Jun 21, 2022
Soft Skills: An Inherent part of Restaurant Staff Training

Imagine walking into a restaurant and not being greeted politely or welcomed by the staff. Such behavior and ignorance may make you feel that customer service is not a priority, and you may never return to the place no matter how delicious the food may be. No surprise is why soft skills are an indispensable part of any restaurant staff training program. 

 A restaurant business involves two aspects product and service. Making a good first impression is extremely important in any service-based industry, and a restaurant is no different. The role of quality human interactions is extremely important to the success of a restaurant. The importance of understanding guest personalities and their preferences can not be undermined.

Soft skills and the emotional intelligence to apply those skills are becoming highly relevant for success and staying ahead of the curve in the restaurant business. From a staff perspective acquiring and honing their communication and soft skills is a necessity and not a choice in the hospitality business. Soft skills make an employee stand out as an excellent one among many good employees.

“Soft skills get little respect, but they will make or break your career” 

– Peggy Klaus, author

Effective Communication Skill in Restaurants

Soft skills are all about the skill to motivate a team to network and manage client relationships, interpersonal aptitudes, and the ability to work and interact with others. A labor-intensive industry such as hospitality involves significant customer contact. An individual acquires soft skills through life experiences and not necessarily on the job. However, soft skills play an instrumental role in making a person better at work and seamlessly transition into various roles and responsibilities. So, server training on communication skills will be very beneficial. They help in creating positive first impressions that can get you, customers, for a lifetime.

Making ‘first impressions’ that matter

Any customer walking into a restaurant will judge the place based on its appearance and vibe. They will also judge the staff based on their appearance, posture, courtesy, and grooming. These elements together create an image of the business and its attitude towards its guests. These first impressions make a perception in the guests' minds and determine the mood of the entire dining experience that is to follow. A negative perception formed at this stage is hard to change.

Employ the following tricks of the trade and make a lasting first impression:

  • Maintain a tidy, sanitized, and well-decorated space.
  • Make sure the staff that first see the guests greets them as soon as they come, even if seating those guests is not their responsibility.
  • Staff should maintain eye contact when interacting with the guests.
  • All staff must smile and be cheerful during all their interactions with guests.
  • Uniforms must be spotless, hair put together, and an overall pleasing appearance when working in public areas.
  • Maintain an erect posture, with no slouching or casual body language.

Capabilities that qualify as soft skills cannot be taught in a formal academic setting. Most people don’t even highlight these as a quality or skill on their CVs. However, given the current climate and customer expectations, they must be highlighted as one of the skills when putting together your professional experience. 

Today some experts and trainers deliver classes on soft skills. If your restaurant server training program does not already have a module on soft skills training, it is time you consider making it a part of your training program.

What soft skills should restaurant employees possess?

Individuals can be trained on aspects like greeting guests, dressing well, and maintaining a good body posture. But certain traits or soft skills come naturally to a person. When recruiting staff for your restaurant, look for staff with the following characteristics. You can, of course, fine-tune them by giving them appropriate training.

  • Positive attitude

A positive attitude is a natural trait and good to have, especially for staff working in customer-facing roles at a restaurant. Customer service is an inseparable component of the restaurant business, and having a positive attitude helps sail through the day. 

Use case: There are a lot of fun aspects like making recommendations on food combinations, wines, cocktails, knowing guests better, organizing fun events, etc. However, there is a not-so-glamorous side, too, like making arrangements for supplies for an event and the inability to have all items on the menu in a few days, which may result in an unhappy customer. Dealing with an unhappy and irritated customer requires patience and a positive attitude.

  • Empathy and approachable personality

Personality is something that cannot be made; it comes to a person naturally over the years based on their surroundings and life experiences. As iterated earlier, service in restaurants is all about human interactions. People who are empathetic and approachable help and can go a long way in ensuring guests feel welcomed and comfortable in your restaurant.

Use case: Having a staff that makes guests feel at ease, listens to them with patience, empathizes with them, and is friendly and approachable help. It can avoid many ugly situations that may arise otherwise. An approachable staff helps guests feel secure and taken care of. They feel comfortable letting your staff know what they need to help them have the best experience. They might drop a napkin or a piece of cutlery, may need some hot sauce or may have some special customization requests. Interacting with a staff that empathizes with them and is approachable does not make guests feel embarrassed about placing such requests.

  • Ability to perform in a high-pressure environment

There is never a dull moment in the restaurant business. No days or two shifts are the same. The kitchen and the service space are always buzzing with activity. All of this sounds exciting and fun, right! But there is a flip side to it too. When we say not all days are the same, it means there can be a lot of pressure on certain days. Having someone who can remain calm and composed and easily interact with customers on such days helps.

  • Attention to detail

When the tiniest details are taken care of, it shows in the reviews and ratings though it may not get immediate appreciation. However, if missed, the minutest of details can blow up into a big showdown and bad ratings. Having attentive employees who take care of the smallest details like napkins folded properly, silverware placed correctly, glasses re-filled when half-empty, fresh flowers placed on tables, candles lit, etc., can make or break the guest dining experience. The good news is that these things can be taught as a part of the staff training program, but attention to detail usually is an in-built personality trait.

  • Effective communication

This is probably one of the most important traits to have and deserves a separate detailed article. Good communication (effective talking and listening) is a must-have trait to work in the hospitality sector.

Closing thoughts

Your staff plays an instrumental role in setting up a comfortable and welcoming environment in a restaurant. Though many soft skills we discussed here can be a part of your staff training program, cherry-picking people with traits like positive attitude, empathy, and the ability to perform under pressure can help.

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