As we discussed in A Well Trained Staff is Your Secret Weapon, people run your business and your business is only as good as your people. An effective cross-training program is an owner’s key tool to ensure consistency in product and customer service, which is a basic tenet of running a restaurant.
The restaurant business is a team sport which has specialists in certain positions – i.e. bartenders, servers, line cooks, etc. Each person on the team should know their role, be trained for their specific job and know how it fits into the team as a whole. However, what happens when the only manager who knows how to close calls is out sick or you are under staffed and cross-training has not been done? It becomes increasingly difficult to run a successful restaurant when you have no redundancy.
Here are four reasons why redundancy and cross-training in your restaurant staff is crucial to your business:
Cost and insufficient time are often cited as reasons why restaurants do not take the time to set up cross-training programs. Though it may increase your overall training costs, to train multiple people to do multiple jobs, you reap the benefit when pressed into action.
Employees and managers who are properly cross-trained can increase your restaurant’s productivity because it allows you to make changes without disrupting service. We tell our clients that it is more costly, in the long run, to not cross-train your staff. The cost comes in many forms, but mostly in a work force that is not as productive as possible, resulting in having to use more staff per shift, expensive mistakes being made by untrained stand-ins and the possibility of a poor customer service experience for your guests.
Better Product Quality through Consistency
As we examined in Consistency is King, “Customers should not have to spin the roulette wheel each time they visit your restaurant; they should experience the same quality of food and service every time. It should not matter which chef or server is working on any given day, the customer experience should never be a surprise.” We have all been to a restaurant that was great one day and then only so-so the next time around.
Whether the staff line-up has changed due to growing the business or people calling out sick, you must have bench strength in your ranks, this way no one can tell that the Sous Chef is cooking instead of your Executive Chef on any given night. Consistency is the key to establishing regular clientele, and regular clients are the most important customers to have. Maintaining regular clientele is a critical factor in establishing a solid reputation that will attract newcomers.
Better Employee Retention
There are many reasons why employees leave jobs; high on the list is becoming frustrated or bored in a job. Assuming you’ve done everything correctly during the on-boarding process, yet you are still having large amounts of turnover, it is time to look at what type of advancement and cross-training opportunities you provide your employees. Cross training also helps to engage the long- time employee who feels that they are no longer learning anything and feels that the restaurant doesn’t invest in furthering their knowledge. At a basic level, human beings like to feel that they are continually learning new skills and will acknowledge management’s investment in them by staying with the company.
Better Financial Results
Improved productivity, product quality and employee retention should all lead to organic cost savings. These savings, in the long run, will offset the initial costs to cross-train all of your staff.
By being able to achieve the first three “betterments” stated above, you will be able to: reduce production steps and/or mistakes; run your business leaner; make time-effective market-driven changes; focus on cultivating on-going, repeat business; and lower your recruiting and hiring costs.