Educating Bartenders Worldwide.
By Beverage Trade Network
An award-winning and nationally recognized Beverage Director, Dave Wallace has been in the hospitality and luxury industry for more than 19 years. He was intrigued by the service industry at the age of 13 and was always fascinated by the Bar. A certified Sommelier and an advanced Bartender, Dave knows this industry in and out and has been closely associated with Montage Hotels for more than 19 years and is not heading their Beverage segment by himself.
I started in the service industry at the age of 13, working at a local restaurant in downtown Laguna Beach. Over the years I was able to learn the ins and outs of a restaurant from the bottom up. Although I was very young when I started, I was always fascinated with the Bar…that was the place to ‘be’.
The beverage path of my career started at Hennessy’s Tavern also in downtown Laguna. I applied for a bar-back position that quickly evolved into a bartender position. Over the next decade, I worked at multiple bars around town either as a Bartender or in a Consulting manner assisting with what was then a fairly new concept in the town of the Craft Cocktail movement as well as opening multiple new bars at new restaurants in the Orange County area. From there, I was recruited by Montage and began with what has now become my career. Montage offered and continues to offer a multitude of learning opportunities that helped rocketship my development. Through working with talented Teammates, knowledgeable leaders, and an intensive ‘Ask-A-Somm’ program, I was able to progress quickly from bartender to Sommelier to Beverage Director in a very short amount of time. This was the foundation that supported my ability to keep growing and expanding my role within the Company.
Every day starts the night before, creating a list of tasks that need to be tended to. With that as a starting point, I am prepared each day to start with organization and direction. Mornings are focused on making sure we have everything we need to have a successful day as well as upcoming days. Time at the desk is important to stay current with property communications. There are many forms of communication tools employed that keep the Team on the same page for day-to-day operations helping me to plan my day accordingly…no two days are ever the same in a Resort environment.
I walk the cellar, go over orders and then head into service, supporting the areas servicing our guests. I may be a server attendant, bartender, server, expo, Sommelier, etc…whatever it takes to ensure the best guest experience possible. Between service periods, there may be more admin work, cellar maintenance, or just time to connect with the Team. As PM service concludes, I finish my lists of tasks compiled from the day to start the next day.
Our foundational philosophy is based upon defined values, a clear vision, and a detailed mission outline of how we will accomplish our goal of enriching lives. I apply these pillars in the Beverage Program to ensure we are offering the highest quality products possible, in a humble and gracious manner, for our guests to enjoy.
Strong vendor relations are imperative. With the support of our vendors, we are able to have continued beverage education segments from pre-shift lineups to full-staff sit-down classes with winemakers, distillers, and local product specialists.
Clear and [moderately] frequent communication and on-property staff training (again, can be 10 minutes in a pre-shift or a 2-hour in-depth presentation). There generally tends to be an uptick in sales of the product(s) that were featured.
I want to make sure that selections (from N/A to liquors, beers, and wines) are conceptually accurate with whichever concept they will be served in. We run multiple outlets in all of our hotels allowing for creativity to thrive. I strive for balanced offerings from basic to esoteric.
In collaboration with our in-house Marketing team and local Restaurant Association, we are able to feature select offerings on Instagram, Facebook, and online. Metrics for measuring success have shown that these are viable marketing avenues, from ‘likes’ to sales.
@montagedeervalley on Instagram
I have found that the guest/consumer is much more savvy [in all aspects] than in the past. They are well-traveled and understand service, food, and beverage. With the addition of today’s smartphone apps, it is even more important to offer top-quality products across the board. Our guests do not hesitate to let us know if we are doing well or not…from offered products to the quality of service. Over the last decade, there has been an emergence in available products (some better than others) and the way consumers acquire the products. Having said that, our on-premise sales have been significantly growing year over year. I have found that everyone is ‘stepping up’ into the next tier of pricing.
We did shut down in March of 2020 and re-opened to strong demand on July 1st, 2020. From a staffing perspective, Montage and our ownership partners went to great lengths to retain as many associates as possible. From a business perspective, we managed expenses, drove revenues where we could, and came up with creative ways to drive guest experience and wow our returning guests.
**Please note that I am speaking from my home property of Montage Deer Valley and not on behalf of the Company as a whole**
Worst Part - So many beverages, so little time
The best part - Being part of a team that is committed to excellence and continual development
Champagne and popcorn
A non-labeled bottle of something, poured by the hands that made it in the place that it was made…wine, beer, and spirits alike.
Interviewed by Shreya Kohli, Beverage Trade Network