The front of house (FOH) staff in any restaurant should be made up of friendly employees ready to take orders, address customer complaints and provide high-quality customer service.
But every restaurant manager knows that a fine-tuned FOH service isn’t made overnight. Servers, hosts, bussers, bartenders, bar-backs and the like must be trained on how to communicate among themselves, with the back-of-house (BOH) colleagues, and especially with customers.
Training can be especially tedious for FOH staff because restaurant management is often under a time constraint. By offering a blended training program, which combines instructor-led training with online training and other learning activities, FOH employees can learn how to master skills and policies in an efficient and timely manner.
Here are 7 steps to design a blended training program to optimize your FOH staff.
1. Automate Job-centric Training
Front of house employees have very different training needs than their back-of-house counterparts. Think of your restaurant as a plane, you wouldn’t deliver the same training to a flight attendant as you would to a pilot. In other words, BOH and FOH employees have very different job functions but work together to give customers a smooth experience.
While BOH staff employees are responsible for kitchen operations, FOH employees are responsible for communicating customer requests in an efficient and prompt manner. Some training content may overlap, but there’s a lot of information from a BOH kitchen manual that shouldn’t be wasted in process knowledge training for front of house employees.
When designing your training documents, prioritize the information most important to FOH employees. Add in examples that are relevant to the employee and provide best practices that they can follow up with. This is a great way to create awareness for common situations that customer-facing employees will encounter.
An opportune way of relaying this information is through digital distribution. Digital tools like Mimeo’s Courseware Distribution Platform make job-specific training materials available to the appropriate employees via app or web. Digital distribution also provides the opportunity to edit for instant updates of training content.
2. Capitalize on Mobile Technology
Not everyone benefits from reading manuals and handbooks. As GrubHub calls attention to, millennials account for a quarter of the restaurant workforce and have a strong preference for mobile technology. Streaming videos about food safety, plate presentations, or how to use point-of-sale systems is one way to provide educational content with mobile technology.
There are a few ways you can implement video into your blended training initiatives. One approach is to show training videos during the instructor-led training sessions.
Another, and more inclined toward the millennial taste, is to provide streaming videos to employees for them to watch on their own time. You can assign these videos as pre-work for front of house employees, then follow up on the main takeaways in person.
This is an especially beneficial methodology when you’re onboarding inexperienced employees. They can watch the videos multiple times and at a chosen pace without slowing down or getting lost in the instructor-led training.
3. Offer Cross-staff Coaches and Mentors
Your current star front of house employees can also train new employees. New hires can apply what they’ve learned in their training when working alongside workplace coaches or mentors. AccuPOS recommends providing hands-on training from experienced FOH staff to reinforce employee training materials covered in the workplace.
Employees can shadow a FOH employee to observe customer-facing service without directly engaging with the customer. The knowledge and practice they observe can be applied on the floor later when they’re ready to fly solo.
Plus, coaching is a benefit to both managers and employees. Mentoring addresses time-constraint issues and removes pressure away from the training manager. Employees will have the opportunity to ask questions that normally wouldn’t come up in instructor-led or digital courses.
Mentoring often leads to better employee retention rates and productivity because it bridges social gaps among FOH staff. By directly placing a new employee alongside an experienced one, you’ve created a newfound space for open interaction and discussion – strengthening connections between the newbies and veterans.
4. Make Learning Interactive
Adding interactive learning into your blended training strategy deepens the value of its content. Try creating role-playing scenarios for new front of house employees. Role-playing provides an opportunity for new employees to apply their skills in practice.
In other words, this allows them to learn by doing, and not just by reading. Instructors can take this opportunity to praise what they did well and advise on what could be handled better.
After an employee has mastered interactive training exercises, they’ll feel motivated and confident when real restaurant challenges arise. But interactive learning can be even further extended into blended training.
Blended training that involves interactive learning is an ideal way to train for all experience levels. CIO points out that interactive learning addresses the significant challenges of retaining staff and preventing constant turnover. Gamification can provide challenges for employees on a regular basis that allows them to earn points or badges.
These gaming challenges can prompt employees to test their knowledge or encourage them to rack up sales of a particular rollout or special. These contests can track employee customer service skills and help FOH employees continually make more informed decisions.
5. Create Consistent Content Through the Employee Handbook
A well-developed employee handbook is still the holy grail in blended front of house training strategies.
An employee handbook is an extension of blended training. A well-developed employee handbook should always include the staples of restaurant safety, dress, code of conduct, and other policies. Likewise, a handbook can dually serve as an ongoing management and support tool to maximize job performance and streamline ongoing training.
With an employee handbook, each employee will be given the opportunity to the same access of restaurant information and procedures. You may choose to break apart a complex employee handbook into a bundle of documents. These could be separated by health and safety procedures, industry developments, employee forms or how the reporting of tips is handled.
It’s advised to keep a couple of these printed documents available in-house to answer any questions. Additionally, you could provide a digital copy for employees who are unsure of certain regulations, benefits, or procedures. Just be sure to keep your employee content up-to-date with clear policies.
6. Track, Measure, and Refine
Blended learning provides an ample opportunity to understand what is working and what isn’t in your training programs. Training managers can see who watched streaming videos, hear from mentors on new employees’ progress, view gamification performance, and track file downloads.
In short, blended training strategies offer the advantage of seeing the employee experience, its expectations, challenges, and shortfalls.
Training managers can take this feedback and shape the blended training strategy for the better. Imparting knowledge based on metrics and reports into your training program will help to instill a better experience for front of house employees.
7. Practice Ongoing Training for Front of House Employees
It’s important to continually update blended training strategies, and make these available for all employees. When you provide ongoing training, it shows them that they have opportunities for workplace advancement. As FSW suggests, providing ongoing mandatory training is beneficial to any restaurant, even if they experience a higher rate of employee turnover.
For example, you can hold monthly meetings where you can pass out sheets with the latest company developments or food safety information, which function more as manager-to-FOH employee updates, rather than formal instructor-led training. In the end, employees who know their responsibilities will be better able to progress and can help onboard new employees.
From your experience, what’s most important out of these 7 tips to instill in a successful front of house training program? If we’ve missed one, comment and let us know!
RA Sushi streamlines and automates front of house and back-of-house training at all 28 locations in just a few clicks. Read this case study to learn how Mimeo handles the training content logistics.
Are you ready to create your employee handbook, or need other print materials for your restaurant, like menus and signage? Check out what Mimeo can do to make your kitchen more exciting!