niladri_Dhar)

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Introducing three young additions to the ‘WSET Level 3 Club’ in India

When I was recently informed about the latest WSET Level 3 results in India, for which the exams were held in Mumbai earlier this year, it was naturally a moment of happiness and fulfillment. After all nothing is more satisfying for a trainer and mentor than to realize that his efforts have helped ambitious young  professionals cross significant career milestones. This rewarding feeling is further accentuated when these individuals achieve their wine learning goals with flying colours and with a clear objective of standing out in the fast-evolving hospitality industry.

As per expectations and anticipation, three of my ex-trainees, Hardik Arora, Sagar Nath and Vivek Boddul, were not only successful in negotiating the challenge but also managed to pass the exam with high grades. While Hardik achieved ‘Distinction’, Sagar and Vivek were awarded ‘Merits’.

What is noteworthy is that all of them achieved this feat by spending their own hard-earned money (normally, these courses and exams are employer-sponsored). Mind you, these certifications do not come cheap – the Level 3 course costs almost 80,000 bucks (Rs. 75,000 + Taxes). So, all credit to these young professionals for being self-motivated and self-driven to make a mark for themselves.

Sagar was among the 18 handpicked F&B professionals who were a part of India’s most comprehensive wine training program in 2011 (ITC Hotels Ultimate Sommelier Programme followed by WSET Level 3 course). He left ITC Hotels within a few months following this training to pursue better career opportunities and hence could not take a shot at the exams that year. Hardik and Vivek, on the other hand, were a part of the 25 ITC Hotels resources who underwent a similar training in 2012, although in this edition (unlike 2011), the WSET exam was not a part of the entire training package. But that did not stop them from pursuing their dream of acquiring this certification on their own, and quite deservedly they got their reward this year.

I am sure this result will inspire other motivated individuals from across the country to make this valuable investment in their career in 2014, and beyond.

Here is a brief introduction of the three additions to the WSET Level 3 club in India this year:

Hardik Arora
Hardik Arora

Hardik is a graduate from Institute of Hotel Management, Chandigarh and currently a member of  the ITC Maratha F&B team. After finishing the three week-long training in New Delhi in mid 2012, he has been appointed as the sommelier-in-charge of the hotel’s Pan Asian restaurant. He is an ambitious individual who wants to carve a niche for himself in the Indian beverage industry.

“It is a dream come true” he says about the result. “The fact that I managed to get a distinction in both theory and tasting, makes this extra special for me. Now I wish to use this knowledge and skill to reach new career heights in the hospitality or wine industry. I strongly hope that the Level 3 qualification would be a turning point in my career.”

“Attending the Level 3 training and Ultimate Sommelier Programme has so far been the best professional experience of my life and I am confident that it will help me become a better wine professional. I look forward to your continued advice and guidance for developing my career as a beverage professional.”  the ambitious professional further adds.

Vivek Boddul
Vivek Boddul

Vivek Satyanarayan Boddul started his career with Oberoi Airport Services as a bartender. He moved to ITC Maratha after a 14 month stint with Oberoi. He has just been selected as a food & beverage management trainee with ITC Hotels.

“Selling premium wines is a prelude to an interesting turn my career took. The real passion of sommeliership ignited my mind when I was lucky to be a part of ITC Hotels advanced wine sommelier training which was mentored by Mr. Niladri Dhar. Subsequently Tulleeho organised the WSET level 3 program in Mumbai, which resulted in successfully completing the certification with merit rank.” he says enthusiastically.

He goes on to add “Looking forward to pursue my career in beverages preferably wines abiding to hotel industry. Simultaneously focussing on further qualification in wines and spirit to fine tune the existing knowledge by elevating the self to higher levels.”

Sagar Nath
Sagar Nath

Sagar Nath is an alumnus of the Institute of Hotel Management, Lucknow and currently resides in Mumbai. Since leaving ITC Hotels in late 2011, he has worked for two different wine importers. He was a Key Accounts Manager with Brindco when the results were announced.

This entrepreneurial wine lover says “WSET Level 3 is a dream which I always wanted to achieve. I am convinced that this will add a lot of value to my future career growth. Hopefully, I will also be able to make the most of my training and learning as a tool to spread awareness of the beverage. I want to be one of the ambassadors of wine in India.”

During his time in Mumbai, Sagar has spent a considerable time interacting with hotels about their wine  needs. He, like many of us in the industry, feels that quality wine training differentiates a good wine program from those which lack a winning edge. “We need many more trained and skilled professionals in the industry. My own experience of the training and now this qualification, proves how much difference quality training can make in understanding and appreciating wine.” he concludes.

Congratulations and best wishes to all three of them, and here’s hoping to see many more young professionals gaining such wine qualifications in the future.

Cheers,

Niladri