Once upon a time craft beer was enjoyed by only a knowledgeable few. But in recent years it’s become sought after by so many that it seems like there’s a new craft beer brand launching every month.
Emerson’s, created by visionary brewer and namesake Richard Emerson in Dunedin 25 years ago, is one of the most famous originals. As well as brewing a range of superb beers, it also boasts an exceptional bar and restaurant, Emerson’s Taproom.
Authentic quality is also paramount in the new hospitality side of the business because it carries Emerson’s name.
In fact, the superior craft and passion that the team pour into their food and beverage service won gold for Emerson’s Taproom at the NZ Hospitality Awards 2017 where they claimed the coveted ServiceIQ Excellence in Training and Development Award.
Matching a great venue with great service
In 2012, a mighty lion (as in Lion Breweries) climbed aboard and is supporting Emerson’s autonomous management group to build on the original brew and brand.
In 2016, Emerson’s opened The Taproom in an exciting new building that also houses the brewery and cellar door. A few months earlier, they hired hospitality expert Charlotte Janssen, known as CJ, as Venue Manager. One of the top items on her to-do list was staff training.
CJ explains: “Our view is that you need to train and treat your staff well and that way your customers will have a good experience. Customer experience is where everything we do begins. What will make our customers enjoy what we offer? It defines what we do.
“Our joy in sharing the amazing world of craft beer and food matching helps to create an outstanding customer experience.”
CJ has an extensive background in the hospitality industry in the US and New Zealand. She has trained staff and managed a number of successful businesses including Dunedin’s famous Captain Cook pub, and she also ran her own highly successful industry training business.
Working with Clare Van Elst, Training Advisor with ServiceIQ in Dunedin, CJ put a strategic plan in place to upskill a group of Emerson’s staff to professional, national qualification level.
In November last year, her team of recruits started their ServiceIQ qualification training programmes, earning as they learned.
Instead of imposing a restricted training menu, her team choose the programmes they’re interested in because that way they want to stick with it, says CJ.
“We take more of a bespoke approach to training, especially dealing with millennials. I work on the basis that we offer a variety of different options and they can pick and choose the skills and knowledge they want to develop.
“The training increases engagement in the role. It also helps the team realise they are professionals and to treat hospitality as a career, which is an end-goal for the Emerson’s business.”
Making service a way of life
Emerson’s has nine talented employees developing hospitality careers by gaining national qualifications on the job. One is on the way to becoming a professional chef with ServiceIQ’s Cookery Apprenticeship, while eight others are honing professional front-of-house skills with ServiceIQ’s Food & Beverage – Level 3 qualification programme.
“A lot of our young staff are studying at university so they know the value of having qualifications. We also want our people to realise hospitality is a career and not the job you do before you get a real job,” says CJ.
“In countries like the US and France, hospitality is considered a career for life. Australia is becoming more like that and New Zealand has some catching up to do.”
Celebrating brand reputation
Increasing capability through on-job training generates substantial value for the business.
“It’s huge!” says CJ. “It serves Emerson’s brand reputation by having the best trained, highly skilled staff. And accreditation means we are able to give something of value back to our people more than getting paid.”
“I’d rather someone who learns from their experience with us go off and be an ambassador for Emerson’s in their next career move than have us hold them back.
“This way, everybody wins. Our staff, our customers and we are helping to create a larger pool of hospitality professionals. If I can train someone well, treat them right and give them a great head start in a hospitality career, I feel like I’ve done my job.”
Turning customers into regulars
The Taproom serves around 2,000 customers a week and CJ keeps tabs on satisfaction ratings through Trip Advisor, Facebook and monthly Mystery Shopper feedback.
“Reviews are generally great. Our Trip Advisor rankings are moving up and the Mystery Shoppers have been pretty much solidly excellent. We’ve also got a university student researching feedback mechanisms so that we can find results that we can trust.”
Putting great people out in front
CJ manages 50 staff, and one of the best results is watching her people upskill and win customers’ appreciation and industry acclaim.
“Seeing that new, scared staff member turn into a hospitality professional is truly satisfying,” she says. “Everyone’s thrilled and excited about our award. It’s taken a while to sink in for our younger staff but the senior hospitality team really understand how important it is.”