Voice of the Restaurant Industry
It's true what they say about too many cooks
I once was a server at a large, well-known deli in a large, well-known city. I had three managers, two of whom were also owners. Not only would their instructions frequently contradict each other, but, in a somewhat mystical twist, though they were all present in the restaurant, they never seemed to be together in one place. We could never confirm if what one said was kosher with any of the others, and their inconsistent orders meant that you were nearly always in getting in trouble with one of them. As a result, many employees focused their energies on dodging blame instead of solving problems.
The lesson? Put one person in charge and be very sure everyone knows who it is. This is so crucial to your operation it seems obvious, but inconsistent leadership is one of the biggest reasons restaurants fail.
Process will emerge— but is it yours?
If you don't train your employees properly, they'll train themselves... and you might not like what you see. I've been in restaurants (like the aforementioned deli) where it was like Lord of the Flies. Because there was no clear leadership and no process to fall back on, the less experienced employees tended to defer to the loudest voice, even if it wasn't a manager. This led to the most aggressive, brazen employees getting people to do things the way they wanted, often to the detriment of the business.
On the other side, I've been in places where even if there was no authority present, the process and procedures were clearly defined and consistently delivered in a way that anyone could tell when things weren't being done the way they were supposed to. Strong training and clear policies empower your employees to speak up and set good examples.
Put simply, someone will train your servers. Make sure it's you.
Sink or Swim is no way to learn
Putting a new employee in the weeds and seeing how they hack it can be an effective way of gauging how they handle stress, their capacity for multitasking and on-the-fly thinking. What it isn't a replacement for is good training, and it's astonishing how many people don't recognize this. Pairing employees with a mentor is another good idea, but again, one that far too many restaurant operators mistake for complete training. These things can and should be part of a good training program, one that incorporates verbal, written or video instruction in addition.
If you leave your employees to train themselves, they will. And you probably won't like what they come up with.
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