Your restaurant business is only as good as your employees. They are on the front line – interacting with your guests, making sales, preparing food, and serving your customers. They are the face of your business and without proper training, they can be your downfall.
A major struggle in the food industry is the high turnover rate of staff. The industry has some of the worst rates across the board which is caused by a number of issues. One issue in particular is the lack of training and growth for employees.
Without proper training, employees can struggle in their work. This leads to low morale and a higher chance of an employee leaving. In fact, a study by TalentLMS found that 62% of restaurant employees would consider leaving a company over a lack of training.
By providing training, you also promote a work environment focused on growth and professional development. Employees who feel they are growing in a career are far more likely to stay with an employer vs a company that seems to offer just a “dead end job.” An ambitious employee, with the right training, can see themselves advancing within your company.
Even with the perfect work environment though, some level of turnover is inevitable. In this case, a proper system for restaurant employee training can help you get new hires up and running as quickly as possible. This is key to avoiding lost revenue, customer complaints, and compliance issues.
Quickly and successfully onboarding employees is even more important in today’s fast moving, technology-focused restaurant world. Having a good restaurant management system is key. Dash’s POS and restaurant management system is user friendly and easy for new hires to understand with minimal training.
Employee training goes far beyond onboarding: the faster you can get new hires accustomed to the work requirements the better. Beyond that, additional on-going training is a great way to –
- Safeguard your restaurant from costly mistakes
- Improve sales metrics by teaching employees upselling and cross-selling techniques
- Build brand awareness through a consistent employee / customer experience
These are just a few reasons why good employee training is vital to any successful restaurant. If you want to grow and improve your own employee training process, keep reading.
When Training Fails
Even multinational corporations have struggled to deliver effective employee training. The lack thereof results in lost revenue, lawsuits, and worse. Here are two famous examples of training failures that we can all learn from:
In 2018, Starbucks faced a major PR crisis after the wrongful arrest of two African American customers visiting one of their Philadelphia locations. Social media reaction after the event showed that the company had some serious damage control to do.
In response, Starbucks decided to close 8,000 of their locations to conduct a crash course racial sensitivity and bias training with over 175,000 employees. CEO Howard Schultz admitted the emergency training session would cost the company millions, in addition to the cost of the lawsuit that followed.
After the incident, many major corporations realized their own racial bias and diversity training for employees was less than adequate. Let this be a warning to all restaurant owners – how your employees treat customers will reflect back on your business. If diversity training isn’t part of your current employee training program, you might want to consider adding it now.
Restaurant employee training should, of course, not just focus on front-of-house, customer-facing employees. The employees making the food your restaurant serves are an equally vital part of the customer experience and your overall business success.
A great example of a training failure on the food-handling side of things would be the Chipotle outbreaks of 2015. This was a tough year for the chain with an estimated 500 people falling ill after a number of separate incidents at locations across the country. This included both E. coli and norovirus outbreaks.
In the end, Chipotle faced a federal criminal case and multiple lawsuits. Their response, similar to Starbucks, was to close stores across the nation for an emergency food safety training session. While food safety was likely part of employee onboarding, Chipotle’s ongoing training was obviously inadequate.
Designing a Successful Restaurant Employee Training Program
It can take a lot of time and effort to design a training program that works for your unique business. The upfront effort will undoubtedly pay off though. To help, here are a few key areas you might want to focus on.
Build Your Training Around Core Brand Values
Employees don’t want to work for a soulless corporation. Customers don’t want to give their money to a heartless organization. As a restaurant, your core brand values give your organization life and show both employees and customers what you stand for.
Your company values should also work their way into your onboarding and ongoing employee training. Afterall, your brand values are what define your restaurant at its core. The more they are shared and incorporated into training, the more your employees can exemplify them day-to-day.
By incorporating brand values when designing your training, these values become the guiding element for employees. They can serve broadly as a sort of company “Code of Conduct.”
Whenever an employee faces a new situation they haven’t been prepared or trained for, they can fall back on those guiding values. The values will help your employees understand what is considered appropriate behavior and as such help them take appropriate action – whether dealing with coworkers or a customer-facing issue. The mutual understanding of brand values will build the sense of connection and shared responsibility in your employees.
Develop Clear Guidelines
Often, a failure in training is not the result of lazy employees but rather a lack of clarity from the business on what is expected of them.
To start, you should always have a detailed write-up of the exact description and responsibilities for each employee position. It is also a good resource for longer-term employees when revisiting training or when evaluating their work.
The above position description will become part of s, you should create a complete training manual. This will make it much easier and quicker to onboard new employees, decreasing the potential of high turnover.
The training manual can be as detailed as necessary. At a minimum, it should spell out exact systems and processes for things like opening and closing, food handling, using your company POS system, etc.
