Training benefits the bottom line as well as staff skills set

wsetCommercial training for staff working in the hospitality sector is becoming increasingly important, particularly as it is a sector that needs to work very hard to maintain competitive advantage and to increase profits year on year.

Many think training is an expensive cost and they won’t see the benefits of it in their business, but the more staff understand a business’ products the better they will perform. Recent research has shown commercial training shows a good return on investment over a period of time and significantly improves sales performance, as with the right knowledge staff become more confident at up-selling. The result is happier customers and higher profit.

Two types of training

There are different types of training, with the main variation being formal education versus on-the-job practical training. While both prove valuable, there is a strong argument to say that without the formal education to enable an individual to learn the basic skills and background information, on-the-job practical training is less efficient as the individual does not have a grasp of the fundamentals on which they can build their knowledge as they learn more.

Arguably, the two types of training serve different purposes. A formal education is to offer the facts and the on-the-job education is to offer the flair. Take the Wine & Spirit Education Trust’s Systematic Approach to Tasting as an example: it offers the fundamental knowledge that an individual needs to describe the key characteristics of a wine or spirit and assess its quality. What it does not do, nor is it claiming to, is offer poetic language that an individual may choose to use to make a colourful sales pitch to a customer. The two types of training need to work in unison to maximise value.

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The benefit

Results from historical research conducted by WSET on the value of training for the retail market showed that providing staff WSET education in combination with in-house training increased outlet profits by a significant margin (£7,346 across 10 outlets). This was considerably more than when staff were given in-house training alone. Extrapolating out this theory, WSET is currently working with Living Ventures and William Grant & Sons on new research for the on-trade market, which is also showing promising results in this direction so far.

Whether formal, on-the-job or both, hospitality businesses across the world must recognise the need to train their staff to enable them to offer a superior service to their customers and, fundamentally, increase sales and profit for the business. Consumers are becoming ever more demanding with their desires and ever savvier when it comes to their own product knowledge as well as awareness to see through marketing speak, so it’s important that staff are still seen to have genuinely superior knowledge to cater to them.

Many hotels and restaurants already recognise this. Big hospitality groups such as Shangri-La International Hotel Management, Soho House & Co and Andrew McConnell’s restaurant group have WSET certified educators offering courses in-house, while other independent businesses encourage and support their staff to do qualifications externally before training them on-the-job in-house. All these businesses see direct results from supporting staff through training, with 93% saying that offering in-house training improved staff retention.

Following a turbulent year globally and with continued uncertainty amongst consumers, hospitality businesses need to look at investing in the future and training is a key way to do this. Nurturing talent is a responsibility every business should take seriously in order to secure loyalty from their staff to aid retention, as well as encourage a positive environment for the next generation of employees consequently safeguarding the future success of the business. If staff feel secure and valued, so will customers, no matter what the external circumstances.

The value of training, therefore, extends not only to a business’ bottom line but to individuals themselves, which makes all the difference in an industry that functions on a personal level of customer service.

About the author

Ian Harris DipWSET, is Chief Executive of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), the largest global provider of wine and spirits qualifications. Following a long and successful career in sales and marketing for the wine and spirit industry, including 10 years with Waverley Vintners followed by 15 years with the Seagram Spirits and Wine Group in the UK and France, he joined WSET in 2002. WSET offers courses in 19 languages across 72 countries for all levels, from Level 1 Awards in Wine, Spirits or Sake up to the expert Level 4 Diploma in Wines and Spirits. To learn more about WSET courses and find a local Approved Programme Provider visit the website at

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