I was reading an article in which beer journalist Sophie Atherton was advocating training for bar staff about cask ale. Apparently they should be able to speak 'passionately' about it to customers to help boost sales. She was interviewed at the launch of the Cask Report 2017 which has stats that seem to suggest that staff who initiated conversations about real ale with customers were more likely to steer them towards buying it.
I sometimes get fed up with the overblown speech that we are so often subjected to nowadays, and I find 'passionate' particularly irritating. I hear it in so many varying contexts that I suspect people who use it have forgotten what the word 'passion' actually means. What it definitely doesn't mean is knowledgeable sales talk about beer in a pub, and I really do feel sorry for Sophie if that's the only passion she's ever experienced.
But how could her suggestion work? How do you train someone to be passionate? I'm especially uncertain how you induce passion for cask beer in staff who may have absolutely no interest in the product. It's not as though wage levels in the industry are enough to engender an enthusiasm for it.
I can't help thinking that bar staff already have quite a range of duties to perform in a pub: serving all kinds of drinks, including spirits with or without mixers, wines, real ales, keg beers, tea, coffee and soft drinks, while perhaps taking orders for food, delivering meals and clearing tables. There is quite a lot to be aware of there.
I'd agree that some awareness of the product would be helpful, but that falls far short of the definition of 'passionate'. If staff are interested in real ale, that's great, but ultimately they are paid to sell what the customer asks for; it wouldn't surprise me if most do not see it as their job to try to steer drinkers towards real ale. When the pub is busy, there isn't much opportunity for interaction with customers anyway.
What about drinkers who choose wine or malt whiskies? Should bar staff be passionate about those too? After all, quality wines and malt whiskies are also crafted products. We even have craft gins nowadays. Training staff on all of these would be a rather extensive - and expensive - commitment for licensees.
Unless Ms Atherton believes 'passionate' means nothing more than 'knows a bit about', I think her suggestion is unrealistic.