Effective Re-training Techniques
The day-to-day life of a restaurant operator is something like an endless to-do list. There is never enough time in the day to complete every task, and many important tasks get permanently back-burnered. Many entire days pass with nothing on the to-do list getting addressed, simply because of the challenges that come up in the course of normal business day. This happens without forethought or intention. Quite by accident, it just happens. Jobs that are essential to operating a restaurant get shoved aside all the time, such as cleaning, inventorying, ordering, re-organizing, and hiring. A restaurant operator I know has been intending to hire a Marketing Director for almost five years now. It is difficult to understand all the balls that an operator has to juggle at once without having done it before.
Unquestionably, the challenge that gets most frequently shoved aside at every restaurant I’ve ever seen is the task of re-training employees. However, it is a fact of business that employees who aren’t improving are most likely regressing. The dynamic climate of the restaurant business today demands that an operator must always be improving his business. The most effective way to do this is to improve the guest experience. An operator can address every facet of running his business. But without a similar improvement where the rubber meets the road, it can have little or no impact on the bottom line.
So, how does one re-train employees when there’s no time to do it? First, it’s important to remember that re-training does not necessarily imply a punishment or a recovery measure for delinquent employees. Re-training involves education and technique improvement. It can be as simple as bringing every line cook in a half hour early to watch the chef chop a mirepoix. It can be a half-hour session on California merlots for servers before service begins. When done right, re-training can be a fun, bonding experience for employees. It can displace the emphasis from the routine we all settle into in this business to fun new ways to open dialogue that helps everyone.
A tiny effort toward re-training your staff tells you who among them are working to improve and who are complacent with their position. This can be learned through voluntary training sessions, menu quizzes, and structured mentor programs. The context of these efforts should be to ensure that your staff is an expert on the menu, the kitchen and the mission of the business. Knowledge leads to expertise and that leads to enthusiasm. Servers who demonstrate expertise and enthusiasm drive the guest experience in the right direction. Line cooks and kitchen staff who are experts in prepping and cooking every menu item can take your restaurant to the next level. But re-training in quick, informal and regular (or semi-regular) sessions can also tell you who is working to meet your expectations.
The volume of work that goes with this business creates the tendency to rely on employees as soon as they demonstrate reliability. However, reliability and competence are fluid characteristics. An employee who is reliable one month will not necessarily be so in the next. Re-introducing your staff to the basics of your business will keep them aware of updates and changes to your menu, bar and kitchen, while giving you a measuring stick to determine who wants to excel and who is just doing enough to get by.