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Sommelier, a generator of experiences
In a globalized world, differentiating yourself from others is the challenge. Despite the wide range of products available, many menus offer similar options, due to the popularity of some brands, sought after by customers because of their marketing campaigns. Here is where sommeliers can make a difference. Their advice can help guests finding the best pairing for their dishes, discovering something new, learning what is behind a label or enjoying top service with special dedication. The entire restaurant staff is responsible for providing a positive and unforgettable experience to their customers, but the sommelier is the one who has the greatest possibility of having a direct and personal relation with each guest, by accompanying them in their searches and inquiries, opening new doors to their curiosity. Becoming aware of this opportunity and putting it into value is the responsibility of the sommelier, but also of those responsible for the management, who must encourage and make possible accessing to quality training and having proper interaction with the guests.
If in regular operations the role of the sommelier can boost sales and appreciation of the experience with benefits for both the restaurant and the client, in times of crisis, the creativity of the sommelier can make a real difference. The current context has forced to rethink roles and responsibilities and to adapt them to face various challenges: quarantine, isolation, social distancing, new security and hygiene measures, fears and difficulties of various kinds, especially economic ones. This has also affected restaurants, bars, and their staff.
Those who have been able to adapt to the new game rules, have conceived take away and delivery menus. In general, the focus has been on dishes, assuming that the customer will get beverages by other means. However, those who manage the beverage area effectively have been able to offer attractive proposals including online tastings, special discounts, combinations with other products or companies, etc.
Beyond these particular circumstances, the existing technology and the experiences lived during this pandemic are changing consumption habits, and these changes will last. Practices that some may consider exceptional and temporary, are here to stay to a greater or lesser extent, such as online shopping, home delivery, connecting with people anywhere in the world and home office.
Today more than ever, flexibility and adaption are vital attributes for the survival of both organizations and individuals. In addition to these features, it is important to highlight:
● Self-awareness: know your strengths, opportunities, weaknesses and threats. Take actions to enhance the positive and to decrease the negative.
● Conscious management of time
● Continuous quality training
● Establish an action plan, with objectives and steps to reach them.
● Strengthen customer’s trust
● Develop and boost networks (staff, suppliers, competition, customers, etc.)
The sommelier of the future is a specialist in beverages, food pairing, experiences, logistics, interpersonal communication, digital marketing and business, who gains the trust of clients in such a way that they accept suggestions and invitations to discover new products and experiences. By doing so, the sommelier generates benefits for himself and for the establishment or brand for which he works.
The restaurant of the future values its staff and the products it offers to its customers. Therefore, it invests time and money in a specialist who manages its beverages and special products and offers its customers proposals and service that differentiate it from its competition. The sommelier is an important piece of the game when it comes to offering unforgettable experiences that create customer loyalty.
Authors: María Laura Ortiz and Carolina Suárez Garcés
María Laura Ortiz is a highly recognized sommelier of Mendoza, Argentina. She leads her own consulting company, Winifera, and acts as jury in various important international wine competitions, like IWC, Mundus Vini, among others. Laura assists Tim Atkin MW and represents the guide ‘Descorchados’ in Argentina.
Carolina Suárez Garcés is Bachellor in Communication Sciences trained as sommelier in the Argentine School of Sommeliers. Wine tourism guide and consultant. Currently she is responsible for Institutional Relations in ProMendoza, the Mendoza Agency of Trade Promotion.
e-mail: [email protected]