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Memo From American Sommelier: Gearing Up For The Busy Season

Posted on  | September 30, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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Get organized & efficient to stay ahead.

Andrew Bell, co-founder and president of American Sommelier.

Buckle your seatbelts—we’re heading into the Busy Season! The fourth quarter can be overwhelming. On top of the usual everyday duties of the sommelier, there is the extra work of planning for holiday parties and monitoring inventory that—with the high volume of seasonal traffic—disappears before your eyes.

Time management now is more important than ever. If you have an assistant or a team of sommeliers at your disposal, delegate pre-shift responsibilities; teach your staff to help you with routine duties like:

1. Checking the previous days sales and confirming that everything on the wine list is in stock
2. Refilling dining room pars
3. Comparing sales to restocking pulls
4. Updating the wine list to remove items no longer in stock

If you are open for lunch, of course you’ll also need to clean carafes and polish glassware, champagne buckets and stands… all before 10:00am!

You will need to be extra vigilant with inventory during this busy season, to avoid running out of wine. Be sure to adapt to increasing depletion rates and adjust your standing inventory accordingly. Use sales and purchasing data from the fourth quarter of previous years to help gauge what to expect.

If you are running a large program with designated banquet wines and you know to expect many large-scale, seasonal parties, check with your suppliers weeks ahead of schedule to make sure their stock is sufficient for your needs. Consider having back-up selections ready to discuss with your clients before an error happens or shortages occur.

If you are working within an operation that has multiple layers coordinating on private events (i.e., Private Dining Room Sales, PDR Service, Purchasing), communication is key. If communication breaks down between these moving parts, the beverage department is usually the one left dealing with an emergency, caught short of needed inventory. Be in contact with the sales team daily.

Plan Your Day

Daily service prep, plus a heavy load of seasonal responsibilities, plus tasting appointments and mise en place—the work can really add up.

Plan your day: allot specific amounts of time per task and stick to those parameters. Set specific times for tasting with your reps and make sure they know that you taste by appointment only (drop-ins can seriously derail your day). It helps to have a fixed routine that each day is structured. Give yourself adequate time to accomplish each task and add time for unknowns such as delays in setting up, delays in deliveries or tasks taking longer than expected.

Prepare yourself adequately for the coming busy season and you might actually have time to enjoy the fun part of your job—making customers happy with great wine and great service.


Andrew Bell is a co-founder and president of American Sommelier. Through the Sales, Service and Buying Seminar Series, American Sommelier provides professionals with the tools needed to build and maintain a successful wine program in any restaurant environment. Member benefits include events, career guidance, discounts and a the American Sommelier newsletter. For more details and a calendar of classes, visit americansommelier.com or call 212-226-6805.


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