Training your restaurant staff can be one of the more challenging responsibilities you face as a manager or owner. You know when you have successful programs and protocol in place because this aspect of your business flows easily and effortlessly, or, at least, is relatively painless.
You hire a new employee, the massive paperwork that now accompanies that action is completed upon hire, and the new trainee is taken step-by-step through the training process that includes your unique requirements for each specific position such as customer service, upselling techniques, food prep, and inventory control. And, voila! Your perfect employee is born, or at least has a fighting chance of fulfilling their new role in a way that meets, and may just exceed, your expectations.
The Revolving Door
While you may be one of the few lucky establishments that has maintained the same employees since your opening five years ago, most restaurants these days are in a constant state of flux. In fact, the estimated turnover rate for employees in the restaurant industry is approximately 61 percent. For the BOH, particularly the line, the turnover rate rises to 110 percent. And just what is the cost for losing and then training all of those new employees? The Center for Hospitality Research estimates that each employee turnover costs about $5,864 with a little over $800 of that going to orientation and training.
With the thin margins that accompany many a restaurant, how do you achieve the necessary training in the revolving door that has become the employee pool? Enter the world of e-learning.
Gone are the days when your FOH and BOH managers take time from their busy schedules to train yet another new employee. Many restaurants are turning to e-learning, or online learning, which provides training via a computer. For those that feel hands-on is the best approach, consider this: e-learning allows your employees to progress at their own pace, to learn without feeling intimidated, and to not take up the valuable time of your managers in order to get up-to-speed with the rest of your staff. The truth is that e-learning will reduce the cost of training and creates a consistent training protocol so that nothing and no one slips through the cracks.
Millennials, who usually make up a large percentage of your staff, are the first generation that was raised on the internet. To say that learning via a computer is second nature to this segment of the population is definitely an understatement. And, it appears, that many restauranteurs understand the important role that this type of training can play with this generation. According to Restaurant Hospitality, 76 percent of hospitality companies use e-learning to train employees.
Restaurants Using E-Learning
Little did McDonalds know that when they launched their voluntary game-based e-learning system that it would become the company’s most popular employee portal page. Designed to help employees in 1,300 restaurants learn a new POS system, it received 145,000 visits the first year it was offered, and McDonalds observed an almost 8 percent decrease in service time.
How to Implement
There are numerous companies that offer e-learning for restaurants with training that is adapted to your specific restaurant. For instance, some establishments seek training predominantly for their POS system while others also incorporate customer service, food-safety and sanitation, culinary skills and even bilingual training. Online training may also include a restaurant manager course, server course, inventory management, wine knowledge basics, mastering product knowledge, upselling, and practices that promote lifelong patrons. In most cases, you will need to create some content tailored to your specific needs.
A few of the companies that offer restaurant e-learning include Restaurant Wings, TalentLMS, Lexington Interactive, GamEffective, and City & Builds Kineo.
There are a few challenges that restaurants have experienced when implementing an e-learning strategy. One such obstacle is finding the space suitable for multiple computers that can be devoted to training.
The resolution: Instead of creating one computer station that employees will need to schedule time on, consider obtaining a few tablets with headsets that can be used at your employees’ convenience and in a comfortable atmosphere.
Another challenge is time management. Employees rarely have uninterrupted periods of time to devote to training.
The resolution: Choose a Learning Management System that monitors individual employees’ participation and keeps track of where they are in the process.
Some restaurateurs feel that you can’t really teach the skillset known as “customer service” on a computer. Well, that is true to a certain degree—much of what you look for in those that deal directly with your customers is someone with an outgoing personality who has good communication skills. While these skills can be taught, it’s a time consuming endeavor and one that is better left to psychologists.
In fact, the first course you may want to offer is Managerial 101: How to Hire.