If you are reading this right now, it is because you are either in, or interested in being in, the beverage industry (wine, liquor, beer, sake, etc.) It can be an amazing industry to be in and certifications are an excellent way to help get you there. Whether you are looking for your first job in the industry, or looking to change it up, there any many different jobs out there. You are going to have to choose a path. For many of you, this path will continue to change as you evolve and take different positions over time. This is true for myself as I have worked many positions including server, sommelier, management, sales, and an educator. I am going to expand on some of the positions available to you, but don’t forget there are countless others
Working in a restaurant can be on of the best (or worst) jobs in the industry. The amount of money you can make in comparison to the hours usually worked makes this being a great job, especially here in Las Vegas. In a job that doesn’t require a lot of education, a little wine knowledge can go a long way. This doesn’t mean that waiters/bartenders don’t have degrees, because many have even gone to grad school. It’s just not required. Many of these jobs, don’t require 8 hours a day. I have had many jobs where you work 5-6 hours a shift. You can work 25 hours a week and make full time money. You don’t take any work home with you, however, the top jobs require outside study or preparation. No emails, no phone calls, no work events. This job can be very flexible with the right management. Insurance is usually expensive, if you can get it. Don’t expect paid vacation or many benefits other than possibly discounted food.
Tasting Room Associate
If you are lucky enough to live in an area that has wineries or vineyards, then you can work in a tasting room. A tasting room is the area at many wineries or vineyards that you can taste and sample the wines that are produced there. Sometimes there are free tastings, but many cost money. In this job, you are an ambassador to the winery and will pour wine for guests while telling them about the wines or estate. This can provide a good opportunity to be around the winery or vineyard if being a winemaker is something you aspire to. These jobs can be full time or seasonal depending on the winery. You will have constant exposure to the wines of the property you work at, but won’t be exposed to as many other wines as you would be being a waiter or sommelier.
Off premise, or retail, is another major segment that many people prefer to work in. This could be anything from working at your local liquor store (or opening your own) or being a wine merchant for Costco or Total Wine. Even in areas that don’t have wineries, there are always stores that sell wine. This makes this segment relatively easy to get into. You don’t have to deal with food, but you don’t usually make as much money either. This is mainly because most people don’t tip in retail as they do in a restaurant. You will spend most of your time either ringing up transactions for customers or organizing the shelves and putting away deliveries. Upper management positions tend to be quite lucrative, especially in bigger companies.
This is a very broad title. You can pretty much be a manger in every industry there is. You can be a restaurant manager, bar manager, retail wine store manager, vineyard manager, and so on. All of these titles usually require a little bit of experience in the field that you are trying to be a manager in. It also requires a certain level of responsibility. You are usually in charge of multiple employees, (if not thousands) and the overall well being and profitability of the business. You will usually work more hours and may often be rewarded with a higher wage or salary. Many times this can include medical insurance and other benefits or perks.
Restaurants and bars sell their products to their customers and someone has to sell it to them. You can work for the supplier, which would be the winery, brewery, or distillery, or you can work for the distributor. Every alcoholic beverage in the United States has to be sold from the supplier to the distributor and then finally the restaurant. This is called the Three Tier System.
In this position, you are responsible for selling your products to restaurants and bars. The amount of places you sell to and what you sell, will depend on the company you work for. You could be responsible for all the restaurants in your city, your state, or the country, for particular items.
You be required to travel throughout your territory and service the needs of your accounts. There are usually many lunches and evening work events to attend and support. There could be late night or weekend events, especially if you are in the bar and nightlife side of it. This job is usually for the self starter that manages their time well. There will be many emails and phone calls in addition to product training and continuous education. Usually commission-based, if you perform well, you will be paid well.
There has been a huge push for people to become a sommelier, especially after the documentary SOMM. A sommelier is many things, but put simply a wine waiter/manager.
A sommelier assists guests in selecting the right beverage for their table and proceeds in service. This could be for wine, beer, cocktails etc. You must know the menu to be able to pair wine or even take an order if need be. Many times service does not stop there as anything a guest may need in a restaurant can be performed by the sommelier. You will be responsible for training your staff on the beverage menu, submitting orders, entering invoices, writing wine lists, cost analysis, creating buttons in the POS system, attending tastings, meeting with suppliers/distributors, opening wine, moving boxes and boxes and boxes of wine, and constantly counting bottle after bottle for inventory every month, or even weekly and some places. Being a sommelier requires constant education and involvement within the industry.
This person is usually in charge of all the beverage operations for the business. This position will change whether you work for a restaurant, bar, nightclub, casino, or golf course. He/She will be in charge of other beverage managers and sommeliers. The job will include a lot of meetings, emails, phone calls, and other administrative tasks. You will create beverage programs including menu placement, menu design, and how to carry out the operations logistically, and make a profit doing it of course. You will be required to have good leadership skills to train fellow managers and staff below you. This position usually requires many years of experience in the field and some education on the side. You will work many hours but typically have a very high salary with great benefits including a few weeks paid vacation, bonuses, and other paid expenses.
The billions of dollars in wine, beer, and liquor doesn’t magically appear, somebody has to drive it there and drop it off. That’s where becoming a driver comes in. This position allows you to deliver items from the warehouse to restaurants and bars along your route. You have to have a special license and clean driving record and be willing to drive a semi. The pay and benefits are worth it and many benefit from a four day work week. Workdays start as early as 4.am, this ensures you have nights and weekends off every week, which isn’t common in many of the other positions. It may require heavy lifting at times with a dolly, but you’ll be sitting quite a bit as well.