Traditionally, hospitality employee shortages become more acute during economic expansions, but nowadays another trend has become obvious.
Young people simply ignore the industry because of its perceived poor pay, irregular hours, peaks and valleys during the day, and constant pressure to please customers even under most trying conditions. Also servers as well as cooks enjoy relatively low social status, except celebrated maybe chefs.
Savvy foodservice managers and hoteliers are acutely aware of the need to hire young, inexperienced people and training them to their standards. Unfortunately, more often than not, managers hire unsuitable individuals for service positions, and regardless of the length and intensity of training, expected levels of efficiency and refinement cannot be achieved. The results can be seen everywhere – a precipitous decline of service quality both in food service operations and hotels.
While it is clear that most human behaviours are learned, the fundamental desire to help others must be naturally present for an individual to excel.
Hospitality can be learned only when an individual possesses a friendly and outgoing disposition. Being hospitable means making a guest’s experience pleasant, enjoyable, comfortable – in short memorable!
These skills deal with the basics of how to treat guests, converse with them, to interact, deal with their legitimate concerns so that every guest, would want to return. Generally, managers and often restaurant owners focus on training on knowledge of menu items, their preparation, ingredients, wine taste, description and service, cooking terminology and operating the cash register.
Next comes table setting; eventually a few words are dispensed about how to be nice, smile and greet guests. This segment of the training, while most important of all can be more frustrating for both trainer and trainee.
A naturally shy, introverted and surly individual will learn how to perform all service tasks mechanically, but never function with the warmth and confidence guests enjoy, look for, and yes, expect.
Managers should always keep in mind that the restaurant is really a theatre where servers perform; therefore individuals fitting that specification must be hired. Some managers do hire actors/actresses between jobs. Most perform well, if trained well, and have the desired attitude, but unfortunately leave after a short while when another opportunity comes along.
A good server smiles naturally, greets pleasantly, converses gracefully, knows the menu, wines, all other beverages and is happy to recommend dishes with mouth-watering descriptions once the guest’s needs are established.
A server must be able to “ read “ the table and determine the needs of guests. A short dialogue will help confirm anticipated needs.
It is best to approach training as an integrated and holistic process that tries to develop a competent employee. This can be expressed in form o a schematic triangle
Much, if not all of the North American education philosophy is based on the premise of acquiring knowledge, never explaining the reasons of certain procedures and how everything taught must be applied in practical settings.
(Movenpick’s founder Mr Ueli Prager coined the now famous phrase “ We do ordinary things extraordinarily well “).
The premise of a well thought out service programme is to impart the basic principles, facts, precepts and theories in an attempt to enable trainees to cope and deliver services to company standards all the time. Like in every profession, service has its share of shortcomings, and these must be explained and discussed to prevent disappointment in the future.
Often trainers forget the practicality of material taught. The best focus on practicality, efficiency, and development of abilities to perform effectively.
It should be clear to everyone involved in managing and training that training is an expensive but most important endeavour in every hospitality establishment.
It must never be devoted to “the ability to know”, rather directed to an objective commensurate with prices charged., The knowledge aspect of any training must be geared to better performance. Menu knowledge contributes to the ability to take An order properly, to sell through suggestions, to merchandise foods and beverages and answering relevant questions, i.e. with regard to cooking technique, and ingredients that are known to aggravate allergies.
It may be nice for a server to know that Rheingau is a small, but very important German wine producing region along the mighty Rhine River, but management should ensure that employees use relevant information to sell wine.
The guiding principle of training should be knowledge to increase efficiency and profitability. Theorists contend that one of the greatest sources of human motivation is
“ know-how “, thus the more an employee knows the technique(s) of performing a particular task, the more motivated he/she would be.
Expertise rooted in effective training provides a basis for enriching an otherwise dull and repetitive job. Needless to say expertly displayed competence results in higher gratuities. Staff members with expertise also reinforce a desire in others to develop the same level of competence.
Of course highly skilled employees with a positive attitude are highly valued. Employers would be very reluctant to lay them off during recessions (I remember switching seats in a restaurant for an entire month just so that I could be served by a particular waiter).
Ideally, competent and efficient staff ought to be the goal of every foodservice manager and all training programmes must be designed to that end.
Well-selected, trained and motivated employees project not only hospitality, but also contribute toward improved profits.
A well-designed training programme starts by establishing objectives, followed by a detailed task list (It lists all the tasks employees must perform), i.e. Task : The ability to take a guest order
What to do: Approach the table
How to do it: Stand erect. Look at guest(s), smile and greet them pleasantly. Introduce yourself. If you know the guests, address them by their name. Be courteous.
