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    EOL Coverage of Chefs Championships at IHMRS

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    Preparing Lobster for Competition

Training Outside the Box!

Restaurant owners wouldn’t be owners if they didn’t know everything about every position in the business. While that is certainly true, owners/managers are not always able to make sure that training is being handled in the way that is the most productive and profitable. In fact, I don’t know of an owner or a manager who can spend more than 10 minutes per day with an individual and expect to accomplish an effective change in attitude and check average. I have been told by more than one restaurant owner that a problem with offering training for wait staff, hosts and buspeople is that owners don't want to believe that their staff may need more training beyond what they have received in standard, in-house training.

Managers hold weekly or monthly staff meetings in which they remind staff to really push those sides and appetizers. Try to get check averages above the usual $9 per person, do your side work, pick up trash if you see it laying on the floor, be a team player, don’t run with scissors, etc. They have heard it before; they’re not going to listen this time either, because they know all of that.

Growing up on a farm in the Midwest, when my father told me to go rake the hay across the road, he didn’t just tell me to take a particular tractor and go to it. He went with me to the field, went a couple of rounds with me to show me the best way to get the job done, stayed with me while I did a round and then left me to it, all the while telling me why and how this and that turn was effective. All of that probably took an hour to do. But he felt sure that I was doing the job the way it should be done and he could go about doing other fieldwork, etc. Now, I knew how to start the tractor and pull the rake across the road and into the field, but had he left me to my own methods, he would surely have lost some valuable hay. I was made aware of how I would affect my own standard of living by how well I did my job in that hay field. There was a very definite chain of events that would occur if my father hadn’t taken the time to make me aware of all I could do to make sure that hay was properly raked.

Likewise, the kind of attention to detail you give your servers can be the difference between a $12 per person check average and a $13 per person check average, and even more when they really get into it. The point is your staff knows how to take orders and serve your guests. You wouldn’t have hired them if they didn’t. However, if your staff is made aware of how they can affect their own bank accounts by changing the way they view their careers and how they can guide guests through the dining experience, they will want to get in the habit of up-selling. If they are successful, you, of course, are going to benefit from their success, as well.

Most restaurants put a manager or trainer/server in charge of training. They feel confident that it is being handled properly. No one would dispute that fact. Maybe you have books, manuals or videotapes that you encourage your staff to read or watch. That’s all fine and good, but is anyone interacting with them? Is anyone spending quality time with them and letting them practice the routines until they feel comfortable? Sure, they are learning exactly what they are being taught, and that is the menu items, where the coffee is made, where to get bread, etc. They aren’t being taught up-selling and increasing the check average. I guarantee that as soon as they are left to their own devices, they are just getting by.

People come into your restaurant to eat, not to browse and look through your menu and see if you have the entrée they want to purchase. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that waiting tables is the easiest job in the world because of that reason. It’s not like buying a car. People come in because they are hungry and they need to eat. There is no choice in our survival; we must eat. They may or may not need a car. The fun part is guiding their experience and making it enjoyable so they feel like they get more than their money’s worth! They feel compelled to tip their server because he/she has displayed knowledge, charm and true customer service skills, which is really a caring attitude.

Hiring an outside trainer doesn’t mean you are incapable or don’t know enough about your own business to run it; it simply proves a fact that you do not have enough hours in the day or week to accomplish everything you would like to. Practice makes permanent, not perfect. Let’s face it, no one is perfect and, try as you might, you are not going to have a perfect team. But you can come close! You will not lose control of what your staff does; you have the right to tell an outside trainer the goals you are trying to reach with your staff. Two or three hours in a fun, interactive class on a day off really isn’t too much to contribute to the improvement of a career. Make an outside trainer work for you; one certainly wouldn’t want to work against you.

Keep in mind that most people won’t tell you that they like your food but would rather not have to deal with your staff. It’s usually little things that wait staff don’t perceive as significant, or they think that your guests don’t care one way or another how they are s