Syda Productions | Shutterstock

Syda Productions | Shutterstock

By Mark Moeller, The Recipe of Success | The COVID-19 pandemic has forced everyone in our industry to re-examine every aspect of their business. Staff training and development should be at the top of that list.

Staff members are stressed, concerned about their own safety and that of their families, and worried about their livelihood as hours are cut and unemployment is on the rise. Guests are informed by local, state and the federal governments and the media (Every. Single. Day.). They have their eyes wide open looking for compliance more than ever before. Your patrons want to be assured that they are making the right choice in their dining experience.

In these trying times, effective leadership can have a dramatic impact on the success of your operation. And it all starts with training and development.

Effective Leadership & Training
An effective leader fosters extraordinary performance from previously untapped potential. The goal is to uplift and create a sense of purpose for your team and create an environment in which they feel valued, develop self-confidence, and are excited about coming to work each day.

Clear communication is key. Understanding that there are many forms of communication, and different (yet equally effective) ways to handle every situation.

Operating a restaurant in today’s uncertain climate has resulted in this being a pennies business more than ever. Margins have become tighter and, without a focus on minimizing wasteful actions, those pennies can be lost by the minute. A few examples of this include:

  • Early or late clock ins/outs
  • Not following portion control standards
  • Not paying attention to the guest and having to remake menu items
  • Giving away free product
  • Purchasing incorrectly
  • Overusing ingredients

Given the fast pace of our industry, managers have the tendency to deal with these types of problems in a “quick fix” fashion. They look at the quickest way to make a problem go away without thinking about the long-term effects of their actions. They do not make the time to reflect on why the problem exists in the first place. Author Stephen Covey said it best in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

  • Why did the new server give away the free product? Were they being harassed by a difficult customer? Have they been properly coached on how to handle those situations?
  • How is the new sous chef trained to plate the special? Was he/she trained on this at all?
  • Did the new host or hostess clock in late because they were rushed to help waiting guests?

Listening is a virtue. If you want to influence your team, you must first understand them. This isn’t done with some sort of magic technique. The only way to understand your team is to listen with the intent to understand their point of view, their approach to learning and their unique set of skills and abilities.

Listening and communication set the tone for whether or not the team will reduce wasteful actions. The way you train and develop your team sets the example for what is acceptable.

Training
Training is the process of providing team members with the knowledge and skills they need to do their job. Through a formal and comprehensive training program, new team members will understand what their new employer expects. Training will provide a strong foundation on which they can build.

When training new team members, keep in mind that people learn differently. Team members come to you as individuals, with their own unique history and experiences. They have different attitudes, knowledge, skills and varying abilities to learn. As a manager, the first thing to discover is their motivational factor.

Find out what motivates them. What are their long term and short-term goals? What are their objectives? All items that should be determined during the interview process.

Let the team member know that management supports the training program they are about to enter. Plan to spend time with them throughout their training program. Letting a team member wander aimlessly or learn by trial during their training program is an injustice not only to them but also to your guests, your greater team and your business.

Onboarding
Different from training, onboarding gets your new team members acquainted with your brand, your culture and your unique approach to doing business. A team member’s most important day in their career with you is their orientation day.

Remember, the first impression is a lasting one, not just for your customers. You will expect your staff to be prepared when they come to work each day, so you should be prepared for their onboarding. Preparation includes having the new hire paperwork packet, team member handbook and required training manuals printed and available. Orientation is the moment when you express an operations culture, the core values, on all those items that make the company special. For example, anyone can sign an anti-bullying policy as part of their training, but orientation gives you the opportunity to articulate how you approach and prevent that from happening in your workplace. Perhaps the most important component of the orientation is the leader’s undivided attention.

Preparation
Planning a team member’s training experience is simple. Before the team member enters the program, verbally communicate to them who they will be training with. Introduce the team member to their trainer. Not only will it make them feel more comfortable, but it will also project the idea that you are highly organized and approach training with a serious attitude.

A well-developed training program benefits existing team members as much as it does a new team member. Reinforcement of company policies and best practices is organic and feels natural.

Everyone benefits from a successful training program:

  • Team members increase their knowledge base, reducing their frustration level with not knowing how to do something. As their skills improve, so does their self-esteem. In addition, as they become more confident and productive, they have the potential for both financial and career advancement.
  • Guests’ experience is enhanced through team members providing professional, consistent service. Guest satisfaction is dramatically increased.
  • Managers run a more efficient restaurant with teamwork and collaboration that requires less supervision. This allows more time to develop rather than discipline employees.

Establish checkpoints along the way to assess their progress and remember that training and development should continue throughout our careers. Continuous learning benefits us all.

Mark Moeller is the president of The Recipe of Success, a team of seasoned experts from various backgrounds in the restaurant and hospitality industry. Prior to becoming a restaurant consultant, Moeller spent 18 years in corporate and entrepreneurial organizations. His resume covers the fast food, fast-casual and full-service segments of the restaurant industry. Moeller is an operations expert that is a bottom-line oriented operator and turnaround specialist with considerable expertise in all phases of free-standing and multiple-unit operation, as well as corporate and franchise needs including, but not limited to, concept design, cost control, training, procurement, technical requirements, system development, distribution and management. The Recipe of Success brings corporate structure to new and growing Independents.