Cider Corner: 3 Useful Tools for Tasting Room Associates

If you have a tasting room, it’s likely that an associate working behind the counter is going to play a large role in giving prospective customers their first impression of your brand.

It’s a lot of responsibility for someone who may have spent little to no time in the industry. But knowing your brand, the cider industry and the beverage industry beyond cider are tools that can prepare them to meet the challenge of curious patrons experiencing your cidery for the first time.

Product Knowledge

No one cares more about your brand than you do, and letting new employees hear directly from you can really go a long way.

The tasting room team members of UrbanTree Cidery will spend their initial training days with co-owner cidermaker Jackie Annise to learn all about the process of cider making.

Their initial training goes well beyond platitudes and pep talks.

“They go through extensive tasting and education of all of our manufactured ciders until they can perfectly describe them, make recommendations based on customers’ preferences, and answer questions our customers may have,” Annise said. “They are many times given homework to memorize for their next shift.”

New employees may spend the next 3-4 shifts observing and learning proper customer communication.

“All of this comprehensive coaching and guidance assists our new team members in providing an experience that the customer will remember and help them in identifying our brand when in the grocery or package store and local restaurant and bar,” she said about the Atlanta cidery.

Once ​High Limb Cider finds​ candidates that ​they are excited about ​Jarrod Carter, the cidery’s Director of Operations, immerses ​those newbies in the brand.

​”​We love anyone willing to cross-train, educate themselves or live outside the normal server/bartender role​,” Carter said​.

Understanding Production

Saro Cider’s philosophy includes ensuring a tasting room associate has a basic understanding of the production that goes into making cider.

“It creates something to talk about with customers,” said James West, Tasting Room Manager for Saro. “In a tasting room, people want to ask all kinds of questions. Being able to know how everything is made from start to finish gives the best education.”

Continuing Education

2 Towns Ciderhouse conducts ongoing quarterly cider education seminars that cover a wide variety of topics that are both pertinent and tangential to the cider industry.

“For example, one topic we covered was wild fermentation kinetics. Another topic was food pairing ‘rules,’” Content Marketing Director Madison Shirley told Brewer in a previous interview. “One very interesting seminar we did was the difference between Belgian Golden Ale, Pilsner, and Pale Ale. All three of those beers have essentially the same ingredients, but are vastly different beers, and we teach why and how those differences occur.” 

(Photo: UrbanTree Tasting Room Manager Derriene Carlin)

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