By Doug Radkey
Throughout the restaurant industry, the phrase ‘it’s not my job’ can simply not exist. It is every employees job to provide memorable customer service; from management to the back-of-house employees, and of course through to the front-of-house team.
All employees must work as one cohesive unit to ensure an unforgettable guest experience. To execute this, a restaurant needs adequate service training programs. A winning program will reduce turnover (by over 10 per cent) and provide attentive service without ever being “noticed”.
As with much of a restaurants general operation, everything should coincide with an overall strategy plan. A training program also needs to follow the SMART acronym to be successful where every training element is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.
This will create two key ingredients; consistency and confidence.
A profitable service training program should also provide common elements such as the use of checklists, incentives, and easy to understand procedures. This will then in-turn, create a system of standards; one that reflects your vision, value, mission and culture statements. Here’s how:
On-boarding. This first step provides an opportunity to first introduce new hires to the expectations and culture through the use of a well-designed welcoming package. This is the best time to engage these new employees on their roles to create a smooth transition that will define productivity, promote compliance, and create the footprint for a memorable working experience.
Sequence of service. For each position, outline each and every step (in detail) using the SMART acronym. For example; “all guests must be properly welcomed within 30 seconds of entering the restaurant” or “drink orders at a table must be delivered within three minutes”. Walk each position through a step-by-step sequence of events that will lead the guest from entering the establishment to paying and exiting the establishment.
Instructing. This step is where all of the ‘How-To’ manuals will come in handy. Outside of the basics which include service etiquette, appearance, knowledge of menu, and knowledge of layout; staff should be instructed on opening and closing procedures, preventative maintenance, fire safety, food safety, cleaning schedules, and overall equipment training. This should be completed using a mix of videos and reading material.
Demonstrating. It’s important that the entire team is then properly coached. The next component of instructing, is demonstrating through hands-on instruction (coaching). Restaurant owners, managers, and shift supervisors should look to be trained themselves first and foremost, on how to properly coach a team to become stronger leaders. New hires will buy into the service training system if they’re also shown first hand, in confidence, each element of the ‘sequence of service’ and ‘instructional’ stage.
Role-playing. Now that the team has been shown all of the steps, it’s their turn to demonstrate that they themselves understood the instructions. Before sending new hires to actual guests, they should walk-through the sequence of service for their position, multiple times, with managers and other staff, acting as guests. This will provide a variety of scenarios and prepare them mentally for real guest situations, creating confidence in their position and a more positive guest experience.
Shadowing. This step should be completed in two elements. There should be an approach where the new hire shadows an experienced individual for one-to-two shifts followed by the experienced individual shadowing the new hire, for another one-to-two shifts. This process will ensure all standard operating procedures are being followed while allowing the opportunity to address any final questions or concerns.
Reviews. Now that the new hire has shown that they’re comfortable in their position and understand the standards, they should be confident enough to cook food, make drinks, welcome guests, and/or serve guests. They should then be reviewed after one month, three months, and then quarterly from there on out. As you can see, staff training is a process. The restaurant should also plan daily shift meetings, weekly team meetings, and quarterly all-staff meetings (at a minimum) to review standards, menu changes, and overall business objectives.
Secret diners. For a minimal investment, a true secret diner program can become a profitable training and development platform for owners, operators, and managers. A secret diner also provides a different perspective: one that speaks from the eyes of a customer and not from the eyes of an owner, manager, employee, friend, or family member. After a secret diner visit (which is suggested to be once every month or at least every three months), a secret diner should leave a comprehensive report of the visit with a list of positives, negatives (what needs to improve), and a score for a variety of categories. This score (which should be shared with staff) can be used as a measurable tool while also implementing a high level of accountability; with an incentive goal to improve the score after each future visit.
Restaurateurs need to invest in educating their team while creating a systematic approach to service, which will create the consistency needed to win in this industry. A winning program will bring an entire team together, creating a positive working environment where staff members would not even think of saying ‘it’s not my job’.
About the author:
Doug Radkey is the principal owner of Key Restaurant Group, a global restaurant/bar start-up development agency based in Ontario, Canada. Being in the food and beverage industry for over 17 years has allowed him to become a leading voice in the development of feasibility studies, unique concepts, business plans, marketing plans, memorable menus, guest experiences, and financial management systems. Continue the conversation with Doug on Twitter @KeyRestaurants, on Facebook @DougRadkey, on Linkedin, or by visiting keyrestaurantgroup.com.