How to train restaurant employees the right way

Patrons visit a restaurant to sample the food and enjoy the ambiance. But how they are treated by the staff, from the greeter by the door to their server, can spell the difference between whether they return again and again or leave unsatisfied with their experience.

Training restaurant employees properly achieves two goals. It ensures stellar customer service and that your workers know what to do in your restaurant. Conducting a proper training program can help your restaurant increase its customer service reputation, increase employee happiness, and boost your bottom line in the long run. 

Create a comprehensive training plan

Putting down a training plan in writing helps you cover all the bases for every staff position. You can start with a checklist of what every job requires to be sure that everything is covered by the end of the training session. 

You’ll then be able to ask trainees to demonstrate the knowledge described by the list before checking them off.

The training program should begin with an orientation that reveals basic information about your restaurant, such as your business practices, a brief history and philosophy, a tour of the facilities, an introduction to managers and other employees, and what they can expect in the training process. Also helpful are an overview of the menu and the tastings of the most important dishes.

You can then go on with what they have to do to get their work done. This can include:

  • Cooking
  • Food prep
  • Dishwashing and busing
  • Bartending
  • Serving
  • Hosting and greeting

Train your employees about all your restaurant positions as long as it is legal and safe for them. Bussers can work with the host or hostess, for example, and waiters can spend some time dishwashing. 

This enables every employee to be more flexible and to fill in when necessary and gives everybody an appreciation of what every other person in your restaurant does.

Because people learn differently, you’ll need to incorporate different types of teaching to reach everyone. Spoken lectures, visual aids, videos, demonstrations, and reading are some of the techniques you can use.

Have new employees shadow experienced staff

One of the most effective ways of teaching your newbies is to have them follow experienced employees and assist them as needed. Your new servers can shadow veteran team members as they wait on tables, and cooks can show their newly hired team members the best way to execute your recipes. 

The trainees will be able to see the lessons in action and learn unwritten rules of the position that only come with experience.

Veteran employees should go about their day as they usually do, but can take the time to talk with the trainees should be encouraged to ask as many questions as possible. Shadowing can take anywhere from a few days to a week or more. 

After this period, ask the trainees to write a paragraph or two about what they learned from their experiences. This allows them to process what they’ve seen and can also comment on the performances of your experienced workers.

Try some role-playing

Toward the end of training and once your new employees have learned a few things, try some role-playing with the veteran staff. Not only is this usually a lot of fun and a chance for plenty of laughter and camaraderie, but you can also demonstrate problems and solutions in a safe place. Role-playing does not have to last long. Even a 10-minute stint can be helpful.

Assign a mentor

New employees will experience several bumps as they get accustomed to the positions after training. Assigning a mentor for a month can help smooth out those rough spots and ensures that the newbie has someone to turn to for questions or advice.

Veterans can reveal how to deal with certain problems and offer tips and techniques that can only be learned through experience.

Emphasize safety

When you’re dealing with food and other people, safety should be a priority. Go over legal and industry standards that ensure that everyone in your restaurant remains healthy. 

Be sure to cover the correct ways to handle food, what precautions to take when using food prep or other machinery, the best ways to store food and clean prep items, how to move around the restaurant when carrying food, and how to defuse problem situations with customers.

Offer reinforcement

During pre-shift meetings, which should be mandatory, offer short lessons that can reinforce the ones learned in formal training, reveal new menu items, and rally all employees. You don’t have to be in charge of each lesson. 

Instead, have other employees take the reins: your chef can talk about what goes into a new item or your host can demonstrate the best ways to interact with people. This allows everybody to learn from everybody else.

You may also want to occasionally offer longer sessions on more complex topics, such as:

  • How to use your point-of-sale system
  • What’s going into the new restaurant addition
  • Memorizing more extensive menu items

Such events are an opportunity to welcome outsiders who rely on fresh and different techniques than what you’ve used in the past. And always make these sessions paid, so employees look forward to them.

Recognize the best

As part of their training, new employees will learn about best practices. One way to encourage those that go above and beyond is to recognize the outstanding work that they do. 

You can do this in front of everyone during the pre-shift meetings, in private one-on-one conversations, through social media, or by awarding certificates and cash bonuses. Such recognition tells all your workers that you are paying attention and that you are recognizing their efforts.

Keep an eye out

Observe your new employees to see how they are putting the lessons they learned into action. You may want to do this as part of a schedule to give the worker time to prepare or randomly, so you can see how they behave all the time. Spend about 15 minutes or less.

A more formal way of finding out how your employees are doing is to use mystery diners. These professionals eat at your restaurant and evaluate everything about it, such as the surface, food, ambiance., and overall experience. None of the employees know that they are being evaluated.

You can hire family or friends to do this, but eventually, your employees will find out who these people are. If you go with a third-party business that offers mystery diners, you can continually use them at regular but random intervals.

Conduct regular reviews

Regular performance reviews are an important way to track the progress of your new employees on their way to becoming veterans. You can use these times to evaluate customer service, attitude, efficiency, strengths, and weaknesses.

Do these reviews one to three months after training and every six months to a year for veterans. Rotating the managers and senior staff who conduct the reviews on any one person allows for a more balanced assessment. Be sure to keep written records of these evaluations, so you can compare past performance and document progress.

Need help?

If you need more help in training employees and making them happier and more successful in their restaurant positions, sign up for Homebase. We help small businesses take care of their employees with scheduling, payroll, communication, and more.

You’ll be able to manage your team in one place and spend more time running your business than dealing with paperwork. Plus, we’ll not only make hiring a breeze, but we’ll also automate the onboarding process so you can focus on starting the training process on their first day.

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