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Spirits training boosts bartender upselling, study finds

Bartenders are 16.9% better at upselling premium spirits after undertaking spirits training, a study by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET)‎ has revealed.

Bartenders are better at upselling premium spirits after undertaking spirits training

The research, conducted in partnership with bar and restaurant operator Living Ventures and independent spirits producer William Grant & Sons, was designed to assess the impact of WSET Level 2 Award in Spirits training on the sales performance of UK on-trade workers.

The course explains the fundamental principles of spirits production, spanning spirits category intricacies, tasting and evaluating, key brands, and the use of spirits in cocktails.

The WSET invited 30 Living Ventures employees from ten branches to participate in the study; two received WSET training from William Grant & Sons, and one employee joined a control group.

Sales data spanning house spirits and premium spirits was analysed for each participant during the three months pre- and post-training. Unit sales were volume-adjusted to represent one single serve.

The study revealed that the trained group increased their premium sales share by an average of 4.9%, compared to a drop for the control group of 10% – attributed to seasonal changes.

The combined figures show that the trained group outperformed the control group by 16.9% in the post-training period.

“Delivering the WSET course has created commercial value for both us and the Living Ventures business,” said Henry John, senior category and customer marketing manager on-trade, William Grant & Sons. “The course enabled bar tenders to gain a deeper understanding of the key categories unlocking the potential to engage and premiumise their sales mix.

“Whilst the bar teams benefitted from the investment of education and personal development, it has delivered tangible benefits for Living Ventures with significant uplifts in the rum and tequila categories, demonstrating the confidence that the bar teams now have with navigating consumers around these categories, encouraging consumers to trade up through the range.”

In 2016/17 the WSET saw candidate numbers grow by 19% on the previous academic year, marking 15 years of growth for the educator.

Graham Cox, WSET UK Business Development Director, added: “Commercial training for staff working in the on-trade drinks sector is becoming increasingly important, particularly as it is a sector that needs to work very hard to maintain competitive advantage and to increase profits year on year.

“Many think training is an expensive cost and they won’t see the benefits of it in their business, but the more staff understand a business’ products the better they will perform.

“We know we have a great suite of qualifications but our challenge is being able to demonstrate tangible commercial return on investment – this study shows a significant increase in premium spirits sold resulting in enhanced revenue and profit.”

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