If only training were like climbing Mt.Everest. Once you accomplished it, you’d never have to do it again. Unfortunately, restaurant training is more like exercise. If you don’t do it regularly, it’s difficult to stay in top shape. We all know that, but in our fast-paced restaurant environment, it’s easy to let things that aren’t “on fire” slide. But if you follow a successful waitstaff training routine, you’ll reduce those fires and create a more proactive and productive work environment. In the end, your restaurant team—and your customers—will thank you. Here are a few tips that can make your training more successful:
- Begin at the beginning. It sounds simple, but most new hires learn how to work the cash register long before they’re ever told about the corporate concept or mission statements. If your operation is committed to ideals, it’s important that your new employees get that information first and are tested on it and its importance. It’s the only way they’ll grow to fit into the environment and team you’ve created.
- Just do it. Effective restaurant training doesn’t just include structured training sessions or pre-shift meetings. It also includes managers getting in the trenches and improving their knowledge. If you really believe that every team member should help the other—and that every position is important—assign yourself a shift working in an area that’s suffering from turnover, lower morale or just added stress. Come dressed to work and have an assistant manager take care of your regular duties. By actually doing the job—and not just observing it—you’ll show the staff that you understand firsthand their challenges. You’ll also learn what’s not being done properly and after the shift, and you can tailor your training sessions accordingly.
- Talk the talk. In this business, service and sales go hand-in-hand. In the long run, you can’t accomplish one without the other. It stands to reason, then, that any good restaurant training program will focus on both improving service and increasing sales. If you want to effectively communicate that “everyone is in sales,” then you should be selling yourself. Pass out samples of appetizers to waiting guests, tell them about specials, offer to carry around the dessert tray for busy servers and present the items like they were presented in training. Whatever you’d like your servers and other team members to do, do it yourself and do it well.
- Reward success. The old adage is true: what gets rewarded gets done. Sure, servers who put their training into action will be rewarded by higher tips and a more enjoyable work experience. But it’s up to you to give all your servers the extra motivation they need to apply what you’ve taught them. If you’re focusing on sales increases of a particular item, or a general improvement in average sales, set clear and attainable goals, recognize achievements, and reward winners.
Remember, training is a process, not an event. Train every day, and recognize and reward expected behavior every day, too.
© Pencom International, used with permission. Pencom International is a leader in restaurant management and waitstaff training solutions and publisher of Service That Sells! The Art of Profitable Hospitality, the best-selling book in foodservice history! Developed by successful restaurant owners and managers, the Service That Sells! product line of books, DVDs and workbooks has been helping restaurants improve service and increase sales for decades.
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