2024 Restaurant Training Programs: Key Strategies for Success

2024 Restaurant Training Programs: Key Strategies for Success

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Having restaurant staff who’s always on their game is incredibly helpful in keeping your operations running smoothly, but that doesn’t happen overnight. No matter how you choose to approach it, the process of building a restaurant training program requires a lot of work. You’ll need the hours to assemble what you know, figure out what you don’t, and keep the proverbial ship running in the process. But it’s truly worth it in the long run.

Whether you’re here to figure out how to train your restaurant staff, how to build a training program, or simply to see what you may have missed, we’re here to help. Below, you’ll find a comprehensive guide on how and where to build (or find) a system that works for your needs. 

What is Restaurant Training?

First things first — definitions. Before we can dive into the details of how restaurant employee training works (and why it’s so important), we need to establish what exactly we’re talking about. 

When you hear the term “training,” a few specific things will likely come to mind. There are your initial days of onboarding, a stage (or two), and all of the hands-on, practical experience that comes with those first steps. You may picture guide videos being played in a small office behind the bar or an all-hands meeting for specific pointers on problem areas — but those aren’t necessarily the only ways to handle restaurant staff training. Training takes a lot of faces, but at the end of the day, it’s rarely the same across restaurants.

All of this goes to say that restaurant training is the process of getting your team on the same page; how you do that will vary based on your specific needs and wants, and often one of your first steps when planning it out will be learning what works for your staff and what doesn’t.

A major part (if not the largest part) of managing people is giving your employees the tools to succeed. Without some type of restaurant training program, you’re preventing your employees from starting on equal footing — and that’s not a recipe for success.

Why Restaurant Staff Training is Crucial

Understanding all of this is crucial for a few reasons. In the hospitality industry, we’re in the business of consistency. If each chef, server, host, and bartender each have their own way of tackling common problems and tasks, you’re not going to be able to achieve consistency. And without consistency, hospitality is harder to achieve. Being able to consistently deliver the exact same experience to guests, regardless of the time or who’s on the clock, is one of the most important things a restaurant, bar, or cafe can do. 

Because of this, you’ll often see large corporate operations with an extremely streamlined, mandatory, restaurant training program for each specific role. The idea behind this is to ensure that every employee, whether they’re a grizzled veteran or the greenhorn newbie on the block, is on the same page. It guarantees that each interaction with a guest, every plate to leave the pass, is started from the same foundation. 

Enhancing Customer Service and Experience

A high-quality restaurant training program will do wonders for your operation, but one of the most important aspects that it will immediately impact is the day-to-day experience of your guests. Whether this comes in the form of sales training for front of house, a plating guide for your chefs, or a script for bartenders and hosts to use when interacting with customers, what matters is that you implement a means to create a replicable, consistent experience. 

People may visit your operation for a number of reasons; maybe they love the food or a specific cocktail, maybe it’s the ambiance that you create, or maybe they just enjoy your employees — but if you can’t replicate that experience, it can become a problem. Having the ability and means to consistently offer the same service means happier customers, more good word of mouth, and (ultimately) more repeat visits.

Improving Staff Efficiency and Productivity

Another super important part of restaurant employee training is the effect that it has on your employees. Giving them the tools to succeed, rather than throwing them to the wolves, means that they’ll be happier (more on that below) and more efficient. If there are easy-to-understand, consistent frameworks for them to begin from, they’re more likely to improve at their day-to-day jobs. 

In other words, think of your restaurant training as a recipe. When cooking from a recipe, you are always able to taste and adjust, but it tells you where to begin. You get basic measurements, even if as simple as “to taste,” and run from there. Similarly, a training program allows your employees to have a framework from which to begin. They know when to what goes where, how to accomplish daily tasks, and have something to refer back on when stuck on a problem.

This will be immediately clear in their regular tasks, as with proper training, your employees will become more efficient, more confident in their roles, and generally more suited to handling whatever may occur.

Reducing Turnover Rates and Boosting Employee Morale

The flip side of this is that with more confident employees, you’re less likely to suffer from the turnover that is so common in this industry. A well-oiled machine will break down less often, perform more efficiently, and require less maintenance than one that’s left to grind through each day. Your employees are no different; if they’re provided with the proper tools and support, you’ll find that they are more effective at their jobs and, coincidentally, happier while doing them.

While this may seem obvious, the simple truth is that restaurant turnover happens for a few reasons: compensation, work environment, and job satisfaction. While we don’t need to cover these in detail, the simple act of providing an equal starting point for every employee will improve the environment and, ultimately, make your employees happier to show up and show out.

Ensuring Safety and Compliance

Lastly, proper restaurant staff training plays a major role in safety and compliance with health regulations. Even something as simple as a restaurant cleaning checklist for daily tasks can be a major step toward getting any operation running more smoothly. And while there are many ways to tackle this, the first step is to get a consistent guide to how and when to tackle specific tasks.

