At some point, every successful business has to hire new team members. According to the National Restaurant Association, roughly 2/3 of a restaurant’s staff overturns each year – which requires a whole lot of interviewing, hiring, and training. If you want your newbies to thrive and positively contribute to your enterprise, it’s essential that your training program helps them not only understand restaurant operations as a whole, but also intimately get to know your establishment.
Read on for some tips to more effectively train your new employees and keep them around for the long haul.
1. Understand the essential components and set appropriate expectations
New employees obviously need to understand how to complete their assigned tasks. But it’s also important to educate them on your restaurant’s concept and history. People want to know the story behind your brand and what makes it special. Employees work harder when they’re passionate, so foster that drive in training by helping them connect with your business. Give a thorough tour of the store layout, carefully outline each job duty, and help new hires understand the scheduling and rotation of shifts. When explaining your menu, don’t be afraid to go into extra detail about any special options or food preparation practices – local, healthy food is a hot topic with customers right now, and your employees should be able to engage with guests and explain what makes your offerings special.
This is also a great time to explain the business relationship between employee behavior and the store’s financial performance. For example, sales can increase when staff engage in optimum customer-facing behavior (i.e., upselling, great greeting lines and tone of voice, etc.). Conversely, the store can suffer financially when employees waste product unnecessarily, or give away/discount food against store policy.
2. Have an agenda and supporting documents
Break down training into easily digestible sections, and confirm that each topic flows into the next. If you don’t already have a full-time training team at a corporate office, set aside a few hours to create a comprehensive training plan and collateral materials (or, hire someone to do it!). Don’t hesitate to modify these training documents as the needs of your organization change. Include goals you’d like your new hires to meet, which should be broken down into simple tasks in order to cater to workers with no prior restaurant experience. Every new member should go through the same length of training, whether they are an industry veteran or it’s their first day on the job.
3. Educate your trainers
Confirm that whoever is responsible for training the new hires is aware of and sticks to the outlined agenda. Don’t let them wing it; otherwise, certain areas may not be covered as comprehensively as you would like, or may get skipped entirely. Training should feel organized and methodical. Additionally, keep an eye on trainers during hands-on time to ensure the new employees aren’t being exposed to any negativity about job duties or “alternative methods” (i.e., “This is how you’re supposed to do [task], but this is what we usually do instead.”). These instances are an indication that existing employees need a refresher on company procedures.
4. Find a way to switch it up
Though most of restaurant training tends to be hands-on and learn-as-you go, it’s important that employees are exposed to a variety of training styles to accommodate all learning types. Lecture time is essential for sharing information about your company history and core business values, in addition to outlining goals and expectations. Consider implementing online modules that employees can complete at home or at a computer on-site, such as online training videos with quizzes at the end of each section or a POS simulation program. Some companies even have a dedicated website with training resources and contact information. Utilize Q&A sessions to allow new hires to learn from veteran employees and upper-level staff, and use role-playing to put new hires in uncommon situations.
5. Focus on the people
You want to hire employees who will work hard and stick with you, right? Make your program stand out by providing incentives and outlining clear opportunities for career advancement from the very beginning. Help new hires envision a future with your establishment, rather than simply handing them a packet of rules and standards.
Additionally, allow some time for new employees to get to know the store’s general and area managers, fellow new hires, and other coworkers. An important key to an efficient operation is teamwork, so it’s important that new employees feel welcomed and encouraged by existing team members. Having a formal mentoring program allows a seasoned employee to take on a newer member of your team, benefiting everyone involved. The existing employee gains a little more responsibility and understands your trust in their leadership skills, while the new member benefits from guidance of a tenured staff member to engrain company culture in their daily routine.
6. Keep the training going
Don’t think that you have to stop teaching once formal training is over, or that veteran employees never need a refresher. Take a few minutes during pre-shift meetings or designate a specific time once every couple of months to reinforce basic principles and cover any updates or changes, such as new POS functionality, upselling LTOs, or revamped inventory organization. Call on employees to demonstrate or explain things like proper greetings, cash drop procedures, and food safety techniques. If you operate multiple stores, consider holding company-wide hands-on training sessions once a year to allow employees to brush up on their service skills and learn from staff at other stores.
Training may seem like a big headache. But when done right, it eliminates current and future issues and reduces confusion related to company regulations and procedures. Effective training also improves employee productivity and guest satisfaction. All of this adds to your bottom line by increasing traffic, diminishing waste, mitigating guest complaints, and creating a more consistent dining experience. Make some adjustments to your training program today, and reap the benefits tomorrow!