Opinion: Relationships

Drinks: Uncategorized

Over the course of a week I will begin to build many relationships. Some will be short, often no longer than the few hours taken to have dinner in the restaurant. Others will last longer, in some cases many years, following me on to my next position where ever and when ever that might be. Many of the  relationships with customers will be of the short kind, their visit to the restaurant or hotel being a one-off event. A few will become more medium term, with the customers returning periodically over the space of the year. A select few will become more long term, the customers returning more frequently. As we build up the relationship it becomes about trust. Them trusting in my knowledge and experience to guide them towards a suitable wine. Me trusting in my abilities and experiences of them to select something suitable. When it goes well, the customers will leave more of the choice to me, and allow me to take them on a vineous journey, expanding their grape horizons and exploring new experiences. We have quite a few regular customers who trust me enough with their meals and wallets to make those choices, and we are all better off for it. Me for the freedom to try out new things with them, and the excitement that comes with finding new wines together. Them for getting the opportunity to take these wonderful wine journeys and enhance their experiences.

With our suppliers we hope the relationships are long term. Many of our most used suppliers have been on our books for as long as Ive been here and the relationships stretch back further than that. Some of the newer suppliers that I have brought in I have known for over ten years now, and while we might not use them on a weekly basis, the relationship is still a strong one. A good relationship with your suppliers is essential to working in this industry. With the sudden demands and changes that we have to cope with, being able to call on a supplier out of hours to get an emergency delivery can make the difference. And we treasure that select band of wine suppliers, and beverage suppliers, because they have bailed us out of the shit more often than we might care to admit. And so we throw them as much business as we can as a way of protecting that relationship and rewarding that devotion to our account. When you get to the stage of having a strong relationship with your supplier you can use it to your advantage. Ive used our relationship with one supplier to organise a harvest trip to Burgundy to work the harvest with a small family winery. It was one of the most wonderful experiences that I have had, and an amazing education for me. Im hoping to organise another trip, with a different supplier, to Italy for the same thing.

As a team within the restaurant there is a complex network of relationships at play. Within the heirarchy of the team there is the professional aspect, based on mutual admiration of each others skills and knowledge. The respect we have for each other as people and employees and the way we treat each other in an enviroment that is stressful and unsociable is another aspect of the relationships in a team. And as is quite natural in this enviroment, there are often a number of personal relationships at play. I met my wife in this industry many years ago, and though she no longer works in the industry, she understands the emotions and interpersonal connections that you build with your colleagues and friends. Its quite difficult sometimes for people outside of the industry to understand the trials and tribulations that we have to deal with on a daily basis, the stresses and pressures of the job. Its no surprise that many people who work in hospitality form personal relationships with their colleagues.  I wouldnt be able to get through an evenings service without my colleagues helping me out. Keeping me on top of tables dining from the tasting menu, keeping the water and wine topped up on table for me, while Im dealing with enquiries, helping to upsell dessert wines or ports. I would be lost without their help.

So as the week draws close to an end, I wonder where all these relationships will end up. Many of the customers that passed though our doors this week will be gone for ever, never to pass though Chester again. Some will make the effort to return, if weve done our jobs right. And maybe one or two will become new regulars.

About Author

Garry Clark

Currently the sommelier at a five-star hotel in the North West, Garry has previously worked at Gleneagles, Amaryllis (Gordon Ramsay’s Glasgow Restaurant), Malmaison in Glasgow, Hilton Glasgow, and several Moat House Hotels. Wine aside, he’s a keen amateur photographer, a part-time gadget freak and computer geek, and an enthusiastic bread baker. All that and he’s still on the right side of 40 (just!).

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