Assuming everyone on your staff has complete knowledge of the business is a mistake many of us make and live with daily.
Recently I had dinner at a San Francisco restaurant that had only been open for a month. Knowing the best of operators have obstacles to overcome when first opening I didn´t expect perfection on the occasion. However, what transpired throughout the evening made it evident even top ranked professionals are struggling with adequate training situation. And, many of the incidents that take place, I am sure, are because owners assume staff has knowledge that they may not have.
The first noticeable inconsistency arose when we asked if there were any "specials" on the menu. After being told additions included a fish entrée, we asked what the server would suggest. She suggested the rib entrée was popular yet ribs were not on the menu. A bit confused she claimed they must have been "86´d" from the printed menu a few days earlier.
When the salads arrived at the table, one was served without dressing. Asked what happened, she admitted she didn´t know, but offered to get a side of dressing from the kitchen.
Three of the four entrees delivered, came simultaneously. The fourth arrived minutes later along with a cold side of spinach.
The final proof that training and assumption do not go hand in hand was the episode with the evening´s check. The bill came to $214.57. I proceeded to take the register bill out of the guest check holder, and place two one-hundred dollar bills and a fifty-dollar bill into the check holder. After a twenty-minute lull in service, I asked the server to bring my change. She claimed that the bartender was dealing with it and that she would be back shortly. When I opened the check holder, upon her return, I was greeted by five singles, a five, two tens, a twenty, and two one-hundred dollar bills. She had returned all of my money along with a register receipt claiming that the balance due was zero.
Immediately I called one of the owner´s over and explained what had happened. I suggested she take the $215.00 and let the server- who had to balance her bank before she could leave- learn a late-night lesson after frantically attempting to resolve the apparent loss.
On the way out of the restaurant Kranston and I reenacted what would happen when the owners, a couple who had worked together before, discussed the incident later that evening over a Mel´s Diner Sandwich.
Owner One: "We had a little problem tonight while you were in the kitchen."
Owner Two: "What happened, honey?"
O/O: "Well, after a few missteps at the table, server *&^&(* gave a customer all of their money back. The bill was over $200.00."
O/T: "You´re kidding me, right. I had a rough night tonight, I don´t need this."
O/O: "I am not kidding. But I dealt with it."
O/T: "I told you we needed more training. I told you not to hire her."
O/O: "Don´t be ridiculous, she´s a great server. She just needs a little more experience."
And, so the discussion goes on.
We´ve all been there. It´s part of the business we’re aware of. The problems will continue to arise. The solution is repetitive training. Here are ten tips. Print them out. Put them above your desk. Post them in the server stations. Or, just forget about them.
1). Don´t assume. Keep your staff notified of menu changes.
2). Keep your staff notified of menu changes.
3). Have pre shift meetings every day.
4). If there is a special procedure developed, continue to teach it to the staff even when they tell you they know it.
5). Take one element of service and teach it weekly. Instill the importance of profitability.
6). Instruct the staff on dining room awareness.
7). Paying attention to the way a meal is presented is everyone´s responsibility.
8). Teach everyone to point out inconsistencies when they see them.
9). Don´t over seat a weak server´s section.
10). Expect missteps and develop a plan to deal with them as owners. They will always arise.