Hallgarten’s MD, Andrew Bewes, has claimed that restaurants talk too much, don’t listen enough, and too often feed the public with information that’s of no interest to them.
‘The average member of the public doesn’t care what side of a valley a wine is grown on,’ he told Imbibe. ‘Most will have an idea of what they like and for these customers it’s a case of guiding them round the list. People don’t mind spending a bit more, but they don’t want to gamble on it.’
As a result, only half of Hallgarten’s wine training focuses on wine knowledge, with half of it concentrating on people skills or selling skills.
For Bewes, the key is to ask questions – the right questions.
‘You are normally two questions away from making a recommendation,’ said Bewes. ‘People want provenance and a story in beer and spirits. Wine has more of that than either of those, but the question is how do we make that information palatable to the public?’
The question is particularly important at the moment, Bewes said, because there is a shift towards a ‘more American system’ where, rather than one highly-trained wine specialist being in charge of all wine recommendations, the whole front of house team is increasingly having to take responsibility.
‘The standard of sommeliers in the UK is high,’ the MD said, ‘but click down one level and 95% of all the wine is sold by a team who also take the orders for the food. The challenge is how to get them to say “try this” rather than just giving the customer a Malbec.’
Earlier this week we named our top picks from the recent Hallgarten tasting.