In the current economic climate most restaurant companies have been searching for a way to attract guests.  They have turned to a variety of discounts and value-oriented options to keep guests coming through their doors.  In order to maintain profitability, they have also looked for ways to cut costs.  One of the most common cutbacks has been in the area of server training.  Restaurants have been continuously allocating less of the budget to training servers.  This is often perceived as a cost cutting technique that does not directly impact their guests.

This conventional wisdom could not be more inaccurate.  Cutting back on the money allocated to training has a very direct and noticeable impact on restaurant guests.  In fact, all of the funds spent to acquire new guests and maintaining the current customer base are wasted if the server is inadequately trained to create a highly satisfied guest.  Guests are more service savvy than ever before.  Social networking has provided them unprecedented avenues to wipe out any benefits you receive from paid marketing.  In the current economic climate investing in the training of your staff is more important than ever.  In fact, all other monies you spend to increase your sales are wasted if the guest is not met with a server capable of turning them into a highly satisfied guest.

Here are five specific ways that a small investment in server training can yield significant dividends:

Increased Sales: A high quality training program that teaches a server the proper way to sell to guests will increase the amount of money that each guest spends at the restaurant.  This means going beyond the generic “upsell” and “suggestive selling” training.  Guests have grown tired of the halfhearted attempts restaurants force servers to make to sell appetizers and specialty drinks.  Training your staff on how to recommend items in sincere and effective ways will increase the size of your guests’ checks while improving their satisfaction.

Creating Repeat Guests: It is far cheaper to keep a current guest returning than it is to find a new guest to replace them.  The best way to do this is to provide them with exceptional service.  The best way to offer them that service is to train your staff to provide it.  Price cutting and expensive marketing campaigns should only be used as a temporary method of getting new guests through your door.  The goal of these campaigns must be to convert the new customer into a regular guest.  The service that your guests receive is what will keep them returning.  It is far more cost effective to train your staff once than to continuously market to new guest in order to replace the ones that were disappointed with their service.

Reduced Costly Mistakes: The cost of ordering mistakes and comping food for dissatisfied guests can destroy your profit margins.  Training your staff on the menu and how to describe food will resolve a large percentage of ordering mistakes.  Teaching them how to address guests who are facing shortcomings with their meal may eliminate the need for removing a meal from the bill.  Preventing this loss of revenue alone will offset the cost of your training program.

Improved Word of Mouth: Restaurant operators are painfully aware of the impact of a negative guest review on various restaurant rating websites.  The reviews you see on these sites are just the tip of the iceberg.  Sites like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and many others provide your guests easy and ample opportunity to share negative experiences at your restaurant.  These reviews can outweigh the money you invest in marketing.  Training your staff to provide high-level customer service is the best protection you can have against negative reviews finding their way to your potential customers.

Reduced Turnover/ Increased Morale: When a new server is hired they will immediately begin forming impressions of your company.  Making that first impression a professional training program gives them the tools they need to succeed will assure them they made the right choice.  Morale suffers when employees are faced with difficult situations they have not been trained to handle.  Showing them from their first day that you are there to support them and give them the knowledge they need to succeed will make them glad they joined your team.  Your investment in them will result in them becoming more invested in the position they hold.

Training isn’t free.  Training does not guarantee that a server will not leave your company.  Many restaurants are hesitant to invest in training because their staff might leave after being trained.  Zig Ziglar always answered this objection by asking, “What happens if you don’t train them and they stay?”  If you are serious about the long-term growth of your restaurant, you cannot afford to NOT invest in training.  No other investment you can make will produce a higher rate of return. 

 

David Hayden

 

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Non-Operator
Comment by Paul Paz on October 6, 2011 at 12:09am
And a shout-out to my old friend and colleague, David Rothschild!

Non-Operator
Comment by Paul Paz on October 6, 2011 at 12:07am

David...

Historically correct: when budgets get tight... training is the first item cut.

Training is not an expense... it's an investment with real and measured returns.

Paul - Waitersworld

Comment by Steven Groves on September 22, 2011 at 2:02pm
Social media makes it simple (super simple) to share what ever experience you deliver to your consumer visible to the world (other prospective diners), the training you give your servers will impact that experience much more deeply than any discount or offer being made.  Can it be an either / or investment?  Does it need to be an 'and' to include both?
Comment by Raymond Garcia on September 22, 2011 at 12:57pm
I love it!

Non-Operator
Comment by David Rothschild on September 18, 2011 at 9:06am
Terrific article!

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