Harry Crowther is ideally placed to know what sort of general wine training works for restaurant and bar staff as he has had to manage and provide training for a wide range of teams during his own time working in senior roles in hospitality. He has now developed his own wine training company and programme – Grain to Grape – that is designed to give staff the confidence to understand and sell the wine lists in their outlet, increase average spend per head and have a direct impact on an operator’s bottom line.
Harry Crowther believes his Grain to Grape wine training programme gives restaurant and bar operators and their staff the kind of training that will have long term benefits for both.
Tell us about the Grain to Grape training and support services you are launching?
Grain to Grape is launching as a modern wine training and consultancy that creates legends within your business. The idea is to make your teams ‘wine confident’, increase their knowledge, improve customer happiness and grow your profits.
Part of the consultancy and product is the launch of a new eLearning app in the Spring that has been designed by Flow Hospitality and will be available as a stand-alone app or can be integrated into current Flow customers. This is a different approach to your run of the mill wine training as the content is largely focused on the art of upselling and sales psychology.
The platform also doubles up as a communication tool as well as being 100% trackable. So managers can use it to keep an eye on their staff engagement, and producers can use the platform to communicate with their customers. Something I know for a fact, many of them are thinking about how to connect with customers in the new normal.
There is still the personal element of ‘me’ to all of this. I see the eLearning platform as an extension of my current services as a consultant.
In a nutshell Grain to Grape wants to: raise staff confidence; increase customer profitability; improve the knowledge of your team and help retain staff; get the best and right wines to the table; help build better teams; have happy guests; and stop team boredom of selling the same wine all the time.
What was your inspiration to set this up?
The training landscape is going to change dramatically. Social distancing will make it difficult for suppliers and educators to get in front of clients and train their teams, so moving to an online outlet seems like the most natural step to take.
On top of that, training teams within the supply chain in the UK have also been effected by the pandemic, so Grain to Grape can help deliver the relevant training needed for customers.
How have you worked out the right approach to take and the format of your training?
It’s no secret that one of the biggest challenges in the UK in the last few years has been a decline in drinking volumes. Grain to Grape might sound a little commercial focused, but growing average spends in a volume declining market really is the only way to combat the issues in the trade.
The pandemic has only amped this up. I think that training and consultancy that focuses on average spend with an e-learning element is perfect for the climate at the moment and will be for years to come.
You have been running training programmes for on-trade staff already – so is this an extension from that?
Yes. I started Grain to Grape as a free to attend monthly talks for the hospitality trade back in 2018. I hope to one day continue these as it is the heart and soul of where it all started.
Since then some UK suppliers have outsourced their training to me as they have seen what I have done for certain clients. Essentially what I am doing is bringing together my consultancy and educational projects under one roof.
What have you learnt working with on-trade staff about the kind of training that really works for them and sticks in terms of the knowledge they learn?
Don’t give them knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Most people don’t give a shit about the soils that a Rioja comes from (I do, but my clients often don’t).
My vision is to make everybody in hospitality ‘wine confident’ and help create legends within the businesses I work with. To do that, I need to inspire confidence, give the team the tools they need to speak about wine in a way that works for them, after that, train them to take a customer from a £25 to a £30 bottle in a few seconds whilst maintaining a high level of service. It’s about the staff, the customer and the business.
Can you give some examples of the actual modules and types of training you will be offering?
I am covering key grapes, a little bit on winemaking and fizz and how to talk about it all in a simple way.
Tasting skills was a huge part of the success of Grain to Grape when I launched in 2018. It’s a slightly different approach to, say WSET. I believe in giving my customers the confidence to talk about wine in a language that works for them. To do that we strip back the appearance and smell of a wine and focus solely on what I call the ‘Spine’ of a wine. Once they have that nailed, I use a traffic light colour system to add some meat to the bone by the way of flavour and aroma.
Also, the real USP of the e-learning platform will be the final module. This is where we focus on the art of the three stages of upselling. If they do it right, they will be successful. It has been used before with great success. The only difference this time, is that it can be done from a mobile phone – and we can track the engagement of each and every person who uses it.
Is it going to be all online or do you hope to do in person training as well or a mixture of both?
