Strategies to Educate, Engage New Brewery Staff

As Reuben’s Brews has grown in size to a team of 28, Grace Robbings, the brewery’s co-founder and taproom manager said she and the management team realize that they must be much more deliberate about bringing new people into the fold to help educate and be a face for the brewery.

The Seattle brewery does a number of things to help new team members feel like they are a part of the family as they join.

Robbings shared how the brewery has adapted while growing, along with Braxton Brewing’s Greg Rouse, who is a co-founder and COO for the Covington, Kentucky brewery.

Even before hiring, Robbings said Reuben’s Brews will conduct a “cultural interview” during the application process in which the top candidate meets with the team over a beer to chat.

“We send an open invitation to everyone on the team to meet the candidate, and we think of this as an opportunity for the candidate to decide if this is the team she’d like to join, as well as allow our team to have some opportunity to provide feedback in the process,” Robbings said.

On the first day on the job, Robbings and the team take a new hire on a tour of our “campus” of Reuben’s Brews’ three breweries plus several other warehouses spread over about a half-mile distance.

“We use the tour as an opportunity to show people our history — why we started, how we do things differently at our brewery, and our hopes for the future,” she said.

Rouse said that all new hires at Braxton go through what is essentially a minimum two-week, multi-faceted training program, whereby they actively work within all facets of bar service.

“They work shifts in private events, direct-to-consumer events and training shifts in both of our taprooms, directly with our bar management team as bartenders and barbacks,” he said. “Their progress is continually monitored and when the bar management team agrees they have achieved a solid understanding of our products and processes, they then begin getting their own shifts.”

Ecliptic Brewing Restaurant Manager Ryan Sipe said once someone is hired, a new bartender or server will spend some time brewing, canning, and also doing tasting panel sampling and talking aboutthe brewery’s beer with other members of the team.

“We encourage all of our staff to pursue their Cicerone certifications and any other extra-curricular education that might benefit their careers in the hospitality industry,” Sipe said.

Reuben’s Brews does much of the same.

“We offer a lot of cross-training opportunities for our team,” Robbings said. “All production team members work one day in the taproom, and vice versa. Apart from having some split roles — part taproom and part production — we also have a rotating production shift so that taproom employees can take turns working a shift on the production side: on the canning line or cleaning kegs.

“In the future we hope to expand these rotating shifts to allow the opportunity to shadow brewers and sales representatives.”

Rouse pointed out that many new Braxton candidates come to the brewery already having achieved Certified Beer Server status from Cicerone, and those that do not are offered that education, which is organized and paid for by the Braxton.

All new hires are also provided branded clothing and are immersed in opportunities throughout the brewery to learn how we operate.

“This also gives them the opportunity to meet the entire team they will be working with,” he said.

Reuben’s Brews holds semi-annual ‘All Team Meetings’ as well where the brewery offers recurring opportunities to come together, reflect, and help shape the future of the company together.

“We find this work is so important, it needs to be more than just one day at the beginning of someone’s career,” Robbings said. The work is hard, but it’s important and worth doing, she added.

“We do this to make our story just that — “our” story — something each team member feels they are a part of,” she said. “We recognize that one of our greatest assets is a very competent and committed team, and having the team feel ownership of what we do at our brewery is essential to our success.”

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