Head sommelier

A head sommelier


Head sommeliers manage the ordering, preparing and servicing of wine and other related beverages in a hospitality service unit.

Head sommeliers typically do the following:

  • Administer purchasing and receiving procedures.
  • Analyse alcoholic beverage business.
  • Analyse service quality and customer satisfaction.
  • Conduct staff performance assessment process.
  • Develop menu.
  • Identify and establish internal and external stakeholder relationships.
  • Implement loss/risk prevention.
  • Implement project administration processes.
  • Lead team to implement change.
  • Manage and implement business continuity plans.
  • Manage compliance with food and beverage hygiene policies and procedures.
  • Manage cost and quality controls.
  • Manage crisis situations.
  • Manage cross functional and culturally diverse teams.
  • Manage customer service.
  • Manage food and beverage operations.
  • Manage site/outlet and equipment maintenance.
  • Manage training.
  • Manage wine business.
  • Provide information for management decision making.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to head sommelier:

master sommelier
wine manager
head wine waiter
head of wines

Minimum qualifications

To become a head sommelier, candidates must first be certified as sommelier. Certifications are provided by institutions such as the Court of Master Sommeliers. After an extensive experience, they can take the examination for the role of head sommelier.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Head sommelier is a Skill level 2 occupation.

Head sommelier career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to head sommelier.

head waiter/head waitress
quick service restaurant team leader
housekeeping supervisor

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of head sommelier. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of head sommelier with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

venue director
restaurant manager
pastry chef
camping ground manager
head pastry chef

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of head sommelier.

  • Wine characteristics: The origins and characteristics of international wines.
  • Sparkling wines: The varieties of sparkling wines and their match with food products.
  • Types of wine: The large variety of wines, including the different types, regions and special characteristics of each. The process behind the wine such as grape varietals, fermentation procedures and the types of crop that resulted in the final product.
  • Wine related sciences: Sciences such as chemistry, biology and microbiology, as well as laboratory skills, where they concern wine.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of head sommelier.

  • Select glassware for serving: Choose appropriate glassware for beverages and inspect glass quality and cleanliness.
  • Coach employees: Maintain and improve employees’ performance by coaching individuals or groups how to optimise specific methods, skills or abilities, using adapted coaching styles and methods. Tutor newly recruited employees and assist them in the learning of new business systems.
  • Comply with food safety and hygiene: Respect optimal food safety and hygiene during preparation, manufacturing, processing, storage, distribution and delivery of food products.
  • Order supplies: Command products from relevant suppliers to get convenient and profitable products to purchase.
  • Organise wine cellar: Systematise the wine cellar to ensure an appropriate amount and variation of wine and carry-out efficient and effective stock rotation.
  • Upsell products: Persuade customers to buy additional or more expensive products.
  • Ensure regular maintenance of kitchen equipment: Guarantee coordination and supervision of cleaning and maintenance of kitchen equipment.
  • Check wine quality: Control the quality of wines and report corked or spoiled wines and return them to suppliers.
  • Procure hospitality products: Acquire goods or services from an outside external source.
  • Serve wines: Provide wine using proper techniques in front of the customers. Open the bottle correctly, decant the wine if needed, serve and keep the wine in the proper temperature and container.
  • Recruit employees: Hire new employees by scoping the job role, advertising, performing interviews and selecting staff in line with company policy and legislation.
  • Assist customers: Provide support and advice to customers in making purchasing decisions by finding out their needs, selecting suitable service and products for them and politely answering questions about products and services.
  • Maintain customer service: Keep the highest possible customer service and make sure that the customer service is at all times performed in a professional way. Help customers or participants feel at ease and support special requirements.
  • Recommend wines: Offer recommendations to customers on available wines and advise combinations of wines with specific dishes on the menu.
  • Schedule shifts: Plan staff time and shifts to reflect the demands of the business.
  • Compile wine lists: Create and update wine lists ensuring it complements the food menu and brand characteristics.
  • Monitor work for special events: Oversee activities during special events taking into account specific objectives, schedule, timetable, agenda, cultural limitations, account rules and legislation.
  • Prepare alcoholic beverages: Make and serve alcoholic beverages according to the customer’s wants.
  • Train employees: Lead and guide employees through a process in which they are taught the necessary skills for the perspective job. Organise activities aimed at introducing the work and systems or improving the performance of individuals and groups in organisational settings.
  • Manage stock rotation: Oversee stock levels, paying attention to expiry dates to diminish stock loss.
  • Manage medium term objectives: Monitor medium term schedules with budget estimations and reconciliation on a quarterly basis.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of head sommelier. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

ISCO group and title

5131 – Waiters

  1. Head sommelier – ESCO
  2. Head Sommelier|Job Roles Detail|Student Portal – My Skills Future
  3. Featured image: By Megan Mallen – Flickr: Olivier Masmondet from Louis Jadot, CC BY 2.0
Last updated on November 9, 2022

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