Training new staff is often a complicated and confusion-ridden task. What you, the kitchen veteran, view as simple is often not simple. But that doesn’t mean that training newcomers should be frustrating - because there is a shockingly simple step-by-step process to make it as straightforward and seamless as possible.
So - what is this magical 5-step process? You’ll have to keep reading to find out…
Now - we could dive right in. But first, we need to clear something up; if you already have a training system that works well, stick to it - you know your restaurant better than I do. However, chances are high that your in-house training isn’t working too well - otherwise, you wouldn’t be here.
There’s no shame in recognizing that you need help, so welcome! We’ll get you training like the professional restaurant manager (or owner) that we know you are - so, what are the five steps to success?
This is perhaps the most important step in the whole process. If you want a new employee to know the “right” way to do something (or, more accurately, your way of doing something), then you need to show them. And, importantly, you need to tell them why while showing them!
This isn’t about how some people learn through doing while others learn from reading - no, it’s about basic human decency.
While a newbie may make dumb mistakes (say, draining stock and keeping the bones), that ultimately comes back to who trained them.
And, notably - don’t just dive in. If you’re cooking a recipe or training a new chef, don’t just start cooking; instead, use the recipe and walk through each step verbally. Don’t worry - we’ll get to the show and tell.
So, step number one is simple:
Show trainees how you do things, and importantly, tell them why. You’ll avoid a host of seemingly “stupid” issues with a bit of communication.
After your fun little show and tell, it never hurts to quiz your trainee. And I don’t mean “name every mother sauce in ten seconds;” no - I mean have them repeat the steps and reasoning for what you just showed them.
For example, if you’re demonstrating how to break down a chicken, explain why you break it down in the order you do. And when you’ve finished, don’t just hand over the knife and say, “let’s see it!” Have them show you that they understand the why and the how before going on to step three.
So, ultimately, step two is as follows:
After finishing a verbal demonstration, ask your employee why they should do it that way. If they answer correctly, move to step three.
Now, we know that people learn differently. Some prefer to read, others to get hands-on, and others still need a combination of the two. This is precisely why we started with a verbal, written explanation rather than diving directly into a full demonstration. Learning an entire job in a few hours can be overwhelming, so taking things slowly is crucial to success.
Once you’ve ensured that your trainee has the proper theory down as to why you do what you do, then it’s time for the physical demonstration. Let’s say you’re making your special rotating soup du jour.
Begin by slowly walking through the ingredients, exaggerating each step. We know you can knock this “three-hour project” out in 45 minutes - you are the manager, after all - but we don’t care here. This is about teaching, not about impressing the new blood.
Carefully prepare each item as you would for a state dignitary - precise cuts, careful measurement; no speed, all technique. This helps ensure the trainee doesn’t miss something and, importantly, that they learn efficiency.
Once you’ve finished, you can move on to step four.
Now it’s time to see how your new hire picks things up - ask them to repeat the process (we’ll say it’s the same soup for ease of reading). Have them begin just as carefully as you did, and watch what they do. Correct any mistakes gently and with an explanation of why. First off, this is just basic human decency. More importantly, though, it helps create a healthy workplace (which will help retain staff).
Look below for examples if you need help:
Once that’s finished, if they perform satisfactorily, then you’re ready for the last step, the “coming of age” test, so to speak.
While this is something of an optional step, depending on how much time and space you have for training, I’ve found that asking trainees to perform on their own (with supervision) is an excellent final step. You get to see how they picked up your advice and training, and (perhaps more importantly), you’re able to see how they think on their feet.
If they’re a cook, you and a kitchen manager or chef can supervise as the new chef cooks up another batch of soup. And if they’re Front of House, ask other servers to test out the newbie’s menu knowledge and upselling skills. They don’t need to be perfect - after all, they just started - but good performance on this final step is usually an indicator that they’ll be a strong team member.
Additionally, this process allows restaurant management to judge how each team member works alone, enabling a slightly better scheduling process down the line. If you know the newbie can hold their own, you won’t need to bother scheduling a veteran cook to supervise.
Ultimately, the truth is that training new staff begins and ends with the trainer rather than the trainee. It’s easy to take the work you do every day for granted, but new employees are precisely that - new. So go easy on them, instruct them how you’d want to be taught, and seriously, don’t rush.
There is no better way to ensure a tight-knit crew and reduce turnover than to properly (and appropriately) train new employees. Be sure to swing by the Cuboh blog for more tips and tricks on keeping your ship (er, restaurant) running cleanly.