Restaurant Training 101

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QUESTION From Peter in West Oaks

"What are your "best practices" for training new FOH and BOH staff? I haven't been as happy as I want to be with the performance of the people I have in place and think my training program could use a little work. Although most training is on-the-fly learning and shadowing, I want to put more effort and focus into a better handbook and maybe even add training videos to the mix. What do you recommend?"



A lot of places spend the 1st day filling out paperwork (I 9s, who to contact in the event of an emergency, confirmation of availability, etc..) the 2nd day reviewing the handbook and then the 3rd day getting a uniform and shadowing their "trainer".

Let me first say that no aspect of training should be "on-the-fly" and that FOH and BOH shadowing should commence only after the new hire has toured the entire facility and completed an extensive review of the Handbook (which should include everything from mission and operating hours / contact information to policies and procedures from swapping shifts to corrective action planning.

As far as training videos go - I think more people focus on the bad acting and not enough on Steps of Service or Set-Up, Service & Break Down (depending on the audience). I think a lot of people also "tune out" when you turn on a video and walk-out of the room. Not that that's what you'd do but a lot of people do that.

After the Handbook has been reviewed EVERY employee should sign off that they received it (and are responsible to adhere to all standards, policies and procedures) and then be tested on the information to make sure it was clearly disseminated and accurately retained.

Following the Handbook review and testing, each employee should then be given (a regularly updated) Menu Guide that details the names of every dish and lists all or most of every ingredient (FOH employees should also receive a Beverage Guide).

A test on the Menu Guide should follow their review. I would recommend breaking up the test into multiple daily quizzes so you don't overwhelm the new addition to your team. A lot of clients ask "How many days should I allot for this?" and the answer is always the same "As long as it takes.".

Your specific concept, the size of your menu and the number of tries it takes your new hire to get every question right (100% is a passing grade) are just some of the variables to consider when planning your training regimine. Ultimately, you should have an idea but be sure to let the new employee understand that a large part of it is dependant upon them.

Once the Food (and Beverage) Guides have been studied and tests passed, the new FOH employee should then taste most, if not all, of the menu and the BOH employee should as well.

After achieving perfect scores on their F&B Guides / Menu tests the BOH trainee should then prep AND cook every item while following thorough prominently displayed: prep sheets (with visual cut sizes), recipe cards plating photos and waste logs at the respective stations) while the FOH trainee sees every dish (preferably in expo) that they are responsible for selling and then sell it back to the MOD after seeing it and/or tasting it.

Tastings can easily be done (by both FOH AND BOH trainees) concurrently with review and testings of a "Steps of Service & Sidework Guide"  for FOH and a "Set-Up, Service, Break Down & Clean Guide" for BOH. After, and ONLY after, completing their respective "shift operations tests", each prospective employee should be ready for shadowing...just be sure to have at least 2 of each daypart (Opens, Closes and Mids) so that the trainee can see how different partners: do set-up / opening sidework, do closing sidework, handle a rush, transfer a section, etc...

Taking 2 weeks might seem like a lot of time - especially for someone who is short handed and needs to staff a restaurant yesterday... but not investing at least that much time tells the new employee from Day 1 - that your restaurant, their job and they themselves aren't that important and worth investing time and resources into.

There's no specific way to manage a training program but I would say it's one of the most important things you'll ever spend time on as an operator. Your restaurant is only as good as your weakest invest as much time, energy and resources into every position as possible and then ask for (and be open to) their feedback on how to make your training program better. You might be surprised at how much your staff will invest themselves in making your restaurant better if you start by setting the example first.

Remember: While few guests expect impeccable service - EVERY guest appreciates it. The question for every operator - whether new or seasoned - whether fully staffed or barely holding it together is this: "How can you make your teams better today than they ware yesterday?".

Good Luck! And let us know what you try and what works best for you,

Josh Sapienza