As the owner or manager of your restaurant, training new hires is a huge responsibility. One might argue that how well an employee performs starts at the training session! To build a team of top-notch servers, do more in a training session than list out their responsibilities—empower your new hires with useful information. In doing so, you will be building an unrivaled staff of high-performing servers.
Review the Basics of Customer Relations First
When you meet with your new hires, explain the significance of the procedures and responsibilities you go over in training. No matter how minor it may be, explain the methodology behind every decision. This will help trainees pick up new information quickly, and acclimate fast to their new working environment.
How guests are greeted and spoken to are wildly important factors to explain, as these interactions can inform the entire guest experience. If the conversation goes badly, no amount of Michelin-star-deserving food will turn this guest into a repeat customer.
Show trainees the proper way to:
- Greet customers.
- Take orders.
- Serve food and remove dishes.
- Give the check.
- Handle complaints properly.
Be clear in what is expected from your serving staff. Whether it’s how plates are served or from which side dishes are cleared, demonstrate the entire process starting from when a guest walks through the threshold until he or she leaves. If you have a fine dining restaurant, more precise etiquette rules are probably followed than at a casual establishment, so give ample time for new hires to learn the rules.
Knowing these etiquette rules will instill confidence in your employees, which is especially important when dealing with customers. With confidence, your staff will be more positive in their interactions and proactive in handling difficult situations.
If interactions go awry—such as handling complaints or an unpleasant customer—your staff can rely on these rules of communication to avoid offending a guest or having a messy confrontation.
Make a Training Checklist of Essential Knowledge
This might seem like the most basic training element, but you would be surprised how often fundamental priorities are overlooked in training sessions. As the owner or manager, it is your duty to equip new hires with the right information before they get onto the floor.
Make a list of priorities from start to finish, and don’t forget the small details; it’s the most inconsequential points that can trip-up a new hire. Include the following points:
- How to clock in and out.
- How the side work is managed, everything from baking bread to napkin folding.
- How food and drinks are run.
- How to ring up orders, and orders with special requests (like dressing on the side), in particular.
- Go over the floor plan, so they know the fastest routes through your restaurant.
- Explain the cleaning schedules, if applicable.
- How to present a check.
- How to close out a bill with cash and a credit, debit, or gift card. This is also the right moment to explain how to get an item voided from a bill or give a discount.
- How to clean and prepare tables for new guests.
- Describe what the close-out duties are.
- How tips are handled, especially if you employ a tip-pooling policy.
Additionally, give trainees a complete tour of the restaurant, so they know where to find anything: such as the bathrooms, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, condiments, fridges, wine bottles, and stock rooms.
The Final Steps to Finishing a Great Training Session
To empower your new hires, include these three important steps in training:
- Introduce new hires to the back-of-house staff. How your FOH interacts with your BOH relies partly on how comfortable servers feel communicating with the kitchen. If new hires are too timid about working with the kitchen or don’t know the best way to communicate, issues will arise. To avoid these types of problems, explain how he or she must work with the kitchen to handle food complaints, get items recooked, or request a new dish last minute.
- Appoint trainees to your best servers for at least two shifts. To assimilate a new hire into your restaurant or bar, get them onto the floor as soon as possible—if your restaurant system is complicated, it’s recommended that they shadow your experienced servers first.
- Describe your company’s unique culture and qualities. Once new hires understand your philosophy, you can rest assured that your brand will be properly represented, and guests will receive the experience they expect.
To give consistently strong and comprehensive training sessions, take the time to prepare a training manual that includes the sections above.
Immersive Menu Training
When customers ask questions about the menu, hearing I don’t know, is unacceptable. It doesn’t matter how intricate the cooking process is, or how last-minute a dish was added to the daily specials menu, train your staff to know the intricacies of the menu inside and out.
With your new hires, first review the menu in its entirety, from appetizer to dessert, and then, elaborate on these five points:
- Where the ingredients are sourced from.
- Specific cooking techniques that go into a dish. For instance, are the side vegetables baked, grilled, or sautéed?
- Describe which dishes are the best sellers and why.
- Go over the limitations on substitutions.
- List the dishes that would be problematic for guests with common food intolerances or allergies (such as a nut allergy or dairy intolerance).
- Offer precise suggestions for wine pairings.
The more unique your menu is, the more time you can spend going over it to make experts out of your servers and bussers. It would be ideal if every person working on the floor can answer menu-related questions without hesitation.
Lavu Note: Does your restaurant place emphasis on being connoisseurs? If so, there is little room for ignorance on the subject since guests will be expecting precise and detailed answers from the staff. Allow plenty of time for new hires to become familiar with your special product, and let them taste and try as much of it as possible.
To get new hires up to speed as quickly as possible, help them prepare with a list of common questions that they can expect to get from customers.
Teach FOH Staff to Spoil Customers
Whether it’s sending out free coffee and cake, or offering a pint of their favorite draft beer, every restaurant and bar has a unique way of spoiling customers. When things go badly with a customer, show new hires how your restaurant likes to make up for the mistake. Is it a discount on the bill or an appetizer on the house? Be clear in what servers can offer guests so they can respond quickly to a situation and mend broken communications.
Above all, stress the importance of being hospitable, gracious, and available—even with the most disagreeable of guests.
Teach FOH to be Attentive, Not just Present
A customer enters a restaurant and is seated, places an order with a server, and receives no more attention from another staff member until the food arrives. If you’re lucky, the customer in that scenario needed nothing between placing their order and the arrival of their food, but what if they had? Imagine a thirsty customer that wants a refill of water. Imagine that customer having to flag down a passing busser or server, or not even being able to get a staff member’s attention to flag them down.
When a customer needs help, and no one notices, the dining experience is spoiled.
You might have had a similar experience eating out. Unfortunately, not being seen or heard by FOH staff is all too common. It happens so frequently, that the first thing people tend to say is:I hate when this happens.
Every week in staff meetings, remind the FOH to be attentive while on the floor. Encourage bussers and servers to keep watch on all table sections, not just their own, and to notify someone when a guest from another section needs something. Remind servers that pausing and scanning the room for inquiring customers is a part of their job.
During rush hours, it can be difficult, but being the priority, seated customers always need to be paid attention to. Look out for eye contact, waving hands, or other behaviors from customers trying to get the staff’s attention. Lastly, remind the FOH they are a team. Look out for all table sections, and pin copies of the table sections in prominent places so the FOH knows who’s in charge during a shift.
With an attentive FOH team, your customers are going to feel cared for and tell their circles how great the service is.