Your waitstaff is just as critical to the dining experience as the food you serve. A server who fumbles an order or forgets to refill the water glass could take the luster off what otherwise would be a five-star meal.
That’s why server training is so important to a restaurant’s success. Not sure about where to begin? These five tips will help get you started in establishing a world-class restaurant server training program.
It All Begins With Hiring
Maybe you wouldn’t have guessed it but great training begins with hiring. Server training only gets easier when you start with the best people. Don’t overlook red flags in the interview stage and then expect these issues to magically resolve themselves once the person is hired.
Instead, identify candidates who arrive on time, neat and presentable, with a friendly demeanor, warm smile, a willingness to learn and ability to take directions and adapt to your restaurant’s fast pace.
Server training can be overwhelming for trainer and trainee alike. In order for the process to go smoothly, make a list of what needs to be included during server training — and revise and reorganize that list until it thoroughly covers everything your new server needs to know. Among the biggest topics:
- The menu: A no-brainer, of course, but knowledge of your restaurant’s menu and specials are essential.
- Tables: Procedures for how tables should be set and presented needs to be second nature.
- Tour the floorplan: Familiarize new employees with the seating plan and flow of traffic so they can navigate efficiently.
- Opening and closing: Clearly define duties for beginning and end of day.
- Timekeeping: Make sure they understand how to clock in and out of a shift, which can help avoid problems with payroll.
- Order management: Walk new staff through how to take orders and tally them in your POS system.
- Greeting customers: Make sure trainees learn how your staff greets patrons and portrays your brand appropriately.
- Cleaning: Show them where supplies are located and who’s responsible for various tasks.
By no means is the list above comprehensive. Getting your list in shape can take some time but the preparation is worth it. Instead of constantly following with “oh, and don’t forget to …” working off a thorough list will make your server training a success.
Allowing newbies to shadow established waitstaff is among the most important steps in server training. This allows your new hire to really learn the ropes and gradually ease into the role. With veterans by their side, new servers gain confidence in their abilities and learn how to manage challenges that crop up. What’s more, to preserve consistency among your waitstaff, encourage newbies during server training to observe mannerisms, how to answer customer questions (“I’ll find out” is a better answer than “I don’t know), upselling strategies and more.
There’s a Place for Role Play
Server training should incorporate role playing. Have the trainer play the diner and have the trainee assume the role of waiter. Walk through a number of scenarios, from ordering to refills to handling the check and beyond, and right any wrongs along the way. Role playing will help you eliminate the trainee’s bad habits (such as constantly saying “ummmm”) and hone in on areas for improvement (such as clearing plates too early).
Turn the Tables and Shadow the New Hire
When it’s time to cut their teeth, unleash your new hires — but follow right along to see how they’re doing. File away any little issues you note to address them later. Of course, if anything goes egregiously wrong, step in right away — you can’t risk derailing the customer experience. Shadowing helps the new hires, too; they know they’re not alone for their first several tables.
Once you’ve seen that your new hire knows the ropes and can manage without constant supervision, your server training is complete! It’s time for trainers to get back to “business as usual” and — for the trainee to feel like a full-fledged member of your waitstaff.
Invest time in comprehensive server training to create productive, efficient waitstaff who can deliver a top-notch experience that keeps customers coming back for more.