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Practice makes perfect

The hands start to shake. Beads of sweat begin to form. You can't watch. The stress is unbearable. But there's no turning back.

A scene from a horror movie? No, a scene in your restaurant.

It's your new server attempting to open a bottle of wine for a party of six. The rituals of proper wine service hold a mystique and formality that most young servers simply aren't up to... at least without a generous amount of training.

Even with proper training of the technical skills, only lots of hands-on practice will result in a perfect and relaxed execution when it comes to opening bottles of wine and champagne. You don't want servers to "practice" on your customers. And it doesn't work to re-cork bottles and open them again. So here's my suggestion.

Every server should complete the basic training of bottle opening procedures. But to allow for sufficient practice, implement a sign-up system that allows new or less-confident servers to be an "assistant bottle opener." During set up, and when time permits during a shift, have the bartender set aside bottles of wine and champagne to be sold by the glass and let the designated "assistant bottle opener" open them. This provides a chance to practice the proper procedures away from a table full of watching eyes.

Have a print-out of your wine and sparkling wine opening procedures in a plastic sleeve and available for review. Trade Secrets Members can print a copy of our bottle opening and pouring protocols . A complete Alcohol Service Training Manual is available in the product catalog.

Believe me, this opportunity will be appreciated by those still learning the ropes.

Tips depend on competency, and no one wants to look unprofessional in front of guests. This simple ongoing training will perfect staff's skills, it costs you nothing, and it doesn't even take extra training time. When the server feels like they've mastered the art and science of opening bottles of wine and champagne, they can just stop signing up for the task.

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