You Get the Staff You Deserve
Restaurant Employee Training is an investment
The quality of your training directly correlates to your team’s potential success, which affects the quality of your food and the end customer dining experiences. Great businesses have great training. Whole Foods, The Four Seasons etc. and Disney, there’s no debating it, it’s an absolute fact. When a business shortchanges training, they choose not to invest in employees. No investment equals no return on investment.
Here are the fundamentals and next-level steps for a solid training program.
At a minimum, training should be five days carved out into orientation, culture, process and then each menu item with repetition or diving into service standards for guest facing employees. All this should be performed multiple times until they grasp it, not simply fight or flight. The result is often flight when training is designed as fight or flight. They quit or are quickly fired for performance issues they had no grasp of to begin with. In that scenario you’re left with what you might believe to be an elite crew who don’t need a lot of handholding, the ones who made the cut; when in reality, you have people just scratching the surface of their potential. Potentially great employees are limited, and the rest are unfocused automatons running out the clock.
Your goal is not to cull the herd. Your goal is to develop great behaviors. Big chains take the people that unstructured independent restaurants say are untrainable and develop them into managers. Why is that? The chains pull this off because they’re very clear with their expectations of the staff and train them as such. The X-factor is those chains are typically soulless and heartless. You can have soul and heart all day, but you need metrics and institutionalized boundaries.
Here are the three core fundamentals of all training:
- Classroom. Classroom training means anything they study. It could be written words on paper or PDFs or looking at a menu, videos or any training that can be taught sitting down. They must understand the product and what they’re supposed to do. But if this is all you give, it’ll be like teaching karate from a book—some things you need physically do to understand them. Making pizzas suitably is one of them. Working a POS and knowing how to engage a guest also takes in-person training. Computer screen recordings and simple, quick rough how-to videos are surprisingly effective training tools compared to classic training manuals. Have recipes and processes locked in, record them and test them. Nothing is easier or more effective than learning from videos with a test question.
- One-to-One Training. One-to-one training means that a trainer trains with the trainee and physically shows each aspect of the classroom training in detail. Additionally, the trainer verifies that this person knows how to do it. They go in-depth on each item to verify that this new trainee feels comfortable and is going along the path. The trainer needs their own training to learn how to be a good trainer. That’s called train the trainer. In this course the trainer learns that repeating things is ok and support rather than derision is the way to get new people on board.
- On-Site Training. On-site means on the job, that they are learning by doing the repetitions over and over and over again. Most restaurants, especially new ones, have on-site or on-the-job training and nothing else, which is not enough. If you throw a menu at someone and say, “Learn this. Now, go do it,” you have denied them one-to-one training. All three work together for someone to have a strong chance of performing well in their job and have satisfaction in their performance. That satisfaction and pride increase the likelihood they’ll be there on day 90, as well as day 365.
All of these styles of training require tests. You can test if someone knows the toppings on your supreme pizza by filling out a test, or you can have them make it for real. Both of these should occur. When you verify an employee has made it multiple times correctly, the probability of future failure is almost zero for that specific item. Yes, it’s tedious to do this for every item and task, but it’s also intelligent and saves money in the long run. That’s why it is an investment.
Testing is for the benefit of the employee to ensure their success. It is not to weed them out. When you were in high school, and you had a tough test where the teacher barely gave you any information, and you had to study all night in the hopes that you might get the question you hopefully studied for, you were in the midst of a testing game. This practice is not how you would prepare someone for the knowledge you absolutely needed them to know. That path is “gotcha testing.” Avoid this testing style; instead, seek education verification with a path to re-education for any slip-ups.
Otherwise, you are setting your staff up for failure, which is a problem because each employee costs about $3,500 to get fully acclimated and able to hold their own in your store. When they quit, all the investment is tossed out. If you get them up to that point and now they just don’t like the job, you’ve lost. If they work there a month and a half and are entirely up to snuff with what you want, but because you treat them poorly or they don’t like their job, they leave, you’ve lost. So, this investment only has a return if the trainee feels safe, secure and empowered while working for you.
How To Empower in Training
In all training, do it in front of them once, maybe twice. Then have them do it. If they do it correctly, you’re done. If they don’t, explain again what they did wrong, reinforce the things they did well, and keep doing corrective measures until they perform it perfectly uninterrupted. Otherwise, they are not trained. I repeat THEY ARE NOT TRAINED IF YOU DON’T SEE THEM DO IT RIGHT. If the training becomes, “You do it this way, this way, this way, you got it?” As you stare blindly at the employee, who then nods out of fear because they don’t want to appear dumb, then they won’t know, you’ll be frustrated, and it will be your fault.
When your staff feels pride that they know what they’re doing, it creates stability for creating a better product, which creates less anxiety, more pride and a higher likelihood of retention. With all that said, the number one reason why good people leave jobs is because of bad management. You are responsible for their success. Your subordinates are responsible for their success. When people know the standards, they generally want to reach them, so let them. Explain what success is, show what failure means, and have them hit goals, so they are on your team and not just a cog in the system.
Mike Bausch is the owner of Andolini’s Pizzeria in Tulsa, Oklahoma.