Safety is a major part of the restaurant industry — after all, we work with knives and fire all day and feed hundreds of people a day. Ensuring that your operation takes not only its customers' safety seriously, but that of its employees, means that you can rest more easily at night knowing that your staff can handle whatever the rush throws at them.

staff gathered round table participating in restaurant training program


Types of Restaurant Training Programs

There are a lot of ways to handle restaurant training programs. Each method comes with its own perks and challenges, but without them, you’re likely to struggle to keep things consistent.

On-the-Job Training

The most common type of training, on-the-job training, is the most old-school approach one can take. This tends to work best in small joints where space, time, and staff are limited, as it allows your more experienced employees to physically show new hires how to handle various issues. While it does mean that you need to recognize that mistakes can (and likely will) happen, it also means that those who learn from hands-on experience will thrive more quickly than they may have otherwise.

Formal Restaurant Training Programs

Conversely, formal training is likely to be implemented best by larger operations. When you have dozens or even hundreds of employees, a school-like course that’s designed to address the most common issues that your employees will tackle can have major benefits. You’re able to ensure that each person, in each role, can start with the exact same instructions. This cuts out the issue that pops up in the more hands-on approach to training — word of mouth. There’s less chance for the classic, “Well, we’re supposed to do this this way, but here’s how I do it,” conversation.

Unfortunately, formal restaurant training programs tend to be time-intensive to put together and require dedicated attendance, which can be hard to do without the proper preparation.

Online Restaurant Training Modules

The middle ground of the two previous approaches, an online training module, finds a sweet spot between the two. This allows you to regularly update and fine-tune training as new knowledge and techniques arise without needing to personally retrain each employee. Additionally, it allows your employees to quickly and easily refer back to their training at any point — and from anywhere. 

Its downside, though, goes back to something you’ve likely experienced; sitting in an old office chair, watching videos on your first day, skimming through and retaining only what you need to. And if we’re aiming for consistency, that’s less than ideal.

laptop, coffee and restaurant training program notes on table


Cross-training is the last major type of training that you’ll see implemented at restaurants. It’s a simple idea — why teach each person one job, when you can teach everyone every job? If each member of your team is capable of performing each task in the restaurant, it makes it harder for the whole machine to grind to a halt because of one bad gear. However, this requires the knowledge that as you increase your employees’ knowledge and abilities, you’ll also need to increase their compensation. After all, now they can do every job, rather than just one.

Developing an Effective Restaurant Training Program

This is where we get to the fun part — actually developing your restaurant training program. Let’s dive in!

Assessing Training Needs

As with most tasks, your first step needs to be assessing where your employees are at in terms of training. Is your staff mostly long-term hires, or are you starting from scratch? What are the points where your employees shine, and where do they struggle? Figure out what you need, and move from there.

Setting Clear Objectives and Goals

After you’ve established what’s good and what’s not with your current operation, you can set some goals. They can be as simple as “show Brian how to use the POS” or as complicated as “ace our health inspection.” The former shouldn’t take more than a few minutes, but the latter will likely require all of your available hands, and will take time to figure out the best way to approach a larger, more long-term goal.

Creating a Structured Training Plan

With goals set, you can break down the steps to achieve your final objective. Create a framework, make sure that you and your managers can demonstrate each step properly, and then put it into writing.

Utilizing Training Materials and Resources

Whether you opt for a more hands-on approach, a formal course, or something in between, you need to provide resources for your employees to reference. Guides, checklists, and demonstrations are excellent ways to set your team up for success, no matter how you go about your restaurant training.

Key Components of Restaurant Employee Training

Now we’ve covered how to develop your program, what are the big points that you’ll need to hit when establishing a restaurant training program? 

Orientation & Onboarding

You know the old adage that first impressions last? That doesn’t only apply to people — it applies to your business, too. By building structured training into your onboarding process, you show new hires that you care about their success and, importantly, that you have the tools to help them succeed.

Customer Service Training

Customer service training is crucial for your front of house staff; they’re the face of your company, and as such, they may need a refresher on the type of service your establishment provides. Offer regular meetings with your team, discuss points of concern, and allow your more experienced staff to weigh in on how and why they tackle various situations.

Food Safety and Hygiene Training

As for your back of house team, this is one of the most important things to have a strict training program for — safety is paramount in this industry, so taking the time to refresh your staff on best practices, coach people after mistakes, and lead by example can go leagues toward creating a more streamlined, safe work environment.

Technical Skills Training 

This is a point of contention in some restaurants, but I’m of the firm opinion that cross-training staff on technical skills like knifework, your POS system, and basic safety is of the utmost importance. It allows your employees to grow and learn, your business to remain consistent, and shows your customers that you’re professionals.

Soft Skills Training 

The last component to touch on is training your staff on soft skills. These are harder to pin down and even harder to demonstrate, but they matter more than you might think at first. Showing your staff how to communicate with each other and work as a team, rather than a collection of strangers, means that they’re able to work better together and, ultimately, deliver a better service to guests.

Grow Orders, Save Time & Eliminate Tablet Chaos

Integrate your delivery apps and online orders with your POS and consolidate them into a single tablet. Helping you reduce order issues, grow your sales, and eliminate delivery headaches.

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