Training With Intention

Early on a sunny Sunday morning, the air is thick with humidity and the servers are reeling from consecutive busy services. As families flood out of a nearby church and line up at the front door for high chairs and hash browns, it becomes clear that the grill cook isn’t showing up and the computers are down (again). 

As the manager on duty prioritizes each crisis and puts out literal fires in the kitchen while trying to get the POS company on the phone, a chipper newcomer clad in all black strolls in through the back alley to drop a bomb:

“I think I’m training with you today?”

If you know, you know. Sans preparation and coordination, many new hires (and managers) endure training experiences in the restaurant industry more akin to improvised circus acts than curated brand experiences. 

Hospitality Specialist Filip Obradovic sat down with me to discuss the vital importance of well-designed training programs, the impact of ongoing staff engagement and exciting advancements in restaurant training tech. 

Set the Tone on Your Terms 

Beyond menu tests and hasty property tours, a new hire’s training and onboarding experience makes an indelible impression of an organization’s values. 

Investing time to create a thoughtful training program indicates a commitment to your craft and reverence toward the people you work alongside. As Obradovic says, “Approaching training your team with the respect it deserves is a MUST.”

Imbuing a training program with professionalism and detail instills confidence and establishes clear expectations. While “shadowing” strategies pairing new staff with veteran servers may be tempting given limited time and budgets, the potential to pick up bad habits or dissonant messaging warrants significant caution. 

Devoting time and attention to new team members early on makes people feel seen and initiates a dialogue that can lead to healthy lines of communication down the road. Showing that you care about someone’s development and experience creates an influential social engagement extending beyond the fundamentally transactional employment relationship. “Effort needs to come from both sides,” emphasizes Obradovic. 

Stoke Interest and Stay Engaged

Constant evolution is a defining feature of an industry filled with seasonal ingredients, rapidly transforming business models and an unpredictable labor market. Fully embracing this fluidity means staying connected with your staff. 

“As I always say, consistency is the key to success,” Obradovic shares. “Daily updates, food and beverage tastings, and a commitment to a positive culture are all essential to maintaining an exceptional team.”

Trusting staff to adorn your brand’s service standards with unique flourishes is more achievable when you’ve laid a solid foundation through proper training. Designing opportunities to interact with chefs and generate excitement about the menu further encourages staff to convey authentic perspectives while suggesting and selling. 

Deceptively simple, the act of checking in with people can be an illuminating window into simmering staff issues, operational challenges and chances to celebrate individual progress. Maintaining relationships can be instrumental in mitigating the high churn endemic to the industry. 

Transformative Tech

Notoriously uninspired and mired in administrative molasses, traditional onboarding tops the list of archaic processes Obradovic is eager to see modernized. “Everything should be done on phones,” he insists. 

In addition to eliminating wasteful paperwork, innovative mobile training apps leverage psychology and practicality through gamified testing that prepares new employees on their schedules. These apps are worth a serious look for teams eager to optimize efficacy and efficiency. 

“Shorter and more productive training is something [we] can all work on,” says Obradovic, an advocate of quick videos demonstrating service sequences and other customized training content delivered digitally.  

Sustained investment in purposeful training programs differentiates elite brands through carefully orchestrated experiences and team members who feel appreciated. As Obradovic predicts, “Don’t be surprised when your guests thank you later.”