This article is part of our Restaurant Business Startup Guide—a curated list of articles to help you plan, start, and grow your restaurant business!
In this 3-part guide I’ll go over some of the basics of designing your own employee training plan. This is written for restaurants but contains a lot of information that should be useful to any business.
If you have some experience in the restaurant industry, you will be well-acquainted with a number of the training methods covered here. While this guide will discuss a number of training techniques, its main purpose is to assist in the creation of an effective training plan for restaurant employees and to show how to best organize and evaluate tasks in order to maximize the effectiveness of your training program.
If you’re currently running a restaurant training program, you’ve likely already implemented some combination of employee mentoring, written or verbal quizzes, “Tell, Show, Do, Review”-style training, etc. This guide can help you create a training program from scratch, or help show you places where you could augment your existing training plan to make it more effective.
You may not know where to begin. The first thing to remember is that all training plans are works in progress. You are not going to be able to sit down and write a perfect plan— there will be tweaks and revisions along the way, and the most important thing to do is get started and do your best.
Once you’ve thought about what your training plan will look like, take a look around and see if someone hasn’t already done some the work for you—there are a number of free or inexpensive materials already available on the web, such as restaurantowner.com. Of course, it will not do to simply cut and paste a generic training plan, since the specific needs of each restaurant will be different, but they are useful as a time-saver in layout and general training language. If nothing else, pre-made materials can serve as a template for your own plans.
Another thing to keep in mind as you develop your plan is to not lose sight of your goal— to train the employee in a specific skill set in a specific time frame. Too often development of a training plan is put off because it is too time-consuming. We want to wait until we have enough time to “do it right,” and of course, the time never comes. By focusing on the desired outcome rather than the plan itself, you can avoid these common pitfalls.
Set clear goals and write them down
This is so basic as to seem obvious, but you might be surprised how often it is overlooked.
Setting a clear goal for training tasks is such a basic step that many trainers often forget about it. By taking a bit of time up-front to enumerate tasks, you will enhance your training. Having a concrete list of goals makes it easier to track progress, discover sticking points either in employee ability or the plan itself, and gives employees a sense of accomplishment. Ambitious or motivated workers—the kind we like best—want to know not only what’s expected of them now, but in the future.
When designing your plan, break down each role into a set of tasks and design your training around teaching the employee each of those tasks. When clear goals are set (“by the end of the hour/shift/day, you will be able to demonstrate x, y and z”), the employee and the trainer share an expected outcome, and tracking progress becomes much simpler.
A list of training goals for a food server might look like this:
- Complete orientation and be aware of restaurant policies and procedures.
- Welcome and greet guests.
- Inform guests of specials and menu changes.
- Make recommendations and up-sell effectively.
- Answer questions about our food, beverages and other restaurant functions and services.
- Take food and beverage orders from guests.
- Enter orders in the POS system.
- Deliver food and beverages from kitchen and bar to guests in a timely matter.
- Perform side work.
Some of these tasks (such as “Welcome and greet guests”) are very simple and take little time to train— if the employee has any restaurant experience they should be able to perform them already.
Other items, such as effective up-selling or use of a POS system, may take much longer to train. You should merge similar tasks or break down goals as needed, tweaking the list to avoid having a slew of insignificant goals, and avoid nebulous tasks that really encompass many different goals. If the task can’t be explained in a simple sentence or two, it should probably be broken down.
Who needs training, and where?
After you list the skills a particular position must know, identify what areas the employee actually requires training in. For most positions you will ideally be hiring people with at least some experience— if an employee already exhibits proficiency in an area on your training plan, it’s a waste of time and money to train them in that particular task.
Consider an initial skills audit of the employee, where a qualified supervisor observes or interviews the employee’s level of competency in each task— this is something that can be folded into the hiring process.
It’s not just new employees that need training, either. Use periodic performance reviews to determine areas where existing employees could improve. You may have existing employees who want to move up to a new position or would like cross-training to fill in for other shifts or generally be more versatile and useful. The employees who come to you asking for training are the ones who are most likely to be the most successful, productive employees, so you would do well to have a plan in place or the capability to quickly develop one when this happens.
Once you do identify an area where an employee needs training, list it as an objective on their plan, clearly stating the expectations for how the employee is going to learn the skill and how proficient they are expected to be at the completion of the training. This should be in writing so there is no ambiguity about what must be accomplished. Written records will assist in the future should you need to review the training plan or refer to documents in the case that the employee fails to meet expectations.
In part 2 of this blog I’ll discuss the importance of a training schedule and revising your plan as you go.