So You Want To Be A Waiter

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Out of the box idea for waiters with extensive wine lists

If you work in a restaurant that has an extensive wine list, you might consider starting an in-house “wine club”. Waiters can chip in X-amount each “meeting” to purchase several wines off of the list for comparison tasting. You might be able to buy the bottles directly from your own stock at cost, but this could also be against local regulations, so this is something that you’ll have to check out with your management.

It doesn’t have to be a formal thing. But if you get a few waiters together who have the interest in trying as many wines off of the list as you can, you work your way through a lot of the list at little cost to each person. Remember, this is going to be a tasting thing, so even a $100 bottle (a $200 – 250 wine list price in most restaurants) split between 10 people is still just $10. A third/fourth of a glass of something in that price range is a bargain. And how often are you going to get the chance to taste something like that? And think about doing three or four $30 bottles ($75 – $90 wine list price). That would be a nice, informative tasting for a few bucks, especially if you stay in a certain category or flight.

The problem with doing this is just doing it. It’s hard to get people together with the schedules that we all work, and we waiters can be notoriously flighty as well. You have to be careful doing it on a day where people will be working afterward. You have to make sure that on days like this, it doesn’t degenerate into a drink fest. If you can convince your management that you will treat it as their normal tastings done during pre-shift, you’ll have a better chance of getting management’s blessing and you might even get management to help out with an occasional bottle that they were planning on using for tasting anyway.

You don’t want to get too structured with this. Stay flexible. Just figure out which wines you want to taste, make sure that you can get them either from the restaurant or from a retailer (yes, you’ll pay more but the cost is still spread out over multiple people).  Then you simply find out how many people can commit to coming, divide the cost by that number and get the money. The closer you do this to each session, the better chance you’ll have to avoid people who pre-pay but then don’t show and want their money back. In fact, this should be part of the “agreement” – once you’ve paid, it’s your responsibility to show.

You don’t have to have a set number of people. In fact, any waiter of legal age should be able to “opt-in” anytime they want. The more people who get involved each time, the lower the costs and the more different wines you can taste. You might even do a really high-end wine every once in a while. I know I would gladly pay $20 to taste a recent vintage Latour or Shafer Hillside select. Those are wines that few waiters ever get to taste and tasting wines of that caliber give another frame of reference.

Heck, if it’s successful, you might even get your liquor reps to occasionally throw in wines of their own portfolio.

It’s worth thinking about doing, especially if you’re serious about selling wine. Even if you only make it happen a few times a year, that’s that many more bottles that you’ll get to taste.

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