Additional information: You have only once chance to make a good first impression. You win the table by your first contact when you are pleasant and personable.
Before guests are seated, several tasks must be accomplished.
These are called mise-en-place which can be roughly translated, For everything a place, and a place for everything.
In a restaurant, servers come at least one hour, sometimes two, before service starts to fetch linen, polish glassware and cutlery, set up tables, refresh flowers if used, fill up salt and pepper shakers and all condiment containers. Check all the tables for stability and verification of set up.
In addition wine buckets are prepared, reservations checked and specials discussed. From time to time training for performing the Heimlich manoeuvre, evacuating the restaurant in case of emergencies and/or fire, and how to handle complaints ought to be offered.
Often managers come up with a litany of problems in delivering training sessions, i.e.
“My lists would be endless because of the complex nature of my restaurant”.
The answer to that excuse is quite simple: “If the operation is so complex that it is impossible to list all the tasks, how will new employees ever master their jobs and become productive?“
The secret of training well is to break down complex tasks to their most basic common denominators and assign each according to ability and experience.
Here is another oft heard excuse: “I am just to busy managing my operation and to compile long lists. I can tell employees what to do and how to do it without wasting precious time compiling lists.”
Disorganized and piecemeal training is worse than no training at all. It demonstrates the inability of management to perform in an organized fashion thus justifying sloppy performance.
Employees develop instant respect for organized, caring, and just managers who plan and deliver well-conceived, thoughtful, targeted programmes.
Constant, thoughtful and expertly delivered programmes convince rank and file employees that management supports them. The “us“ versus “them“ mentality is proven to be lethal for the success of any hospitality establishment.
Trial and error on guests lead to negative feedback, reflecting poorly on management, but more importantly humiliating the employee who may develop a negative attitude.
On occasion guests know more about restaurant service, food quality and presentation, than novice, poorly trained servers, and even more than long-time servers without any interest in their chosen profession, but guests must never be expected to train employees by suggestions or otherwise.
Planning represents the very essence of management and any manager incapable of running an organized establishment should be terminated, better yet, should never have been hired.
Job breakdowns help detail each task specifying exactly his management wants it to be performed. While service standards overall may call for certain tasks to be performed in one way, the management of an establishment may decide to refine it in an attempt to differentiate itself from the competition.
Well-established fast food franchisers provide detailed training manuals to franchisees, in an attempt to standardize service and quality in every operation.
Experienced, patient professionals genuinely interested in the success of the establishment must deliver all programmes.
The best and most effective training is one-on-one, but it is also the most expensive. Regardless, if employees are well selected, this cost is justifiable in the long run.
Experienced trainers proceed as follows:
First, explain how the task must be performed, providing justification of the technique. Second, show how the task must be accomplished
Third, have all trainees perform the task.
Fourth, correct mistakes, if any.
Fifth, repeat demonstration if required
Sixth, have all trainees perform the task once again to his/her satisfaction
Slow learners deserve as many opportunities as possible and caring trainers usually provide one-on-one instruction if and when the need arises.
Appropriate timing of sessions is important as is the size and setting of the room.
Most trainers agree 10 – 12 or 2 – 4 p m to be ideal in restaurants as they interfere least with regular operating hours. Experienced trainers always come well prepared, have handouts ready, with all equipment checked, and ready to go.
Needless to say, it is always a good idea to be in “class“ well before starting time to ensure the adequacy of equipment, set up, refreshment delivery etc.
Experienced trainers always explain the importance of training, the benefits to employees and establishment.
All training sessions must be delivered in manageable, bite-sized intervals, easy-to-understand language and increments for all to follow the material comfortably.
On occasion, long-time and old employees must be re-trained; it may be difficult to convince them about the importance of a new technique or policy. In order to avoid problems, it is best to explain the reasons of such sessions and their objectives.
Role playing exercises work very well in hospitality training programmes and are highly recommended. After the delivery, the trainer should ascertain the efficiency of sessions by checking how services are being performed. Feed back (both verbal and in writing) is also a proven tool.
Shortcomings must be recorded and corrected discreetly without delay.
All training requires reinforcement from time to time. The frequency depends on the team and management.
The argument the high employee turnover in the industry prevents owners from training cannot be justified. Training happens to be expensive but no training can be even more expensive!
Hospitality must be taught like every other subject, but talent goes beyond skill, and this is where good managers excel by selecting talented, suitable individuals for the job in question and training them well.