The front-of-house (FOH) team of your restaurant should be a group of friendly professionals ready to give great customer service and work together. Once you have hired the right hospitality-oriented group, made up of individuals who understand that great service includes anticipating needs and working well with others, your duty as a restaurant manager is to mature them into a high-functioning FOH team.
Vigilant observations and constructive feedback are just one part of it; your team needs the right training tools to cement the information.
Having ongoing training sessions is just one way to develop a finely-tuned FOH service—see below for more ideas.
1. Digitize Your Employee Training Manual
The employee manual is the cornerstone of your training efforts. Within its pages should be detailed instructions for all procedures and responsibilities. From the hosts to bussers to bartenders, every position needs training in communicating with:
- Each other
- The back of house (BOH)
(Here’s how to improve communications with your FOH and BOH.)
It might go without saying that the manual should be job-centric to each position. There is going to be some overlapping of training materials throughout the jobs; however, avoid confusion or distraction by focusing the training manual on specific job functions. For example, leave off the BOH’s food waste procedure for FOH employees.
To drive home the contents of the manual, add relevant examples to situations the employee will undoubtedly come across on the job, and provide the best practices that they can follow up with. With these clearly written out, your FOH team knows what you expect from them, and has a resource to refer to later on if needed.
It’s to be expected that you’ll have to make changes or update the manual, so for ease of use, upload the manual online using an e-content distribution platform (like Mimeo). You can update the content online, and your team can pull up the updated version on their smartphones or computers.
2. Offer Training Videos
We know the truth: Not everyone is going to read the ins and outs of the manual. While some information is intuitive and can be glossed over, there are certain processes you want to make sure that new hires review, such as:
- Food safety
- How to deal with angry customers
- Plate presentations
- POS and order entry
- Seating chart arrangements
For these kinds of serious topics, create online videos for employees to watch on their own time. If you have instructor-led training sessions, then you can video-tape the critical procedures. And if you don’t, use your smartphone’s high-definition camera to make short videos, using your managers as “actors.” These can be easily added to YouTube, or if you want some discretion, you can add videos to a private Google doc and share the link with staff members.
This training method aligns with millennial tastes and could be more effective than other training materials. To ensure the usefulness of your training videos, assign the videos, and follow up with the main takeaways in person. This will allow employees to view the videos in private as often as necessary and to arrive focused for the in-person training sessions.
3. Mentorship Training
Once they have truly learned the best practices for customer training, your team can use their knowledge in the field. There is no better way to implement what was learned than by shadowing an experienced FOH employee on the floor.
Select your superstar FOH team and talk to them before assigning coworkers to shadow them. Their involvement is key in creating a high-functioning FOH team. This group sets the tone for the others. When you and the other managers are busy elsewhere, the team will look to its top performers for speed, efficiency, and communication.
For that reason, your “superstars” need to accept the role graciously (so do not allow diva-like attitudes!) and be willing to mentor others.
Once the right people are on board, you can assign coaching to the rest of the team. Shadowing the experts will help the newly trained to make sense of the theory and grow accustomed to the pace of your restaurant.
4. Have a No-Drama Work Environment
Another positive aspect of the mentorship-style of training that cannot be overlooked is the relationship-building quality. Newer employees get to know the senior staff early on, and the FOH group can start adapting to one another right away.
For a sustained, high-functioning team, members of the FOH must know each other well. This doesn’t mean they need to be friends outside of work—the real focus of the relationship must be on understanding what it takes to pull off successful shifts day after day.
This point is incremental to your FOH team’s productivity, and to your restaurant’s overall success. Workplace drama can poison an FOH team, so as the manager, remind your staff that work is not personal—everyone in the front of house must be ready and willing to be part of an interdependent team. If someone objects or continues to display behavior in contrast to that, he or she might not be the right fit for your restaurant.
5. Create Schedules that Fit Employees Lives
Restaurant employees are used to working odd shifts, struggling to get enough hours, and having to plan their lives around their work schedule. With the power of a master scheduler and automated scheduling tools, create a schedule that instead works around your FOH staff’s life.
Show your staff that you value their personal time, have fewer uncovered shifts, and increase staff morale by listening to their scheduling needs. Allowing your restaurant staff to have a social life and attend important events increases their job satisfaction, and makes for a happier work environment. When your staff is happy, they’re willing to go the extra mile at work and reciprocate the appreciation of their time.
The last tip for growing and sustaining a high-functioning FOH team is for you: Motivate your staff to perform their best every day. And don’t rely on competitions to get the results you need. Focus on these 8 strategies to promote teamwork for the best results from your FOH.