Training Mentality: Focus on What You Should ALWAYS Do, Not What You Shouldn’t Do

By Andrew Carlson, Foodable Industry Expert

Over the last couple months, I've had the opportunity to open a few restaurants and build a training program from scratch. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with some of the hardest-working individuals in the business.

Some of these people have never had any restaurant experience, while others had an abundance of experience. But when it came to training, they all had something in common — this concept was brand new to all of them, and there was a ton of information getting thrown at them in a short period of time.

The thing we must remember is that people all learn differently. Some are more visual, some are more hands-on, and some even learn best from sitting in a lecture hall. At the end of the day, if they don't know what — as a restaurant— you always do, then your training program has failed.

Let me expand on this concept for a minute.

When you are a child, you attempt to do something. If it's dangerous or something you shouldn't be doing, your parents will say "don't do that."

As adults, when we think of better ways of doing something or aren't trained properly on something in the restaurant, people will just make up ways on how to do it. It's human nature to figure something out if we aren't shown how to do it.

If you ask someone to carry three plates without using a tray, that person will figure out a way to carry three plates. It could be by resting one against his or her shirt, while holding other two in hand, but that's not sanitary. The manager then tells the employee not to carry plates that way and then demonstrates the proper method.

Unfortunately, the human brain gets stuck when it's overwhelmed. Without thinking, the employee will revert back to the old way the next time around, due to being locked into the autopilot way of doing things.

Why? Carrying three plates wasn't part of the training. It's one of those things that are taught on the fly, especially if it's someone with past experience.

This is why it's crucial to have a thorough training program that goes over every little detail of the business and service. The human mind will lock in the first way it learns something and it becomes a habit. If you want to change the way employees do something, you must start by changing their habits.

So, the next time you are wanting to change the way your restaurant does something, let your employees know that "this is the way we always do X, Y, or Z.”

You're building habits. It's vital to reinforce the behavior throughout the shift by coaching until it becomes a strong habit.

Habits don't change overnight and building new habits will take some time. Just make sure you have a strong team of leaders in your business to reinforce new company changes among the rest of the crew. It all boils down to accountability and repetition.

If your employees are not working up to your standards, it’s vital to look upwards to the leadership in your company. If multiple employees are continuously doing the same thing, but it was never implemented any other way, then that falls onto your shoulders as a leader of the company.

If an employee isn’t following certain policies or procedures, then we must ask them:

  • Were you trained on this? If yes, how were you trained to do this?

  • If they weren’t trained on it, the only person you can blame is yourself. You can’t get upset with them when they were only doing what they knew.

  • If they were trained and ignoring proper procedures, you need to get to the bottom of the situation.

By having that open conversation with the employee, you are allowing them to vocalize their concern with how operations are run within the restaurant. Sometimes policies or procedures change as employees find more efficient ways of doing things.

If it’s not more efficient and the policy or procedure is remaining the same, it’s important to explain to the employee why you’re leaving it the way it is. You must also let them know why they must continue doing it the way they were trained, otherwise it will result in a write-up.

At the end of the day, it’s important to have these open conversations with your employees. Not only does it give them more buy-in to the restaurant and their position, but it also builds brand loyalty because the owners and upper-management are willing to listen to their ideas.

The employee turnover rate in the restaurant industry is high as it is, but that doesn’t mean that your restaurant has to suffer. Set your standards high and follow through on your standards by saying “we always do X.” Follow through with accountability and daily coaching to ensure your teams are maintaining those standards, whether you’re in the shop or not.

You only get one chance to make an impression on your guests. Make sure that your staff are properly trained to handle every situation — no matter what.