The restaurant industry is facing one of its biggest challenges yet: staffing. Turnover has always been a challenge for restaurants, but quit levels have hit an all-time high. So while the hospitality industry is finally bouncing back after two years of hellish lockdowns, ongoing labor shortages are making it difficult for restaurateurs to find, train, and retain capable employees.
Here’s how to get your new hires up to speed and ready to serve in no time.
- Understand why training restaurant employees is so important
- Understand how training boosts morale and retention
- Ensure your employee handbook is up-to-date
- Have a clearly defined restaurant training plan
- Adopt a blended learning approach
- Offer role-specific training
- Run a test shift simulation
- Gather restaurant training feedback
- Invest in an ongoing restaurant training strategy
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Understand why training restaurant employees is so important
With so many restaurants looking to hire, often for many positions at once, restaurant owners and managers are feeling the pressure. Start by taking a deep breath—it’s going to be ok. Next, it’s time to revisit and refresh your restaurant employee training program. Not just because thorough, thoughtful restaurant training makes the difference between smooth sailing or chaos in your day-to-day, but also because:
- The overwhelming majority of the workforce say professional growth and development opportunities are their top priorities in the workplace.
- Lack of opportunity for growth or upskilling is one of the top reasons hospitality employees leave the industry.
- Nearly 70% of hospitality employees say lack of training would make them leave their company.
- Comprehensive restaurant employee training is the best, most effective way to build smart, motivated and skilled teams.
Understand how restaurant training boosts morale and retention
You want the best employees for your restaurant, employees who genuinely care about the guest experience and are committed to providing exceptional service. To attract and keep the best employees, you need to invest in restaurant service training and creating opportunities for growth.
Provide comprehensive training for restaurant staff
You might think taking a casual approach to service standards would make you the cool employer everyone wants to work for. That might be true for employees who are there to simply clock in and clock out, but a good employee who cares—the unicorn you’re looking for—won’t pick up the slack for long.
Ultimately, a strong restaurant training program:
- raises the skill level of every employee in the restaurant
- boosts staff morale and motivation
- helps build employee confidence
- improves overall performance
A strong, motivated and skilled team attracts the type of employees who want and encourages them to grow their career with you.
Create opportunities for growth
Among the most commonly cited reasons for leaving a company is lack of opportunity for growth. Nobody wants to stay in what they see as a dead-end job, but Millennials and Gen Z—who will comprise more than 70% of the workforce by 2025—see professional development as non-negotiable. In a recent survey by McKinsey & Company, job growth outranked compensation as the number one priority for frontline employees. Learning opportunities came in third.
It’s tempting to see ongoing restaurant training as a waste of time or money—because what if they leave? This couldn’t be further from the truth. Your employees want to work smarter and better. Teaching them new skills and giving them more responsibility keeps them interested and engaged, and far more likely to stay with you.
Ensure your employee handbook is up to date
Your employee handbook is an essential guide for new and existing hires for general information about your restaurant, your policies and procedures. If you haven’t updated your handbook in a few years, odds are it needs a refresher. Your employee handbook should set clear expectations and answer frequently asked questions your new hires might have. It should include:
- Restaurant history and story
- Mission and vision
- Employee code of conduct
- Specific rules and employment policies
- Emergency procedures
- Compensation and benefits
- Working hours and paid time off (PTO)
Check out our downloadable restaurant employee handbook template to get started building your handbook or refreshing your existing one.
Have a clearly defined restaurant training plan
A well-defined restaurant training plan specifies the timeline, steps and milestones of the entire training process. A lot of the subjects you will cover in your training plan will also be included in your employee handbook. If you already have a plan in place, make sure it’s up-to-date based on the latest industry trends, local requirements and health regulations.
What to include in your restaurant training plan
- A timeline and schedule: Clearly outline the time it will take to cover and complete each aspect of your training plan.
- Your restaurant mission and vision: While this should already be a part of your handbook, you should still make a point of discussing and presenting this in more detail during training to give new employees more context.
