Essential F.O.H. Training Topics
Training is an essential piece of restaurant maintenance. It must be conducted daily so that your staff can best represent you, your brand and your vision. As the manager of your brand, you must support your team by informing them and giving them input and knowledge. Along with the literally thousands of important details, there are some key concepts that are critical to your front of house team's success.
Here are the top 5 training topics that every FOH restaurant worker needs to understand in order to be a better ambassador and salesperson for your business:
Hospitality in embodied in the welcome of your guests to your restaurant. Training your staff on how to greet your guests will help your team members get comfortable being hospitable. Hospitality takes practice, so give your staff some examples of the proper hello for your restaurant. Make sure your greeting matches the style of your restaurant; above all hospitality must be authentic. So if your restaurant is a casual cafe then “hi” or “hello” can be friendly and down to earth. If your restaurant is a little more sophisticated, then “good evening” or “good afternoon” may be more appropriate. Have your staff practice on one another: smiling is easier when practiced on a friend than with a stranger…and we welcome strangers all the time!
Your “Good-bye” is another important piece of hospitality, and is the best way to seal a good memory in the mind of your guest. I encourage every staff member to say good-bye to guests as they pass through the restaurant. In fact, this is something everyone can participate in and is the warmest way to thank your guests for dining with you.
Our job is to listen to our guests. But how do our guests trust that we hear them? By repeating the information back, thus confirming that the message was properly received. I always give examples of how to speak to guests in the training materials I produce. First it’s important to understand that service is really a conversation. We may ask a question: “May I offer you bottled or tap water?” and the guest may say “We’ll have a bottle of flat water.” Then we must let him know we heard him by repeating back “Great, I will bring your flat water right away, do you care for something from the bar?” This type of conversation is not only good manners and makes the sale, but it also ensures that your guest knows that you heard him. This trust will - and must - continue throughout their experience.
4. Problem Solving
Problems happen all the time; it is how you address them that will set you apart. Let your staff know what to do when a problem, or potential problem arises and make sure that the entire team is on the same page regarding guest satisfaction. I always train the staff to address potential problems by engaging the guest and showing concern. If it looks like the guest is unhappy with her steak, then the server or runner must ask “is the steak prepared to your liking?” This conversation allows the guest to know that we noticed and gives her a chance to have a correction made, if necessary. If the guest weakly replies “No, it looks OK” and the server is not convinced, then it is essential to involve a manager. Nothing says “We stand by our brand and respond to our guests needs” than following through on an instinct that a guest is not completely satisfied.
Guests are sometimes shy to share when they are unhappy or surprised (didn’t realize there was parsley on the steak and the guest hates parsley) but we can do so many things to make a guest happy. By asking the question then honoring the answer with action or kindness (“Allow me to get you a steak without parsley, it will only take a moment!”) we will engage this guest and create a moment of service: when the potential problem was replaced by a thoughtful solution.
We must always be self-aware whenever we are in the dining room. We are always in view of our guests and since they are sitting and we are standing, everything we do can be observed by someone somewhere. Not only are we in the business of hospitality, we are also in the business of sanitation and public health. Part of the trusting relationship we share with our guests is that we will do nothing to bring them harm.
But when a guest observes a staff member scratching his head, clearing glasses by the rim or sneezing into his hand and then cutting bread without using a glove, the trust has been broken. Sanitation has been violated. So we must always be aware that what we do unconsciously in the dining room will affect someone’s perception of our business. Training your staff to be self-aware means making corrections in real time: asking the server to wash his hands after sneezing or picking up those dirty glasses. It reinforces the brand with your staff so that he or she can better represent it, day in and day out.
If you are clear about your expectations of your team and prioritize regular, targeted and ongoing training, you will enhance the level of service your brand provides. Amongst the many skills needed by your front of the house team, enhanced self-awareness, listening skills, a problem-solving mindset and the actions of hospitality are some of the most critical for the success of your restaurant.