From one restaurant owner to another, let’s talk staff… specifically your front of house.
Great staff are really brand ambassadors for your restaurant. Their personalities combined with effective training can actually build your business, but not all staff are created equal. If your restaurant is anything like most, at any given moment you have some great team players, some average and at least one or more you’d like to replace.
Now here’s a “catch-22”. You’ve probably lost some hires that didn’t work out or those that just left. More than likely you have some staff you wish you could replace, but it’s a tight labor market and the show must go on. I get it, but at what cost?
I was at an industry conference recently and learned that the average tenure of a new restaurant employee is just four months. Even more concerning is the fact that every time you hire, get that person up to speed, lose and replace that person, it costs your restaurant $3,000 – $4,000. No restaurant can afford this loss of time, productivity and money. But have no fear, there is a better way.
High turnover does not have to be a fact of life in this frenetic put out the fires and get the doors open business. But before you can get serious about training, you need to assemble your “dream team” in all positions… a core staff of “A” Players rounded out with some solid up and comers. This is vital as many of your team interact with your customers and each communicate with and support each other.
Strong staff chemistry is obvious to the customer, determines overall quality and efficiency and is a reflection of management; so daily training is essential. After all, a great restaurant relies on great staff. In order to build a great company culture, why not start with a new approach?
I have always believed in hiring for personality, attitude and the desire to serve the customer over prior experience. In other words, look for those who really enjoy a dynamic fast paced environment, meeting people and making new friends every night for your restaurant. These people bring a desire to learn and eagerness to succeed. Why not ask your great staff to recommend those they know that would be a good fit for your restaurant? People who may not be trained, encouraged or recognized in their current job. This may just be the solution to the tight labor market. You are now setting the perfect foundation for training and this is the perfect time to think about how you are training now.
Have you ever thought about cross-training so that your people can perform in multiple positions or on different stations? This is essential when a “key” line cook or a host can’t make a shift. Its also an ideal way to keep labor costs down. Why not have a fair rotation of people on-call on their days off that you might incentivize to come in if needed. This way you save on labor cost, but when an unexpected rush happens, you’ve got the coverage you need.
Does your restaurant train on both Service and Salesmanship? The two are equally important, but in my experience few restaurants achieve this magic combination. Go out to eat in most any restaurant USA and you will likely find a personable and perhaps attentive staff, but few who really recognize that providing menu and restaurant knowledge to the guest in an engaging way actually delivers a better experience, not to mention increased sales.
Think of it this way, your front of house team are the experts on your menu and restaurant and as “brand ambassadors”, they are in a perfect position to create lasting guest relationships, marketing “buzz” and positive word of mouth. In many cases your customer is a first time visitor who knows almost nothing about what makes your restaurant great or what they will enjoy. If your front of house staff are educating, informing and entertaining your guests every table every time, your restaurant will capture lots of sales and marketing opportunities, while providing unforgettable dining experiences. In the back of house that special chemistry will ensure beautiful plates and happy guests. In my book, this is truly a WIN WIN.