Juggling Middle Management and Den Motherhood:
The Life of a Tasting Room Supervisor
Before craft beer, my experience in the beverage industry was as front-of-house staff in various bars and restaurants throughout South Jersey. The money was fast and there was little commitment; I tell everyone that if you can work in one bar, you can work in them all. Being a ‘people person’ is a transferable skill that crosses all industries. But what happens when you’re a people person, type-a, and painstakingly meticulous? You end up in middle management!
Back in 2016, Eight & Sand Beer Co. posted to Facebook that they were hiring and my husband tagged me in the comments. I studied the website and some craft beer blogs and nervously awaited my interview. The tasting room was still under construction at this point, but I was assured that it was coming along quickly. Despite swearing that I bombed my interview, I received a start date for training and I was pumped! Our soft and grand openings came and went and the team was coming together.
As many places as I had worked prior, I had never opened a brand new establishment. Getting to be part of a business as it grows has been really special.
I knew when I took the job that while both of my bosses had a wealth of knowledge and talent in their respective fields, they did not have bar/restaurant management experience. I was so eager to learn and be a part of the process that I began offering to help, providing suggestions, and volunteering to take on more responsibility. It was a few months later that myself and another server were officially promoted as Tasting Room Supervisors. The role includes fairly standard supportive duties – opening and closing the tasting room, handling cash, and training staff, but it has been an ever-evolving position as we navigate the first years of business.
Fast forward to today.
Because we have a small staff and most of us have other jobs, all of our roles blend together. Admittedly, this can be confusing, which is where my secondary, unofficial job title comes in: Den Mother.
Most of my week consists of communicating with everyone on some level. This could be email, text, group chat, or Google Hangout. It is usually all of the above, simultaneously, about different things. I have a working knowledge of everyone’s position and act as a mediator across all levels, keeping track and collaborating with everyone. I am responsible for scheduling our tasting room staff of about ten people, myself included. That is ten different personal schedules and preferences, in addition to corresponding with the team for any reservations, on and off-site events we have planned – or that pop up last minute. I often have reminders set to remind other people about things.
I am the gatekeeper of information. The management team holds a weekly conference call to catch everyone up on the business. It is then up to me to filter and disseminate information to staff, formally or informally. This information-sharing goes both ways, as my staff confides in me things that need to be communicated to our bosses. Part of this means advocating for staff on their needs. If one of my staff members is frustrated or upset, it becomes my job to bring it to the rest of the team to figure out how to fix it.
Another layer of my role involves knowing non-work related things about my staff. I know who is planning to have children, who definitely *does not* want to have children, I know who is getting engaged, and I know who needs tile work done in their bathroom. If you were thinking that this sounds like normal friendship, I would say that you are absolutely right. I can proudly say that I have formed friendships with everyone I work with on some level. From my owners’ goal of having a successful business to my staff wanting to get more involved in craft beer, being a Den Mother means supporting everyone as they achieve their goals, whatever they may be and as much as they let me.
Some days are harder than others to carry the extra emotional labor that goes along with my role. And while emotional labor is often an expectation of women in the workforce, this was not the case for me. I nagged, badgered, and annoyed my way into this role because, 1) it is who I am as a person; and 2) because I believe in the value of being this person to an employer. Any person with a high level of organization and empathy can help make a business successful.
I love craft beer. I love the people in the industry and the people who enjoy it. I never imagined that I could be considered “a voice for women in craft beer” – I am so new to this and I am not an expert! Opening my own brewery or even home-brewing in my garage is not in my future, but what I will do is keep tasting new beer, talking to people about it, and supporting others in their journey in the industry – because that is what a Den Mother would do.