In this column, I often speak from my years of experience in staff training. Long ago, I instinctively knew that a well-trained staff would be a powerful business advantage and the foundation to my success in creating several restaurant concepts.
As operators, we’re competitive people, always looking for ways to increase sales. Creating a healthy competition amongst the staff was one way of keeping them on their toes, upping the fun factor and boosting the restaurant’s bottom-line. This all began with a daily pre-shift meeting.
Since day one as a restaurateur, I’ve remain convinced that consistent daily training exercises meant the difference between a base hit and really knocking it out the park. Like any winning sports team, a battery of coaches drill the players daily to get maximum performance individually and collectively. So I’m going to share something powerful from my playbook.
Every day before your doors open for business, gather your team for a motivational huddle and go beyond the typical tasting of the night’s specials. Discuss exceeding guest expectations, have a rapid-fire product knowledge session, talk about good and bad experiences in your restaurant’s competition and most importantly, discuss a strategy for the service to come. This regular consistent training raises everyone’s game, builds team-spirit and is a dress rehearsal for the actual performance. Then have some fun!
One of my most effective exercises was actually based on a popular game that everyone has played – BINGO! Much like the real thing my version of the game is easy to execute in your restaurant. Here’s the idea.
Create individual Bingo cards on a computer for each member of your service staff. In each of the squares, print menu items that you most want to sell. These can be “cash cows”, highest profit items, signature dishes, specialty cocktails, bottles of wine, or even perishables that you need to sell right now. Then every week have a contest where the first person to get a BINGO by filling their card with sales down, across or diagonal wins a valuable prize. This could be dinner for two in your restaurant, a gift card, movie tickets or whatever you choose. My staff would keep a copy of all their guest check slips to verify their win, and we’d have a weekly award ceremony discussing each team member’s approach and guest responses to their suggestions.
The point is that sales will naturally rise during the Bingo game, but over time suggestive selling becomes conditioned routine behavior by your entire front of house team. That’s right. Hosts and bus staff can also make suggestions that they know guests will enjoy and appreciate. Sales and service levels increase and suddenly your restaurant culture will be based on hospitality, family and fun. Now go out there and Rock Your Restaurant!