Don’t forget that your training manual can – and should – be updated as often as needed.
And last but not least, remember to tie those core brand values back into your written training manual as well. Reinforcing these values as often as possible will help your employees grow to symbolize and embody them in their day-to-day work.
Make It an Ongoing Process
Handing a new employee a dense folder of training guidelines and then setting them free in your restaurant is a recipe for disaster. At the same time, subjecting new hires to days of endless, boring training lectures is equally as bad.
The key to good employee training is to approach it as an ongoing process. Overwhelming a new hire with everything they could ever need to know about your restaurant could lead to even quicker turnover. You want new employees to feel comfortable and prepared to get started. That doesn’t mean they need to be experts on every aspect of the restaurant.
At the same time, your long term employees always have room to improve and learn.
By approaching employee training as an ongoing process, you help both new hires and senior employees. Consider a crash course training program for new employees. This could be followed up with weekly or monthly mini-training sessions for all employees to review guidelines, introduce new processes, etc.
This method is also a really great way to encourage employees to embrace change. If you decide to switch to a new restaurant POS, longer term employees might feel overwhelmed. If they haven’t been challenged with ongoing training, they are much more likely to be stuck in their ways and resistant to change.
With frequent training, both covering new topics and reviewing older procedures, your restaurant employees will continue to grow, learn, and improve.
What Good Employee Training Can Bring to Your Restaurant
What are some of the major advantages to designing and implementing a good employee training program? That depends entirely on your unique restaurant, employees, and program. In general, benefits can include everything from better sales to a more loyal customer base.
Here are just a few things you’re likely to see improve at your restaurant after investing in better employee training.
More Customer Loyalty
Your most loyal customers are not revisiting just for your food but for the overall experience your restaurant provides.
Is your restaurant best known for friendly, welcoming staff? Do your customers visit because they appreciate the genuine local vibe and the fact that employees remember them by name? Or, do your customers visit your restaurant often because it is always pristine and clean?
Clearly define your unique offer and translate it in the Employee Training Manual. Whatever experience you are trying to give customers, having clear, detailed employee training can help. With strong training, your restaurant can give customers the same wonderful experience they enjoy, no matter who is working.
This type of consistent experience helps build customer loyalty. People like going back to a place that gives them what they expect. You can further boost this effect by incorporating loyalty tools and programs through a restaurant management system like Dash.
A Stronger Match Between Marketing and Brand Values
Restaurant employee training must also incorporate and account for your online restaurant presence and marketing.
Any employees who might help run social media platforms or write marketing emails need to be trained on proper online etiquette regarding the use of branded hashtags, Facebook check-ins, geo-tagged photos or posts, and response to online reviews.
Make sure your social and physical presence match. With proper employee training, you can tie your brand values into both and boost the overall effect.
To make life easier on yourself and your employees, consider running online marketing and promotional efforts through one central system. With Dash’s built in Marketing and Promotional tools, you can be sure any communication to customers is on-message and matches your company brand values.
Mistakes to Avoid When Training Restaurant Employees
We have talked a lot about the power of good restaurant employee training. It’s important to mention a few mistakes restaurant owners make though when it comes to training.
Not Training Staff At All
Restaurants that take a reactive vs proactive approach to employee training are playing with fire. This is dangerous and can cost your organization a lot more in the long run. Just take a look back at those Chipotle and Starbucks examples.
Don’t wait for a crisis to hit before taking action. Without proper training, you could face anything from a sexual harassment lawsuit to a major food safety failure. Even small training failures can add up – from unaccounted for transactions to missed upselling opportunities.
Not Training New Employees with a History in the Restaurant Industry
Just because a new hire has a long resume of restaurant experience doesn’t mean they don’t have a learning curve starting at your restaurant. Each workplace is unique – from the POS system they use to the customer experience they provide. There are also major differences between the training required in says a fine dining restaurant vs a family diner. Don’t assume their past experience will match up with what you need at your location.
Train every employee as if they are new to the industry. Train them on your restaurant’s unique systems, values, and nuances. This will help not only fill in missing gaps in their restaurant knowledge but also make sure your restaurant continues to provide a signature customer experience, no matter who is working.
Not Connecting Employee Training to Customer Feedback
Last but not least, consider incorporating customer feedback into your employee training program. Our customer feedback tool helps you understand your training success or failures.
Getting the same negative feedback about something in the restaurant? Hold an employee training session and address it before things get worse. On the flip side, if you are getting great feedback about a particular restaurant process or even a single employee, make sure to pass that along as well. With good training you can – avoid major issues, boost employee morale, and improve the bottom line through a unified customer experience.
Training makes it possible for your restaurant to thrive even in an industry with extremely high turnover rates. Your employees, whether they stay with you for a year or 10, will be the face of your restaurant. Giving them the training they need to succeed is a no-brainer.