A restaurant has a lot of elements that lead to success: location, management, concept – and that’s just the start. Restaurants, especially smaller locations, need to look at what franchises have to offer.
What makes these restaurants successful? Great food. Ample advertising dollars. Great locations.
But how do you stand out as a smaller restaurant that isn’t backed by a major corporation? Service. Your food. Your staff. You have the advantage of being able to provide a level of service that keeps customers coming back.
Your service starts with your restaurant server.
A food server can mean the difference between a satisfied customer and bad reviews. Server training should be a top priority, and you need to have an adequate server training program in place to ensure that the skills of your servers are up to your customers’ expectations.
Start With Reliable Training Material
Working as a server is a difficult job. Wait staff jobs require you to cater to the needs of different people day and night. Some patrons will have a bad day and take it out on you. Other patrons will be funny, make the wait staff laugh and make the entire experience a pleasurable one.
Restaurant server training should start with:
You should have every employee go through an orientation that is given by the owner or manager of the restaurant. An orientation will provide the server with a basic understanding of how to treat customers, your staff’s requirements and an inside look into how the restaurant operates.
Orientation is a great time to explain the requirements and expectations of the new staff member. You’ll use this time to explain your:
One of the most important aspects of orientation is conveying a clear expectation of what’s required of employees. Management will also want to enforce these expectations so that employee satisfaction increases. To do that you can use handbooks to list all of the expectations and policies of your restaurant.
Employee handbooks are common because they allow you to list your:
Your employee handbook is a reference guide, and this guide should be given to all new employees. You'll also have a guide that allows you to take corrective action if the employee does not meet the restaurant’s expectations.
Servers may be required to know the menu, so explain to the staff how to memorize a menu and what your restaurant service standards are. If wine training for servers is required, explain that as well.
A professional server is seasoned. These individuals have the experience they need to be able to be a top server in a restaurant. But when hiring wait staff, a lot of people need training. You may have a budding server that just needs a little guidance before they’re on their way to becoming a head server.
Training manuals make it easier for managers responsible for restaurant staff training.
View the training manual as a guideline of how every part of the wait staff should wait on patrons. A key part of a restaurant training program, the server training manual should include:
- Opening checklists
- Closing checklists
- Overview of orientation and training
- Requirements for knowing the menu
When you provide a thorough training guide, it allows each new server to have a better understanding of their requirements. Restaurant employee training that is consistent will follow a manual to ensure that servers make customers happy.
Perhaps the most important part of serving classes is how to follow service standards. You may have these standards listed in the training manual, and it should be provided to everyone at waitstaff training.
You'll want to make sure that part of the restaurant manager training program includes routine meetings so that managers can reinforce service standards.
Your service standards may include many elements, but a few elements that can help you get started are:
- How to handle guest complaints
- Leave tips on the table until guests leave
- Inviting guests to come back to the restaurant
- How to properly recommend menu items
- How to remain hospitable
- What to do when the restaurant is full
When you make your service standards list, you’ll also want to mention any etiquette that must be followed. A good example of this is a staff that always says: “Welcome to Wayne’s restaurant, do you have a seating preference today?”
You’ll also want to mention how to deal with rude customers.
The more time and attention goes into the service standards and your server training manual, the better.
Additional Training and Steps for Training New Staff
Server skills lists are long, and we’ve covered just the basic training guidelines of your staff. You'll also want to conduct more training. On a busy night, it’s not uncommon for restaurant server skills to also include:
- Checkout procedures
- Opening and closing
- Additional service steps
There is a long list of training topics for employees to learn. Training restaurant staff is an ongoing requirement, and a set training period for new employees must be set. Basic server knowledge will also include:
- POS System Training. Point-of-sale systems, used when a customer is checking out, require some form of training. New staff training should incorporate a training portion just for these systems. The POS system will be able to calculate guest checks, send orders to the kitchen and also lead to greater satisfaction for patrons.
- Banking Basics. Servers are often responsible for ringing up sales and collecting sales. You should train staff on how to handle multiple baking basics, including: tip sharing, tip splitting, checkout, discounts, walkouts, shortages, comps and various other banking procedures.
- Safety and Cleanup Policies. Basic safety guidelines, such as putting signage down when the floor is wet, will be a necessity for new staff. Cleanup policies and sanitization policies should also be part of the training or part of the training manual provided to the server.
- Seating Basics. A seating chart and how each server is responsible for certain tables should be outlined. The seating basics will ensure that you’re able to have a reliable server staff that knows who is handling which tables each night.
If you serve alcohol or wine, you’ll want to train your staff on how to memorize lists and recommend wine for a certain meal. A lot of time and effort needs to go into wine training, but it’s one of the best ways to increase revenue.
State-certified training may be required for all servers that serve alcohol. Training is complex, and it will include:
- State laws and regulations
- Testing to receive certification
- Understanding blood alcohol content
- Detecting intoxication
A lot of training must be given if your server will serve alcohol to guests. Your restaurant may be held liable for a server error, so it’s important to follow the guidelines of your state precisely when serving alcohol.
You may also want to provide additional training to your staff.
The staff will need to know the ins and outs of your restaurant, and some of the information that you may want to include in your training or at least in the manual is:
- What, if any, the menu abbreviations mean
- Full table identification and seating charts
- Menu descriptions
- Information about the restaurant and its history
If you want your staff to excel even further, you can enroll them in different certification programs. There are food safety certifications, and you may also be able to find a great server class in your area.
The goal is to have a server staff that helps bolster your restaurant.
Through time and training, you’ll be able to train a staff that will ensure customer service standards and encourage customers to continue coming back to the restaurant.