How do I get out of serving and into wine repping/distribution/imports?

Who here has passed their certified with CMS who was previously in the service industry but transitioned into something different? How did that happen and what steps did you take? I’ve been serving most of my life and have been a trainer or headwait and am currently the somm at my job but want to see about maybe repping or working in imports but have no idea what to do to get there. Any advice? I don’t have a college degree but I can sell the ass off a donkey. 

  • Hey Alexis! This was a question I was asking people three years ago because I wanted to do the same thing. In many cases, I'd argue it's actually easier to transition to wholesale when you're NOT a buyer than when you are, especially if you're a big enough account that no distributors would want to lose you!

    I'd find out which wholesalers you do a lot of business with at your restaurant and get acquainted with the rep from that company. With many of the more reputable distributors, you'll need to get a start in customer service before moving on to sales or portfolio management, but that's not a hard rule. Ask your reps if their companies are looking to hire (there is a ton of turnover in wholesale, I've found that many companies are always hiring). If you want to get in on the supplier side, think about the wineries that you sell a lot on the floor. Have representatives from those wineries/their overarching portfolio come in to dine or drink? Have you met them? Tell your reps that the next time someone from X or Y is in town, you'd love to buy them a drink at your bar top.

    Moving from working the floor into wholesale is a tough transition (hours, pay, lifestyle adjustments) but in my experience, it was the best thing to ever happen to me. Utilize your network (or build it!), ask a lot of questions, become a regular at trade tastings, and go from there!