Restaurant serving staff do more than serve food; they build your brand image. No wonder restaurant server training remains important to a restaurant’s success matrix. “Serving mouth-watering good quality food”is undoubtedly the core objective of any restaurant. But is good food enough to retain customers or have a loyal customer base? Probably not. Latest surveys suggest that 60% of diners give a positive dine-in experience as important as the food, which is why a restaurant staff training is a non-negotiable for a restaurant to succeed.
But how do restaurateurs ensure that their serving staff deliver stellar service every time and leave a lasting impression on guests? Training them right is the only way to ensure they deliver on point every time. With so much going on at a time, it is understandable that you may be utterly confused about what to include and what not to include in your restaurant server training program. This guide has put together the fundamentals you should keep in mind when designing a restaurant staff training. Let’s get going!
Impeccable service – The secret to a successful restaurant business
The hospitality industry is all about providing an impeccable quality of service and experiences that translate into customer delight. However, the service quality depends on the serving staff and their behavior. The modern-age customers are aware, tech-savvy, and spoilt for choices. As a result, they expect quick and efficient service and won’t settle for anything average or ordinary. Today, a restaurant staff duties and responsibilities extend beyond serving great food. A server's job responsibilities include not just serving food but also creating a distinctive brand identity by delivering exemplary service. A survey conducted by Deloitte reveals how experiential elements are gaining so much importance in the hospitality world today.
The good news, though, is a good restaurant server training program can ensure your staff delivers beyond expectations every time.
Restaurant Server Training – The Basics
No standard restaurant server training program can be copy-pasted and implemented in all restaurants. There are restaurants with different service formats operating at different scales. But the below basics and best practices form the basis of any restaurant server training program. You may need to tweak the details depending on your restaurant service style. Let’s dive in!
Design a detailed training program
Just as all ingredients and the way they are used in a recipe can make or break the taste of a dish, a good training program should have all the necessary ingredients and methodology well defined for success. As a first step, devise a detailed training program. But what should this plan include?
- Define the purpose of the training
- Define measurable goals
- Make a detailed plan for all server roles from top to bottom
- Devise an orientation program
- Define the period of on-the-job training and classroom training
Server Handbook or Restaurant Training Manual
An ‘Employee handbook’ is one of the most important training assets for any restaurant. All new employees, irrespective of their designation (server/ kitchen staff /sous chef/helper/cleaner/restaurant manager), should be handed over an employee handbook on the day of their joining. Also, keep one or two copies of the handbook or restaurant training manual on the restaurant premises for a quick reference. The handbook must include the following:
- A brief history of the restaurant.
- Dress code on all days of the week.
- Make-up and hairstyle guidelines.
- Basic grooming guidelines.
- Serving etiquettes: The etiquette guidelines will vary from restaurant to restaurant. A five-star restaurant or a fine-dine and breakfast café will have varied serving etiquette guidelines.
- A server script: Details such as how to address the guests, script on how to respond to the most frequently asked questions.
- Tips to upsell and cross-sell: A guest may order a food combination with which a particular drink on your menu complements well. You could list such food items on the menu in the handbook under a section ‘suggested food and drink combinations.’
- Safety guidelines: Behind-the-scenes restaurant operations are always in a frenzy. Besides, there are several hazards in the day-to-day operations. List out the basic safety protocols your restaurant serving staff should follow.
Orientation program for ‘New Hires’
One can only learn to swim when thrown into the ocean does not necessarily apply to every situation in life. Talking about restaurant staff training, having an orientation program can serve more than one long-term benefit. This is one of the best times to interact one-to-one with all your staff and help them understand their work culture and expectations. It helps build rapport among fellow new joiners and old employees (very important in a restaurant business), and most importantly, it improves employee retention. You could have an orientation program for one day or a few days. You could typically include:
- Explaining the mission and vision statement. Giving them a detailed download of the restaurant's history and legacy.
- The work culture you practice, work ethics, and values you expect them to follow.
- A tour of the restaurant premises.
- Meet and greet sessions with their supervisors, team members, and other restaurant staff.
Define training schedules and modules
Create a standard training schedule that all servers must go through before taking up duties in their respective roles. Clearly lay out a plan which should include:
- Duration of the training.
- Hours/days and course modules of classroom training should include:
Restaurant layout/floor plan.
Location of the stock room and pantry.
Inventory labeling and storage method.
Hygiene rules and regulations.
Role-play for guest handling.
- Hours/days and course module of practical training.
Understanding the POS system and how to operate it.
How to take orders and answer questions when caught off-guard.
Closing steps at the end of the day.
Menu tasting: Now, this is very important for new servers. Why? They will be better positioned to recommend a guest, advise them on any ingredients that may cause allergies, explain each item on the menu to guests in detail, and a lot more.
Shadow training module with an experienced staff.
This is the last and the most crucial step in any restaurant server training program. This defines how well prepared the restaurant staff is to take charge of their duties. Usually, there are two parts to it:
- A written assessment: This will typically cover restaurant policies, names of items on the menu, a list of allergens, test-case scenarios, safety protocols, hygiene protocols, and everything a server needs to know.
- Practical assessment: This would typically be a role-play scenario where the server may attend to and serve the manager, the owner, or a group of his fellow teammates.
Whether you are the owner of a fine dining restaurant, a casual café owner, a breakfast place, or a fast-food chain, you can use these ingredients to create an effective restaurant server training program with tweaks to suit your taste and business needs. Lastly, don’t forget to garnish it with ongoing repeat training and incentives for your employees.