How Tech-Enabled Training Helps Restaurants Improve Employee Experience

    Think about your staff, but also think like your staff.

    A Chick-fil-A worker takes an order at the car in the drive thru.

    Chick-fil-A

    When something changes that affects their job, your staff needs to know about it.

    No matter how much experience one might have in the restaurant industry, we can all agree that starting a new restaurant job always has a learning curve. New menu items to learn, new service standards to follow, and a new culture to adapt to. Reducing these challenges as much as possible not only improves the guest experience, but the employee experience as well. As a waitress and lead server, it was always obvious to me that employee experience has a huge impact on guest experience. It was also obvious (painfully at times) that restaurant owners and managers often struggle to keep that factor in their sights.

    Our experience as restaurant staff goes way beyond what happens during our shift. It includes everything and anything that has to do with the job: Did I get good training? When do I get my schedule? Do I have to go to a pre-shift meeting? Do I know when things change on the menu? Are the uniform details clear and consistent? The list goes on! But perhaps most important is the question: Am I included in the “loop” of things that are happening in my venue that affect me and my ability to do my job in an easy and effective way?

    Making life better for your staff

    I know, without any doubt, making life better for your staff makes your restaurant a better restaurant. It is more welcoming to guests, more efficient, more profitable and guests enjoy themselves and their meals more when surrounded by a staff that feels satisfied and prepared within their roles.

    Pay, tips, hours and benefits tend to get all the attention when it comes to staff perks and conditions. While those all matter greatly I would add that the other big three are equally vital: training, organization, and communication.

    Employee Training: Giving them what they need, and more.

    Traditionally, training in restaurants can be tedious and expensive. Restaurants spend $1,500–$5,000 every year for every employee on training alone. Match that with the high turnover rate that our industry knows so well and you’ve got a big figure on your hands. But what are you actually paying for? Well, of course you have to pay the new employee, and the employee who will be training them. You also have to pay your managers, who are spending time putting together training schedules, organizing menu details, and constantly coming up with creative ways to test for product knowledge.

    When a new employee joins the team, they spend a few shifts learning the ropes. Whether they are learning through a formal system or it’s “training under fire,” these first few shifts should be setting them up for success - not discouraging them from showing up. As a waitress, when I go through a training program that is efficient and thorough, I am always left feeling excited to start and confident that I will be able to do my job, make good money, and most importantly, enjoy coming to work.

    Since our venues are constantly evolving, we can never really press pause on staff training. There is always a new menu to roll out, or new uniform guidelines for the summer, or a wine list that is being expanded. So how do we streamline these details and get them to our staff so that they have the tools they need to get the job done right? The answer that I have seen work best is all about organizing, presenting and sharing your restaurant details with your staff in an effective and easy to understand manner.

    Is there an app for that? How technology improves the employee experience

    Put it all in one place. Keep everything that your staff needs in a place (on one app, maybe) that is complete and covers it all. Traditionally this is a binder or a training manual and these do work, but using an app-based program makes updating and communicating with your team incredibly more efficient. How many times have you had to reprint a sidework checklist, but the printer was out of ink or your laptop wasn’t connecting? That binder can get out of date pretty quick.

    If your staff has to go searching for info behind the bar, or from a manager or another employee, they may come up empty, give up, get the wrong info or end up guessing about something that can make or break their day. App-based systems will organize your material in a way that makes sense for a restaurant, making it easy to find, easy to understand and easy to learn.

    When something changes that affects their job, your staff needs to know about it. The closer to real time they find out the better … the better for them, the better for your guest and the better for your restaurant. Most managers have some type of daily notification system, be it a group text message or a pre-shift meeting. But details can be lost in long text or email threads, and we all know that pre-shift can easily be cut short (or cancelled altogether) if the floor is busy and customers are waiting.

    Using an app-based system to notify your team of changes in your restaurant will become a game-changer in improving the employee experience. By giving your employees real-time access to the details, you are also telling them that you value them and their time.

    Trust me on this one. I’ve worked as a waitress in places where the information flow was top notch and it made my life better. When the information was lacking it became frustrating and distracting. Without the info I needed, current and easy to find it became almost impossible to be a really good waitress. Organize what your staff needs and make sure they can find it easily. Not only will it elevate how your venue operates, but your staff will love you for it!

    How Next Level Communication Can Transform your Venue

    The more your staff knows about the things they need to do their jobs and the sooner they know it affects your restaurant more than almost any other factor. We have all had amazing service experiences (in a restaurant or at the mechanic shop), and we have all had horrible ones as well. The truth is that at the root of all good service is knowledge combined with an attentive team member. When a staff knows their stuff and is aware of up to the minute details, the potential for amazing service soars.

    Getting the latest details to your staff needs to be a priority to those that lead them. Anything less is making it harder for them to do their job. Find a way to do this at the next level and everyone that enters your restaurant will notice.

    Notify, notify, notify. If a menu item changes, notify your staff. If a large party is coming in, notify your staff. Is the salmon sold out? Notify your staff. New drink items, new bartender, new health and safety items, uniform changes—notify your staff! Having your team use an app that is designed to do just this (notify) makes this easy to do. Your restaurant will change and your employees will be better restaurant workers.

    Think about your staff, but also think like your staff. Put yourself in their place and focus on making their lives better when they are at work. Ask yourself what your venue can do to train, organize and communicate with your staff in ways that work. Your restaurant will thrive as a result and so will your workers.

    Danielle Casilio has been involved in the restaurant industry since her teenage years working as a server, lead server and trainer in a diverse variety of restaurant venues. Her natural talent for organization and streamlining material led her to search for a better way to train, organize and communicate in the restaurant industry. The result was YELLI, an app and desktop platform that is designed to make the lives of restaurant workers and those that lead them better.