- Staff and roles: Define, explain and even write out each of your team and kitchen brigade’s responsibilities and expectations. Inform your new hires about workflows and how their role fits within the team dynamics and processes.
- Menu discovery: This should be a part of your regular training and not just a part of your initial new hire training. Go over your menu, specific dishes and ingredients and anything else new hires should know about your menu.
- Restaurant layout and table setting: Every restaurant is different—go over table numbers, front and back of house layout and table setting guidelines.
- Selling tactics: Give new servers examples of the greetings and tone you want to convey to guests. Advice and training on suggestive selling and upselling will also help them build confidence and develop the skills that will help your bottom line.
- Company policies: Inform employees about workplace best practices, reviews, and company policies such as workplace rules and dress codes.
- Restaurant technology: Incorporate training on your restaurant platform, point of sale, payment terminals, and other tools that employees will use on a daily basis.
Luckily, when it comes to your POS and payment system, restaurant employee training can be done in a matter of minutes with Lightspeed Restaurant POS. Just ask Andrew Ketcham, Associate Director of Operations at Recess, Chicago’s largest and busiest patio. In the summer months, when they’re serving upwards of 5,000 guests a day, the already 200-person staff practically doubles. To Ketcham, being able to scale the business with Lightspeed has been “a gift”.
“The ability to utilize Lightspeed on our iOS operating system makes that training infinitely quicker. The majority of our staff already have iPhones, so to train them on iPads takes no time at all.” — Andrew Ketcham, Associate Director of Operations at Atomic Hospitality
Adopt a blended learning approach for restaurant training
More restaurants are turning to a blending learning approach to train new staff and provide ongoing skills development to seasoned employees. Blended learning combines online education with hands-on training to improve staff training outcomes.
A blended restaurant training program might look like using video conference software to deliver training on topics that apply to all departments, on-site training for role-specific tasks, and an online course to get employees up to speed on food safety. Many restaurants are even using gamification tools to make staff training more fun and interactive. Some benefits of using blended learning for training restaurant employees include:
- Trainees can learn at their own pace.
- Trainees can complete virtual training from anywhere.
- Blended learning accommodates more learning styles.
- Varied learning improves engagement, which results in better retention of information and learning objectives.
- Incorporating virtual learning is a simple, cost-effective means of training restaurant staff and upskilling employees.
Offer role-specific restaurant employee training
Every role is different and while you might be able to host initial sessions with a broad group of new hires, you’ll still need to include practical, role-specific training for restaurant staff. All restaurant training programs should incorporate elements of education, demonstration and shadowing.
Education in the form of instruction is essential. All of your employees need instruction on how your restaurant operates, your menu, policies and procedures, and expectations.
Written instructions are a big part of restaurant training programs. Many restaurants will keep a binder of training materials readily accessible to new hires or seasoned employees who need a refresher. Information in the binder may include:
- Restaurant facts: Cuisine type, check averages, most popular menu items, product specs and tasting notes, emergency and staff contact information, etc.
- Allergen information: Ingredient lists or recipes for menu items containing allergens, allergen handling procedures, disclaimers/script for customers, etc.
- Food safety procedures: Cleaning and sanitizing procedures, chemical storage information, safe cooking temperatures, safe food handling procedures, etc.
- Opening and closing procedures: BOH and FOH opening duties checklist, BOH/FOH closing checklists, opening and closing inventory count sheets, etc.
- Instructions on how to use the restaurant POS system: Quick reference guide, training materials, how to reach customer support, etc.
- Emergency procedures: Evacuation procedures, power outage procedures, illness or injury procedures (for staff and guests), etc.
Infographics and staff training videos can also be incorporated into your education plan, and are an efficient and time saving way to train restaurant staff.
Restaurant employee training also needs to include demonstration. This involves the trainer performing tasks that new employees need to learn, generally during a slow time when there are few or no customers in the dining room. Trainees observe the trainer performing tasks using the proper techniques they will replicate later. Demonstration is a great way to train your employees on:
- Table setting
- Food running
- Inputting orders and taking payment
Shadowing is an important part of any restaurant training program. Shadowing is when new hires observe and take notes during a peer’s shift. Shadowing allows new employees to learn the ropes through real-life scenarios.
