Create a lean, mean selling machine
Attracting the best-possible FOH talent and training them to be confident enough to sell the heck out of your menu is tough, but worth it. With an 80 percent turnover rate,1
the restaurant industry is often the target of criticism with regard to creating jobs, not careers. But with self-assurance and more knowledge, your staff can look forward to better tips, and you can look forward to better sales and employee retention.
We can’t provide a full training agenda for you here (after all, we’re limited to the space of one article!), but we can give you some guiding principles for building – or strengthening – your own program.
If staff members aren’t immersed in your menu/operations, they won’t know – or care – enough to sell effectively. Ensure that all waitstaff are well-versed in the names, ingredients, flavors and descriptions of every menu item, as well as in the history of your operation. Food allergies and dietary restrictions are playing a larger role in foodservice than ever, so servers who speak to menu items at that level of detail are invaluable.
- Consider staging a waitstaff contest in which you reward a server each month for in-depth knowledge of the menu and ingredients.
Teaching your servers to connect with guests is crucial – it shows your customers that they’re appreciated and positions your staff as knowledgeable resources, not “order-takers.” When asked “What’s good here?,” your servers should be able to recommend their favorite dishes and promote the profitable specials or other popular items without hesitation. When checking up on their diners, servers should ask questions directly related to their dishes – “Is the steak cooked to your preference,” rather than a general “How’s everything?”
- Practice makes perfect, so encourage your staff to practice their table greetings – including smiling and making eye contact.2
SET THE EXAMPLE
Your demeanor will be observed and mirrored by the staff – so set the example you wish them to follow. As trainer Jim Sullivan suggests, “consistency is the backbone of great customer service and value.” Consistency in greetings, attitudes, uniform, etc. will make training easier and more effective. There’s no such thing as too much instruction – Sullivan reminds us that employees and managers alike “tend to under-learn and over-forget.”3
- Public praise for jobs well done, constructive criticism and using mistakes as positive teaching tools4 will go a long way in motivating your staff.
If you’d prefer to put training in the hands of consultants, server training school may be the answer. Those in the business claim the payoff is worth the price – according to Debbie Thomas, a San Diego–based hospitality trainer, “In an ideal situation, you would see a 10 percent to 15 percent increase in check averages the day after training.”5
Or, if outside courses are beyond your budget, online training can be a cost-effective alternative. But no matter which method you choose, there’s no denying the benefit of proper employee training.
Jordan Melnick, “More than Minimum Wage,” QSR Magazine, November 2011.
Elissa Elan, National Restaurant Association, September 22, 2011.
Jim Sullivan, “Letter perfect,” Nation’s Restaurant News, January 9, 2012.
Service That Sells, Pencom International, accessed February 2012.
David Sax, “Waiter Schools Offer Restaurants a Refresher Course,” Bloomberg Businessweek, January 12, 2012.
This article was written by your sandwich pros at SandwichPro.com.