Corkbuzz Co-Founder and Master Sommelier Laura Maniec shares her thoughts below about controlling variance, running three restaurants simultaneously and the importance of staff wine education.
our team: Corkbuzz employees are sommeliers, chefs, innovators and oenophiles. We all came together because we share common obsessions: wine, food and hospitality. Our belief is that if you are passionate about what you do, then it doesn’t feel like work, and that’s the key to a successful business.
While we have key roles that help make our wine studio run smoothly, we are one team and will do anything we can to make your experience better. The most important thing to us is that you feel like a guest in our home
Corkbuzz’s three properties include New York City’s Chelsea Market and Union Square along with the newest location in Charlotte, North Carolina. The native New Yorker appears to have no plans of slowing down.
In a recent August, 2016 interview, Maniec chatted with BinWise about all things wine…..
BinWise: Tell us about the philosophy behind Corkbuzz? Is there something you wanted to convey with the space and program to your customers?
Maniec: There are so many options for food and drink for customers to choose from, we strive to make visiting our restaurants an exceptional visit. We want to provide a consistently outstanding customer service experience every time, so people can depend on us to provide that experience when they come back.
BinWise: You’ve got three locations under your belt. Has that vision changed or evolved as you’ve expanded geographically? What are some of the operational challenges of running three locations, one of which is in an entirely different state?
Maniec: The operational challenges for performing the different roles are an analogy to the role of parenting three children at different ages.They need nurturing and regular fine tuning in order to function. Like a parent, I also have to pay attention to all three simultaneously and their varied needs. My first restaurant is a five year-old, my second is a three year-old and my third is a one year-old. So consequently they all need different things to function at their particular stages.
BinWise: You’re legendary in the BinWise circles for being a variance hawk. Tell us a little about your thoughts on the importance of managing variance and how you pull it off?
Maniec: If I was going to summarize being successful at the variance issue, I would say the success is not me, it’s my staff. My staff deserves the credit for being a part of the whole process of controlling the variance issue. This process has several parts, including investigating the variance and typing up a detailed report, these are vitally important tasks for increasing sales and lowering costs by paying attention to seemingly small details.
BinWise: Please explain some of the challenges of running a successful beverage program:
Maniec: Inventory control is paramount. BinWise is very helpful with this issue, the program replaces outdated inventory systems with its cloud based technology. Sure there’s new technology out there, but BinWise was created by sommeliers who understand what it takes to manage a beverage program, and their support staff are wine professionals with industry experience.
Also operational issues like tracking shipping and receiving orders are vital for success. For example, it’s very important to pay attention to issues like getting shipped wines you didn’t order, you need to send back or didn’t notice so you can account for every single bottle. The practice of attention to detail keeps your cost down.
BinWise: Thoughts on how to run a more profitable wine program?
–Having the staff know their numbers to hit. My staff is obsessed with knowing their numbers. Sharing numbers with your staff so they know what the goals are is important.
-‘Mystery Bottles’ that used to be a challenge to trace and record can now be recorded in the BinWise system.
–Overpouring can also be a big challenge and products loss. I give great kudos to my team, they know they are responsible for not overpouring. When someone comes in they get a reliably good standard pour, not under or over.
BinWise: What are your thoughts on how to be a better somm?
Maniec: If you want to be a good somm, choose a restaurant that is a good fit with your philosophy – whether you are into the esoteric or the corporate you need to work at the restaurant that is the right fit. Your guests shouldn’t suffer because you don’t match the personality of the restaurant.
BinWise: How would you address the challenges of staff turnover?
Maniec: I feel grateful that this is a minor issue in our restaurants, so we are lucky to have a regular loyal following that comes back for our staff. Other important components to managing staff turnover include:
-We give them more than a task, we give them responsibility to have a hand in creating the big picture. Consequently our staff also feels valued.
-We motivate them to be on the somm team, help them learn skills for resume builder, pay attention to their specific roles and how they can grow in those roles.
-We also invest in staff wine education and incentivize staff with scholarships in coordination with the Guild of Sommeliers.
I’m willing to educate and and support my staff. Being long-sighted and investing in staff is something I wholeheartedly support and truly believe in. – Laura Maniec
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