How did your staff do the last time you gave them a pop quiz on the menu your are currently serving? What, you haven´t given them a pop-quiz? Ever. Well, it may be time to start thinking about testing your staff on their knowledge of your business.ANd, the menu. After all, you are the teacher. And the quiz should end your curiosity on who is getting your message, who isn’t. and how you are doing with your training meetings.
We all assume each of our employees knows the menu, has knowledge of the ingredients in the recipes, and the flavors various dishes offer. Wrong. While walking through the dining room one day a waitress, who had just been asked how the fish chowder was, responded that she hated fish chowder, it made her vomit. Do you think she was getting my message? No. Do you think the customer felt like eating after that? No. My first thought was to fire the employee immediately. Why, because I hadn’t taught her table etiquette, or, what the answer to that question should have been?
That night I created the menu quiz. Nothing in-depth or technical. Just a Cliff Note on what the employees needed to know to intelligently answer the questions regarding the menu items while at the table. I also added a few answers that may help to persuade them not to discuss their digestive reaction to things like, say, Fish Chowder. Before giving the quiz, I prepared an information sheet acknowledging the answers to the questions. It was mandatory reading, but nobody knew why.
Last week, I happened to be in a corporate chain restaurant for lunch, twice. My first experience was with a group of six people. After I had ordered my lunch salad, the waiter said I couldn’t have that. The salad had supposedly been discontinued. Explaining the salad was listed on the lunch specials, he politely asked me to see the menu and then cl;aimed he didn’t know that. I was ready to go to the manager, but decided against it when eventually all the food came to the table and the runner set up an auctioning process that would give the guys a Sotheby’s a run for their Thursday night money.
The next episode, a few days later was entirely different. Our waiter came to the table, knew the specials and the ingredients as though he had been in the kitchen all morning preapring the. He suggested numerous pairinigs of salads, appetizers, and entrees, wines, and drinks. He was efficient and hospitable.
The only way the manager of this Walnut Creek, CA. Italian eatery can bring consistency to the staff he has patrolling the dining room floor is to share the knowledge that the kitychen staff has with the waitstaff.
And, that’s true with all restaurants. The last thing an owner wants to happen is for a customer to ask if there is any shellfish in the fish chowder and the waiter answer’s no. When in fact the clam juice that was used as the base of the chowder causes an allergic reaction for the customer and the restaurant ends up in a stew.
Developing an information sheet is easy. Have one of your chef’s write it. Add a few comments on answers that you would like given when certain questions are asked. “How is the penne pasta with sausage prepared?” A simple enough question. Suddenly, however, the wait person replies, “Let me check.” and the customer already has second thoughts on ordering one of your best dishes. Let the server know how the pasta is prepared before the shift begins.
Once the staff has had an adequate amount of time- two days- to read the information sheet- pop the quiz at a pre-shift meeting. Offer a special entree from the menu, to the staff member that gets the highest score. And, let those who didn’t do too well know that you expect them to know the menu and the ingredients. ANd, bring your bussers, bartenders and hosts into the quiz world. They too should be fully aware of the menu.
Of course, you will get the one guy who thinks quizzing is just for kids. If he does really well on the quiz, have him do the next one. If he does poorly, have him write the information sheet. Either way his coments will end. And, over time, you will find that the menu information sheets are being studied and the quizing can occur less frequently. But don’t ever stop mentioning them, for its the little tests that keep everyone on their toes, selling more, and gathering knowledge and experience to help them with that goal.