The lives of people working in the food-service industry has been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride in the last few years. Pandemic induced overnight lockdowns threw restaurants out of business leading to fast-food chains and food-delivery services being suddenly over burdened. However, an effective training program seemed to be the perfect solution to overcome these challenges and sail through.
Changing Industry Trends
Restaurant owners are in a tight spot today. The labour market is short of quality talent, and the gig economy is on the rise. Casual restaurant work is not one of the most preferred side-gig options for young workers to make some extra cash anymore. Today’s youth have a plethora of part-time work options which makes a server’s job at a local café a not so attractive choice anymore.
As per reports, the restaurant industry has 70% more job openings as compared to 2019. There has been a decline of nearly 10% in labour supply for the industry. The pandemic only added to the woes of an industry already crushed under labour shortages. With people stuck indoors, limited food supply, boredom, and an increased burden of household chores, fast-food chains saw an unexpected and unprecedented surge in demand, resulting in long working hours. On the contrary full-service restaurants struggled to stay afloat.
However, as things return to normal, full-service restaurants and fast-food chains alike are under immense pressure to introduce a restaurant training program and rebuild staff to meet new demands and expectations.
Finding a Solution
It is estimated that 75% millennials will comprise the global workforce in 2025. The US workforce alone comprises 56 million millennials followed by Gen-X at 53 million. A restaurateur needs to carefully include components in a training program to appeal to this huge segment of potential workers. ‘Career development’ is very important for millennials, to attract and retain this huge active working population restaurant owners need to provide consistent and skill-based training. This is a way to assure employees of an employer's commitment towards their growth as individuals and professionals. Understanding how millennials and Gen-X learn is the key to designing an effective restaurant training program. Technology and relationships at the workplace are the two key components that impact how this breed of workers comprehend the training offered.
- Technology: Millennials and Gen-X are officially the first generation raised on the internet. They relate to learning styles backed by technology. Paper-based training modules are interesting enough. Online training modules are what excites them the most. Using technology is the way forward though to engage with millennials and Gen-X and help them get a better understanding of the nuances of a restaurant.
- Relationships at workplace: Both millennials and Gen-X are more vocal about a poor workplace culture than the previous generations. Developing an open work culture and mutually respectful relationships with superiors is important to them. This generation will respond to new skills being taught only when the relationship dynamics at the workplace are assertive and not authoritative.
Components of a Training Program for the New-Gen workers
- Video Training for the win
Google and YouTube are like encyclopedias for millennials and Gen-X alike. Even when it comes to doing research or finding a solution, surfing Google or YouTube is a must. They find instructional videos on YouTube as an easy way to pick up new skills, and gain knowledge at their own pace. Incorporating video training modules into a restaurant training program is a sure-shot way to engage this pool of employees.
- Delivery of modules on mobile devices
A survey suggests 25% millennials, on average, browse their smartphones more than 100 times a day. Rather than going the old-school way of restricting employees to use mobile during work hours, it’s time restaurateurs use this to their advantage. Introducing mobile and tablet based training programs and a point-based reward system on completion of training modules is like a win-win for both employers and employees. The benefits are far too many. Tablets/mobile devices are the new POS technology in the restaurant industry. Smartphone or tablet compatible online training modules enable staff to navigate through solutions rather than disturb the duty manager. It empowers them to learn on the go, and at their convenience.
We live in a digital world. Gamification is the new buzzword. Gaming consoles such as the Xbox and PlayStation are now our new toys. The popularity of shows like Squid Game, Minecraft, and the like is testimony to the popularity of gamification. It’s time employers embraced this trend and used it to their advantage to deliver engaging training.
Gamification is all about incorporating gaming elements into a restaurant training program to channel people’s natural instinct to compete and socialize. It is an effective way to engage employees in healthy competition and reward them for successfully completing tasks. It also makes the mundane interesting. Gamification techniques help an employer keep employees hooked on a training program. Try gamifying parts of restaurant training programs such as customer service, server training, or operating the POS system to make it an enjoyable experience. Enhanced performance is the added bonus, of course.
Relationship based components
- Buddy program
As iterated earlier, the new generation of employees values relationship dynamics at work. They yearn to be treated as equals and with respect. They are much more comfortable learning from their peers as they feel connected to them easily as their peers will most likely face similar challenges as them. Having a ‘buddy program’ or a peer mentor for a new joinee to learn on the job is one of the most important components of a training program. Such a system ensures timely feedback, and validation something which the current generation of working population craves for. A supervisor with a team of 5-10 people will be pressed for time to provide such consistent feedback. It also makes employees more comfortable opening up about the challenges they face.
Employers get valuable insights on areas that require more training efforts and also open up new channels of training. Now that’s some food for thought!
- Team Building
Human beings are social animals. They crave deep meaningful friendships not just in their personal lives but at their workplace too. Making team building activities a central part of any training program is a sure shot recipe to make it effective. Incorporating games during an induction program, opportunities to socialize, like team lunches/dinner, sports tournaments, competitions on festivals, secret Santa celebrations on Christmas are all great ways to get the flavour of team building in a restaurant training program. Team building also helps employees to get familiar with various jobs in a restaurant other than their own. It’s a good idea for an employee to shadow train in different areas of a restaurant before they resume their role full-time.
Restaurants are a tricky business. One needs to ace both the product and service to survive and be successful in this space. By implementing a training program with these components, restaurant owners can attract workers and make a career in restaurants fun and rewarding for them. Employees will be more than willing to stay with you when they see avenues for acquiring new skills and holistic career development.