One of my first jobs, albeit an extremely short-lived one, was as a waitress. First day on the job I remember being told that I would take customer orders, serve clients and never sit down. That was it for my training. There was neither talk about the various items on the menu, the brand standards nor what drives the business. After half a day, I decided the job wasn’t for me and I quit. Unfortunately, this is the experience of the most staff at restaurants. There is no proper induction or training program, new hires are simply given basic instructions and are expected to just get on with it. This usually leads to low employee engagement and may result in high staff turnover. To make your restaurant give great customer service and build employee loyalty from the get-go, follow these suggestions.
Share your brand story
All businesses have a story about how they came into being. It is essential that you share this story with your employees from day one. This will help them understand the reason why you are in business in the first place. If you don’t have time to spend with each employee, you can record it in a video or in an employee manual. Each staff member should watch the video or read the employee manual before they start their job. In fact every business should have an employee manual that gives guidelines on what you as an employer expect from them as well as what they can expect from you. It should also include policies as well as disciplinary procedures and be signed by each employee, to confirm they have read and understood it.
Some companies choose to have a brand culture book separate from the policy and disciplinary procedures manual. The brand culture book usually outlines the story behind the brand, values and how each staff role contributes towards the success of the business. As a restaurant you could include directions on how each staff function is expected to carry out their daily duties. Guidelines for how to place crockery, grooming, how to speak to customers or how to handle dissatisfied customers may be a part of the book.
Train for your culture
Every workplace has a unique culture and way of doing things. Even if you hire experienced staff, chances are they may be used to acting in a certain way or speaking to customers and colleagues in a way that is contrary to your brand. You have to invest time in training for how you want everything done in your restaurant, as well as on the culture you are trying to build or maintain. Instead of just telling them to do something, show them how to do it. Most importantly, make sure they understand why doing it that particular way is important.
Remember though, to be patient with new staff, it may take a while for them to unlearn old behaviors and do things as well as you would like.
Build a culture where making mistakes is not frowned upon, as this will promote creativity and a relaxed atmosphere. Also when your staff makes mistakes, they will own up to them and not try to hide the error until a point where it escalates into a potential disaster for your business.
Build brand ambassadors
Once you’ve given your staff the story behind your restaurant as well as your goals and values, you should train them to be the best representatives of your brand. Your goal is to provide stellar customer experiences that inspire rave reviews. Teach them how to introduce themselves and welcome customers to the restaurant. You may choose to have a script that everyone should use, to maintain consistency. Help them to understand the expectations that customers have and how to live up to or exceed those expectations. By doing so, you will impress on them the fact that everything they say or do reflects your restaurant’s brand.
Have an experienced employee serve as a guide for the newer staff member. They should be available to provide support and answer any questions that the trainee may have.
Acknowledge their success
As your trainees reach milestones you have set for them, celebrate their achievements. This will encourage them to keep on trying to achieve more and master their job. It will also help them to feel they are part of the team and that their contributions are appreciated.
Training new restaurant staff takes a while, but the value derived from the time invested is immeasurable. The more staff see that you are putting in the effort to share your business ambitions with them and how they can personally contribute towards your goals, the more they will feel valued. This may go a long way into helping your restaurant attract and retain highly trained and motivated staff, which in turn will contribute towards improved customer service.