I don’t want to lose the ‘Harry’ element. If you just want to on-board your team on to the app, then fine. I will support that with a ‘Welcome Journey’ for all new members of staff which will be complete with a ‘Wine List Cheat Sheet’ and an ‘Upsell Strategy’ that they can use against the e-learning module.
But if you really want to find and create legends within your business, then I suggest that I work alongside you in a consultancy capacity. The combination of the digital and physical elements are a recipe for success for anyone and everyone.
Who would be your ideal candidates and level of staff that you think are best placed to do the training?
Well respected casual dining operators and pubs with 20+ sites will see the most benefit from Grain to Grape. The e-learning aspect is really for the frontline staff who are at the table, they are best placed to grow the wine category. Deeper consultancy would involve a little more coaching from my end, to work with middle management and help the company create legendary members of staff that will be wine flag bearers for the business.
How do people sign up and the cost?
Sign up is easy. Send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we can get the ball rolling an onboard as many members of staff as needed.
Initial introductory pricing is £40 a year per member of staff – if you consider the added wine revenue a single member of staff can bring to your company off the back of the modules it’s arguably a no brainer. Because this is a subscription model there needs to be ongoing value beyond the 30m of e-learning content.
Grain to Grape is complete with two communication channels: ’The Cellar’ and ’NewsFeed’. The former is a direct, bespoke 100% trackable comms tool that management, supply chain, producers and myself can use to continually educate and incentivise staff, whilst keeping an eye on their engagement- we can literally pull reports on anything.
The NewsFeed is a bit more of a blanket comms tool. Any content loaded on to that will be more overarching wine industry news- its important that the users have access to this as I want them to feel like they are part of a wider wine trade, whereas The Cellar will be more specific to their place of work.
How are you funding it?
A good question. Mainly through personal savings, but I also am working on some sponsorship from major wine brands and agencies whereby we can integrate their brands into the e-learning module content. It will hopefully become a really powerful tool of exposure for a brand sponsor. Eventually there will be opportunity to support campaigns via The Cellar and the NewsFeed. Given the fact the these are trackable and segmentable, it could be quite exciting for the right producers looking to run a targeted educational or incentive campaign that will benefit everybody.
You have many years of experience working in on-trade yourself so are well placed to know what works on the restaurant floor?
Yes, I know I am best placed. I always said that I was a terrible sommelier and that’s because I’m too chilled out, perhaps not formal enough. What I am really good at, though, is selling wine to customers, I have learnt this from a lot of experience in both the on and off-trade. I know what makes the servers tick and I know what makes the customer tick, and most importantly I know how to put those together for the benefit of profitability and a thriving wine list!
From service, to production through to luxury sales wine buying. I have brought producers to market. Written wine lists and coached a hell of a lot of people in between. Wine is my life and I now need to share that passion with the businesses best placed to benefit from wine category growth.
The biggest frustration for me: most wine training out there is what I call ‘obligatory training’. The trade is pretentious, and often gives out information sparingly focusing on facts and figures about wine that a lot of consumers and server don’t care about. I have created wine training that will make your team more knowledgeable, confident and engaging when it comes to selling your best wine to your guests.
How do you hope Grain to Grape can grow in the coming years?
The great thing about going digital, is the ability to scale up. With respect to the e-learning element, I can take on an international licence to try it out overseas as well – but let’s get the UK right first.
The consultancy side is incredibly important and clearly much more personal. So in terms of growth it will be limited to myself and whoever joins the crew in the coming years. It is about quality, not quantity with this side of the business.
Anything else to say?
I pride Grain to Grape on being Modern, Engaging, Knowledgeable and Nurturing.
These are the aspects that sets the brand apart from anybody else in the trade (USPs):
Sales Psychology: We will train your team on the ’Three Stages of Upselling’. Science tells us that the psychological tips and tricks used in the process will bring greater spend to your wine list
For Everyone: This is real training for real people. We want to share all of the relevant knowledge I/we have to make your team ‘wine confident’
Profitability in Mind: This next generation wine training is focused on the bottom line. It’s not about throwing 100 facts at the team to tick a training box. We are all here to make profit and Grain to Grape is designed unashamedly around commerciality.
Harry Crowther/Me: Im proud to say that I have covered a lot of bases in the wine trade and got my hands (and feet) dirty along the way. I will share all of my skills, knowledge, passion and experience until with my clients and I have a proven track record of success.