Training and consultancy support are so often some of the first things to go when businesses are forced to make cut backs in difficult times. But here in our latest Onwards & Upwards article to give a voice to those in the trade looking for new opportunities, Harry Crowther makes the case for why now training has never been more important in hospitality to help operators get even more out of the assets – their wines and spirits – through the skills and quality of their staff.
As restaurants and bars look to cut back the number of wines and spirits they are selling to manage their costs, Harry Crowther sets out why getting in outside support to help you do that can make such a difference.
(If you want to share your story on Upwards & Upwards contact Richard Siddle on email@example.com).
How did you get into wine?
Working as a poor student trying to make ends meet in Leeds at university. I started working for Gaucho. The training academy there is famous and the wine side of things left me wanting more wine knowledge. The director of wine at the time, Phil Crozier, also helped me out with a sense of direction in the wine game.
Give us an idea of the kind of wine jobs you have had to date?
After Uni I wanted to learn more about wine without having to look at another book. So I jumped on a plane to New Zealand and started scrubbing tanks. After two harvests there I went over to the Douro Valley and have since done a few more seasons there. I felt it was super important for me to learn more about wine and production from source.
Following that I came back to London and after a brief stint at Hedonism Wines I went to work for Martin Williams heading up the then new M Wine Store (M Restaurants) – where we won best new retailer of the year at the Drinks Retailing Awards.
Tell us more about this consultancy business that you have set up?
Essentially I have been working with bar groups and casual dining operators to grow their wine category by value over volume. It’s so important in a volume declining market that bars and restaurants are maximising their average spends, whilst for many, ensuring that wine growth doesn’t cut into the beer and spirits sales mix.
Service wise, I guess it depends on the client, but anything from supply chain negotiation, sales mix analysis, pricing strategy, list curation with psychology in mind, and my favourite… training.
What type of projects do you really like to get involved in?
Easy…working with clients who want to see their wine category grow and create more of a wine culture within the team. Particularly with operators where wine might not be the central focus for the business. It’s amazing the wins that can be made here from subtle changes. In many cases you don’t even need to change much on the listing side of things. It’s more cultural.
You also have the Grain to Grape education series – how does that work and what are you doing with that?
This is my baby. I started Grain to Grape(G2G), in partnership with Moët Hennessy mid 2018. Initially we wanted to deliver relaxed, fun and engaging wine education seminars targeted and bartenders in London. That naturally evolved to anybody in the hospitalty trade who is interested in wine. 2020 has poo pooed all of our plans ,but we will be back in 2021 with more wine knowledge and good times for the masses.
Launching G2G helped me become a little more recognised as an educator which I am really grateful for. As for future plans…watch this space.
You also have experience of working as a wine brand ambassador – what do you enjoy about that and how do you make a difference?
First of all, I never wanted to be a brand ambassador. But, from my time in Portugal I really wanted to continue my relationship with those guys beyond the realms of grape squishing (with feet). So I worked alongside four producers who I felt I had a great connection with to help bring their wines to market. I guess the most enjoyable part of that is seeing the wines become more prevalent in the UK market.
In terms of making a difference, I would simply try to do what all decent brand ambassadors do – support the supply chain, and make as much noise about the wines as possible. Sadly in light of Covid I’ve had to step down with these producers.
You are looking for new roles and opportunities – explain the kind of projects and consultancy work you are keen to get involved with?
I am always down to work with anybody who wants to work on their wine culture as a business and raise their average wine spends. I’ve had success in this area and I love getting my teeth into a project where I can help a wine category flourish.
It usually comes hand in hand with a training element too. I try to develop key members of staff, or potential gems within the business, who can carry that wine flag forwards and make sure the culture of wine continues – which I’m all about.
Tell us a little about the Bounce Back strategy you have developed?
Covid has screwed a lot of things up and the rebuild is going to be tough. But I think it’s important to rebuild better than before. I kept an eye on pre, during and (potential) post lockdown trends for the sector and I have put together a ‘Bounce Back’ wine strategy for operators. It’s looking like now more than ever, volumes are going to be really down, so it’s crucial that we are making the most out of the wine category.
It’s just a one-sheet (infographic) that outlines this. I’ve been sending it out for free, so if anybody is interested, drop me a line.
Do you see businesses needing to work a lot more with consultants and on project work in the future?
Yes. I think that consultants are well placed to help the trade fight back from the struggles of 2020. Sadly we are the first to go and the last to come back to a business, but a good consultant covers his or her fee multiple times over. From a financial point of view we can be flexible, and work around our clients needs and budgets, which is something a full-time position might struggle to negotiate on.
What have you enjoyed most about the jobs and roles you have had?
Stomping grapes with my feet…does that count? But seriously, being part of the production process is special.
Successfully developing wine categories for my clients is always enjoyable, but the frontline staff training and development is insanely rewarding and really helps clients unearth some gems within the company.
There is nothing more awesome than getting a text from a member of staff I have just trained, telling me that they have just taken a customer away from a house wine to a better option on the list. I know that I’ve done my job, and they have done theirs and delivered a great experience for the guest.
How do you see the months ahead?
We are bruised but not broken. Like I said the rebuild is going to be tough and there will be more casualties sadly. My thoughts are always with my extended hospitality family as we battle through these mad times.
If you can, get out there and support your local pub, bar or restaurant…just do it! They need you now more than ever.
- If you would like to contact Harry you can do at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you have lost your job recently and are looking for a new post and want to share your story on Upwards & Upwards contact Richard Siddle on email@example.com.