The New Restaurant Training Strategy—Transforming your Employees

As Henry Ford so fittingly stated, “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.”

Training has, however, changed dramatically since Ford rolled out his first Model T. In today’s rapidly changing hospitality world, restaurants are finding that, to a large degree, a well-developed training program lies at the core of their success. This is particularly true for those that have embraced the ever-changing landscape of learning based on the principles of behavioral science and the latest technological advancements.

Here are the latest learning principles to consider when adopting or improving your training program.

Skill-Based Versus Capability and Culture

While training models in the past were often based on skills and competency fundamentals, today’s programs focus on developing mindsets, mental attitudes, and inclinations, as well as capabilities. Jane and Michael Stern, creators of Roadfood, explained mindset this way, “It isn’t only the freshness of the fruit that makes breakfast in California restaurants outstanding. It’s an attitude, a morning mindset, a desire to start the day in a leisurely, luxurious manner.”

Helping your employees develop a productive, positive, energized mindset not only produces a strong brand culture that engages staff and attracts guests, but it also provides your employees with life skills that will help them live their best lives, wherever and in whatever position that may find themselves in. Culture, of course, begins at the top and filters down.

Training the Whole

Traditional training methods take up precious time that is often at a premium, leading to organizations that have developed well-trained managers and supervisors, while the remaining staff is left to learn through observation or “shadowing.” The ultimate goal is to teach and affect every employee, encouraging growth and excitement in the process.

An article in Harvard Business Review reported on Cargill, one of the largest private companies in the United States that operate in agriculture, food, financial, and industrial services, and the changes that they are making in their training program.

Unintentionally, they found that only about 15 percent of their “relevant population” had access to high-quality training. Seeing their error, they are “fundamentally changing how we design, deliver and shape those learning experiences to be able to reach exponentially more learners with high-impact learning,” said Julie Dervin, head of corporate learning and development.

As part of the process, they are flipping their allocated budget from 80 percent in-person training to 80 percent digital training.

Digital Learning Versus Face-to-Face

There was a time when learning required travel, associated costs, and a good chunk of time—factors that run thin in the restaurant industry. This is part of the reason why training was often offered to those in management, who were then placed with the responsibility of passing it on to the remainder of the workforce. Digital instruction has altered that scenario dramatically, but there is a fine distinction between various online learning methods, some of which prove much better to engage and excite staff.

FACT: In 2019, 86% of hospitality companies used e-learning solutions.

Two important distinctions are that one: more is not always better, and two: having fun is an important instructional element. UBS, a global financial services firm operating in over 50 countries, cut their online training materials, developing a set of better, yet fewer, resources. They found that 10 times more employees interacted with the company’s online training programs.

In line with the concept of microlearning, the latest training methods recommend offering bite-size bits of information that the trainee can then practice and apply.

Active, engaged, fun digital learning also proves to outshine traditional, and often dull, training videos. In her book, Research-Based Strategies to Ignite Student Learning, Judy Willis, M.D., showed that levels of oxygen and the “happy hormone” dopamine, increase with fun experiences and promote learning.

The first task an operator considers when revising their training program is what aspects of the business and culture can be learned online and what processes must be learned face-to-face. Examples of the latter include pre-shift tastings and personalized customer service techniques specific to your brand.

That leaves an incredible amount of training that can be conducted online, much of which is often left to “shadowing” or assuming that the person you’ve hired has the experience and skills that their resume suggests. Both assumptions and procedures often lead to ill-equipped staff that can pick up some bad habits from your current employees or brings some over from their last job.

The creators of Tipzyy, a mobile training app, believe that the use of technology can not only lead to a well-trained and comprehensive workforce, it can also increase customer satisfaction and promote a strong brand culture.

Combining several of the latest training theories, such as microlearning, keeping it fun, and creating engaging content, has led to a recommendation rate of 90 percent among servers that use the app. Tipzyy allows trainees to watch videos, take quizzes, and challenge friends, learning successful strategies for upselling and gaining vital information on a brand’s product, as their time allows. Contests lead to cash rewards, resulting in effective motivation.

Training is an investment that restaurants can’t afford to ignore. Fortunately, technology and advancements in learning methods have created an era that allows trainees to learn based on individual needs. People can learn skills. In fact, the best companies train for skill and hire for attitude.

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