While it may seem like something that gets put on the back burner, training your staff should be at the forefront of your mind if you own or manage a restaurant. While at first restaurant staff training may not seem to directly correlate with increasing sales and revenue, keep in mind that the staff and servers are the first customer touchpoint.
Great service equals happy customers, which leads to great reviews, and in turn more sales. A well trained staff is looking much more important now, right? Understanding the need for training puts you on the right track, however actually training your staff is easier said than done. These techniques will help you put together a great restaurant training program to level up your staff and overall restaurant performance.
What is restaurant training?
When you think of restaurant training, what comes to mind? Maybe you think of food handling lessons, customer service, how to run the cash register, or some sort of HR type workplace videos. There are many aspects that go into a great restaurant training program. These include mastering product knowledge, teaching servers to sell, food handling, smoother operations, facility care, compliance, safety procedures, and even team building and teamwork. There’s a lot that goes into a great restaurant training program.
You may assume training is for newly hired employees, however, the best restaurants implement continual training for all employees. Continual or ongoing training helps staff feel needed and challenged. This leads to an increase in loyalty as well as productivity.
Why is restaurant training important?
With challenges in the labor market right now, hiring and then retaining good staff is necessary to ensure business growth. Implementing a quality restaurant staff training program is one of the top drivers when it comes to staff retention. A trained staff not only means happy customers—it also results in higher employee morale. Investing time into training communicates with your staff members that they’re valued, that you expect them to be around awhile, and ensures that everyone is on the same page.
Oftentimes when there’s not a set training plan, clear communication of expectations is absent and said expectations end up going unmet. This can lead to unfulfilled staff and a high turnover rate. When great training programs are set, consistent, and individualized your restaurant staff will better understand their roles and how to effectively execute them.
Techniques for your restaurant training program
It’s good to understand some of the most common techniques for restaurant training. Let’s walk through the methods of training, touch on onboarding and handbooks, talk about video training, delve into one-on-one teaching, and give a plug for team building.
Methods of Training
There are various ways to train your staff, especially in the restaurant industry. Below we’ll talk about just a few. There’s no right way to train. However, because many people tend to have different learning styles, it’s smart to use a mix of all of these restaurant training methods.
Onboarding and handbooks
Onboarding training is the first experience your new employees will get with your company, so you need to make sure it represents your expectations well but also goes at a pace that’s realistic for success. A smooth onboarding process preps workers with the skills that they’ll need to do well in their first orientation weeks. It also serves to lay out expectations for company culture and coworker interaction.
Having a proper company handbook with the basic rules, policies, and procedures is a great place to start with onboarding. Be sure to be open to questions, and give continual constructive feedback during their onboarding so employees can learn and move through the training processes more effectively.
In a digital world of never-ending video content, video trainings are a great way to teach younger workers. Providing digital training can make getting through the restaurant policies and procedures a much easier process. Many businesses have their own eLearning platforms, something you may want to consider when planning your training. You can also source training content from the hundreds of YouTube channels that create professional business training materials.
Shadowing and peer-to-peer mentoring are extremely effective for helping your new staff quickly learn the ins and outs of the job as well as gain a better understanding of your restaurant’s culture and norms. This allows for a more focused training program, as well as a more personal environment for a peer to provide feedback and help where needed.
The benefit of one-on-one training is that it helps each new staff member feel like they have someone on the team to approach if they have questions. This eliminates the need to seek out the manager or ask personal questions in front of the entire staff. You can also check in with the mentor to gain a better understanding of how your new employee is doing and where they could use some help.
Coworker relationships are a big reason people enjoy and choose to stay at their jobs. Restaurant jobs are no exception. Cultivating and encouraging strong relationships between your restaurant staff is vital to operations running more efficiently. Team building can begin from day one with ice breakers and other get-to-know-you activities. While this may sound juvenile, it’s a great way for your staff to learn a little bit about each other.
Continual team building activities like a staff game night, dinner, or friendly competitions including sports or a scavenger hunt are great ways to encourage friendship and bonding.
Topics for training
As mentioned in the intro, there are so many areas in which a successful restaurant staff needs to be trained. You must review everything from customer service practices to cleaning procedures to food and liquor handling. It’s a lot. Luckily, below is a compiled list of the many things you’ll want to include in your restaurant training program.
Restaurant specific training
Restaurant specific training is exactly what it says—training specific to your restaurant. This includes things like company culture, menu items, and specific ingredients used. Training in this area ensures your staff can answer questions that any of the guests may have.
Learning about what makes your restaurant unique will help your staff be confident in their service as they go throughout their workday. For your kitchen or bar staff, restaurant specific training may include consistency training. For this you might hold tastings weekly or monthly to make sure what they’re producing is matching up with what’s expected.
Order of operations isn’t just an important math principle— it’s also critical in the restaurant biz. Training your staff on the proper operations of your restaurant will help business run more quickly and smoothly. Beyond that it could even save you from accidents or dangerous situations in the workplace. While this could also be thought of as restaurant specific, there are a lot of general restaurant operation procedures that are vital to staff member success.
Customer service and sales
Customer service and sales directly impact revenue and reputation, so understandably there needs to be thorough training in this area. Teach your staff to subtly and tactfully upsell customers on certain menu items. Also be sure they try all the food so they can give accurate recommendations. The result? Service that leaves the customer wowed, and that helps you realize a difference in the books.
Compliance and safety
Compliance and safety are very important topics in this industry. These have to do with different certifications and permits needed to work in the food and hospitality industry as well as HR-type training. This can include food handlers permits, hygiene trainings, sexual harassment in the workplace, and many others. Not only do these trainings need to take place, but the procedures must be applied at all times for compliance.
Closing thoughts on restaurant training
As you’ve seen, so many things that go into creating the perfect restaurant training program. Not only is it a vital component to workplace satisfaction and staff retention, but it also directly affects service, sales, and revenue. This is why restaurant staff training should be on the top of your priority list.
Some of the key topics to include in your training are restaurant specific training, operations, customer service, consistent quality, and compliance and safety. Because people have various learning styles, using different methods of training can be a great way to ensure your staff has fully learned and understood the training. A few of these methods are onboarding handbooks, video, one on one training, and team building activities.
Always remember that the training doesn’t end after an employee’s first month. Consistency is key to your restaurant’s success. By implementing the best techniques for restaurant training in an ongoing training program, you’ll notice a difference in your staff retention, your restaurant operations, and your customer satisfaction.