As they build confidence, new hires start to perform tasks gradually under the watchful eye of an experienced employee. This way, if they forget how to do something or make a mistake, the seasoned employee is there to help, show them the procedure again, and prevent errors or service disruptions.
Common types of restaurant staff training
- Safe food handling
- Serving alcohol responsibly
- Allergen management
- Food and wine pairing
- First aid and CPR
Run a test shift
While you wouldn’t want to do this for every new hire, a test shift or shift simulation makes sense when you need to hire or train many employees at once. For example, you’re about to open a new restaurant and you’re holding open interviews, or you’re making changes to an existing procedure and need to retrain your entire team.
A test shift will show you how new staff will perform in a controlled environment, provides useful insights that can guide hiring decisions, and lets you give feedback without interrupting a real customer’s experience. The goal is to observe employees in scenarios that are close to real interactions, while also being able to interrupt, guide, instruct and correct any issues. It’s a good idea to run test shifts on days when your restaurant is closed.
Gather restaurant training feedback
You want to make sure your restaurant training plan is working and the easiest way to find out is by asking directly. After a training session, take a few minutes to ask trainees for feedback, or ask them to complete a quick post-training survey. You want to know:
- What was their favorite and least favorite part of the training?
- Was the material presented in an interesting and engaging way?
- How could your restaurant training program be improved?
Having a conversation around training will give you more insight as to why some things worked and some didn’t, and allow you to adjust and improve your training plan and materials for the next time. For more honest answers, send your restaurant training survey via email and make it anonymous.
Invest in an ongoing restaurant training strategy
Even after your employees are on board and trained, you won’t want to forget about ongoing restaurant training as it helps improve skills, correct issues before they arise and improve employee retention.
Here are a couple of examples of ongoing restaurant training plans to improve specific focus areas.
Restaurant staff training plan for suggestive selling
As your servers become more familiar with your restaurant and the restaurant menu, they are easier able to suggest food and wine pairings, upsell desserts and premium products, increase average checks and improve your bottom line.
Here are some ways you can help improve suggestive selling, long-term:
- Take the time to educate servers on daily specials
- Run staff tasting sessions
- Educate servers on food and wine pairings
- Teach your employees which menu items are most profitable
- Enlist your best-performing servers to help train those who need a bit more help
Restaurant staff training plan for steps of service
When it comes to waiting tables, the longer you do it, the more you learn about the best way to give attention, multi-task and give space. However, the best servers don’t need to be on the job for years to learn this; ongoing training can teach them.
- Train your servers to read the room. For example, guests who are chatty and make direct eye contact probably want more attention than guests who make minimal eye contact or continue their conversation in the server’s presence.
- Teach your servers how to talk about the menu. Many guests will rely on their server to guide their menu choices. The more you can train on how to talk about the menu and pair items together, the better the service your staff can give.
- Coach your servers on how to multitask. Talk to your staff about how to balance multiple tables, large parties and small parties and how to work with their colleagues to meet guest needs.
Don’t forget: the restaurant industry is customer-intensive. In order to be the best they can be, your employees need to be attentive and professional. A good restaurant training program will be focused on developing these two skills, as well as menu knowledge and upselling skills.
Ready to take restaurant training to the next level?
Restaurants around the world are finding themselves onboarding and training like never before. In order to train and retain all of these new employees, you need to be ready with an action plan. Remember you’re not just training restaurant employees, you’re showing them your restaurant is a great place for them to learn and grow. (This way, you can keep good employees for longer and not have to do so much training!)
With so much hiring competition, it’s never been more important to solidify your restaurant training program and give employees technology that’s easy to use and learn. With Lightspeed, restaurateurs are getting employees service-ready in a matter of minutes.
Talk to one of our experts to find out how Lightspeed’s restaurant POS and payments platform can help you streamline restaurant employee training and day-to-day operations.
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