By Andrew Carlson, Foodable Industry Expert
It's 2017 and there is quite a bit of competition in the restaurant scene. A large number of these restaurants pop up and will close down shortly after because of their inability to stand out.
These restaurant owners allow their concept and foundation to remain average. They allow their training to remain sub-par and don't put much effort into growing or innovating, even when it comes to adapting to their team's learning styles.
They allow their perspective of their restaurant cloud their judgment.
Because of this, they've allowed the way their brand communicates to their employees to remain average. When a restaurant or brand cannot communicate their mission to their employees, their employees cannot communicate the restaurant's mission to the customers.
The truth is, if you don't fix this major issue, your restaurant is sure to close its doors.
The Skill to Communicate Is Critical to Your Success
A lot of restaurant owners struggle to communicate to their team about what kind of impact that they want to make in their community. It's one of the biggest things that gets overlooked when they are creating their business plan.
But the biggest gap in communication within restaurants is in how the team should handle customers on a daily basis.
If you want to create an exceptional experience within your restaurant, you must teach the staff to handle adversity and communicate effectively with your customers and the community.
Can your team recite your mission for your restaurant and the impact you want to have on the community?
If they can, but they can't have a conversation when something goes wrong, how are you able to create memorable moments?
The greatest moments during a guest’s experience happens when something goes wrong. The customer gets upset and it can go one of two ways:
- The customer leaves upset and has an awful experience, which leads to them not coming back. In this situation, they'll probably give you 1-star ratings on every platform they can, or they'll tell everyone to avoid your establishment.
- The staff has a conversation with the upset customer and creates an experience that the customer will never forget. This turns the customer around, saves the experience, and they'll be singing your praises to their friends and potentially online as well.
As restaurant owners, we are not focused on the development of our teams, and this is the aspect of the business we need to put more focus on.
You do not have the luxury to be average when it comes to the development of your team. You can no longer afford to simply be an "okay" restaurant and your community will just accept it. It's 2017 and the competition is growing — you either must step up and develop a team that can create exceptional experiences with every customer or you close your doors.
You are not only doing a disservice to your team for not developing them and creating future leaders, you are causing people in your community to not trust family-owned restaurants. You are teaching them that family-owned restaurants can't compete with large budgets and to simply settle on the chains.
Why do people settle with chains?
They are consistent. It's not about the experience, but they know that if anything happens, they're trained to handle those situations.
But that's not what the people in your community want. They want to support you, but they will not accept an average experience.
How can you train your teams to handle adversity? Here are three quick tips!
1. Role-Playing Throughout Training
So many people are afraid to bring role-playing exercises into their training program and it's been a disservice to not have these exercises throughout your training program. The staff doesn't control your training program — you do. If they don't want to do it or don't want to take it seriously, they don't need to work for you.
Your trainer must create these experiences to make sure that your team knows that these experiences can happen. Prepare for the worst but hope for the best.
As operators, we try to train our teams to anticipate the customers every needs, but we don't train them on how to handle difficult situations. So, what happens? The server freezes and doesn't know what to say. They tremble and quietly say they'll go get the manager. But the team member should be able to put out the fire so by the time the manager comes over, we can create that "wow" factor.
2. Teach Them Your Way
It's not enough to just have them go through role-playing exercises. The issue is if you just jump into these exercises, they'll pull from their past experiences and won't handle it in the way of your culture.
It's vital that your team is educated on your way of handling these tough situations.
Is there certain language that you want them to use? Are there certain phrases? Is there a mental checklist they should be referring to during these situations?
It's your responsibility to set your team up for success and show them how you would like these situations handled. It's your responsibility to empower them to handle these tough situations.
Once you've shown them, put those role-playing exercises to work until they feel confident in their ability to handle this type of adversity throughout their shift.
3. Have Them Shadow Your Managers
The last thing that you can do is have the team member shadow the manager. When situations arise, and if they don't feel confident yet, the manager must use these moments as a teaching moment.
Have the employee shadow the manager as they go talk to the table and have the employee take mental notes on how the manager handles the situation.
There are no better teaching moments than real-world moments. This shows the employee that there's nothing to fear — the customer has a problem, yes, but it's their responsibility to have the solution.
And remember, It's your responsibility to ensure they have the knowledge of how to handle these situations.
The further you develop your team, the better off your restaurant will be because you will have a full team with the ability to create exceptional experiences. It doesn't matter who is working because everyone is empowered to handle adversity, which shows the community that you and your team care about them.
Support is a two-way street. Support your employees and your employees will support your business. When your employees can handle adversity, you'll be able to increase your customer's loyalty and provide many moments that your community will continue to talk about.
Create moments worth sharing. Just make sure they're exceptional stories.
Mediocre stories aren't worth sharing.