A group of hospitality workers raise wine glasses against the backdrop of Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables

In countries around the world, particularly Europe, working in hospitality is a career path. Now, Lion is working to change that perception in New Zealand. Frankie Walker and his team of six ambassadors have spent years travelling around New Zealand, delivering free education sessions for hospitality staff, teaching them about wine varietals, craft beer, and more.

Walker has led the team for four years now. “From early in my career I realised I had a love for the industry, especially sharing knowledge and education with others,” he explained. “Leading the Lion ambassador team gives me the opportunity to impact the quality of the industry especially through the education platforms we offer to our customers.”

Lion has invested over $800,000 in the free education sessions, educating not only on their own products but on the wine, beer and spirits categories as a whole. Walker’s focus is on upskilling a workforce that, in New Zealand, has never been considered skilled.

“The rise of chefs as celebrities is helping [to change this perception], and the word ‘mixologist’ is part of mainstream language now. We’ve seen a considerable increase in premium eating and drinking from the public. From the industry side, there better opportunities than ever before. Hospitality skills are global and technology, coupled with platforms such as competitions, gives bartenders and chefs access to jobs and careers worldwide.”

For Amy Johnson, bar manager at The Crab Shack in Auckland, the experience was invaluable. “I was able to pass what I learned on to our staff, so now they can deliver better service to our customers – they can talk about wine and beer, suggest a food match, or help people pick out a new beer to try.’