How to train your back-of-house staff and turn them into customer-experience superheroes
By Jason Rykken, Director of Account Management, Restaurant Technologies (FastCasual.com)
Psst! There’s a secret you need to hear about your restaurant staff. Little did you know customer-experience superheroes are in your back of house. It’s true: Back-of-house employees are key to creating a customer experience that keeps diners coming back. Everything they do impacts everything your customers experience in the front of house. What is the key to unlock their customer-experience superpowers? Training.
Training is critical these days, especially in light of changing demographics among your labor force and customer base. Expectations are rising among customers and employees, while the labor pool is shrinking. Restaurant design is changing, too, with open kitchens exposing equipment and employees to the customer.
Have no fear, though. Five simple training tips are here.
1. Throw out the book. (Think face-to-face or video instead.)
Rules and guidelines are essential to any employee training, and, ultimately, your training guidelines need to be in writing.
However, training has a stronger, more-lasting impact with your staff when it’s face to face. After all, the customer experience is an experience – comprised of tastes, sights, sounds, a smile, a greeting – not just words on a page. Face-to-face training is especially helpful for your back-of-house staff, who work behind the scenes and often don’t see the customer experience firsthand. They need to understand how their actions impact the front-of-house customer experience. Leverage your vendors to facilitate a training session since they know their products and equipment the best. In addition, visual demonstrations provide clarity for employees of all experience levels. In fact, 83 percent of human learning is visual.
Yet, if time or budget won’t allow for hands-on training, video is the second most-effective training method. Video offers the flexibility to accommodate different work schedules and reach staff across multiple locations. It’s also a great tool for on-boarding follow-ups and continuing education.
2. Communicate, communicate, communicate with everyone.
Whether taking an order at the point of sale or prepping the line for the lunch rush, all of your employees play a leading role in making a good impression on customers.
Your back-of-house staff needs to hear how they’re making a difference in the front-of-house experience. Customer feedback can be very helpful if it’s shared with everyone, including back-of-house staff, so improvements can be made across all fronts; and all employees can be trained and empowered to solve problems.
It’s important to eliminate any front-of-house/back-of-house communication divide. Train back-of-house employees the same as your front-of-house staff. By getting everyone on the same page and behind the same mission, you’ll give all your employees a sense of cohesion and involvement that’s key to driving a better customer experience.
3. Win over your employees, and they’ll win over your customers.
When customers take that first bite of their orders is the tipping point. Either the food is going to live up to expectations, or it’s going to leave a bad taste in their mouths.
Let your back-of-house staff know how important their food-prep role is to the recipe for your restaurant’s success. Conduct in-depth training sessions on food prep and safety to ensure your customers receive the best quality from you. Recognize your employees when their actions result in immediate acknowledgment by customers.
Moreover, as you build your training program, be sure to keep it interesting, fun and interactive. Showcase your food-prep superstars. While they’re not on the front lines of customer service, engaged and motivated back-of-house employees go a long way toward keeping happy, returning customers.
4. Without a well-thought back-of-house setup, training is a waste of time.
Even if your front of house is running perfectly, the customer experience will fall short if your back-of-house operation is not up to standard. As open kitchen design grows in popularity, more customers have a view into how and where their food is being prepared. Your staff needs to know how to keep the back of house clean and safe, even during the busiest times.
Additionally, don’t rely on training to offset a complicated back-of-house procedure. Equipment such as high-efficiency dishwashers, disposals, automated oil management systems and trash compactors can help streamline complicated and unsafe tasks. In turn, high-quality equipment can help raise employee morale by making hard work a little easier. By equipping your back-of-house staff with the right kitchen tools and training, they’re more likely to keep operations shipshape.
5. Good timing leads to better training.
Timing can make all the difference in your training. Ideally, you want to conduct training when an improvement is being rolled out, say, when a new piece of equipment is installed. Such planning lets employees apply what they’ve learned firsthand. Training right before an equipment rollout is never ideal. Without seeing a new process in action, a manager won’t understand how it impacts everything else. Admittedly, scheduling can be a challenge. That’s where the value of training videos comes in, particularly when face to face is a challenge.
Additionally, think of training in terms of continuous improvement. Conduct follow-up training. Put a process in place, with checks and balances, to ensure your staff is complying with procedures. Understand that how-tos, standard-operating guidelines, visuals and tactical “ABC” lists can transfer learning from one person to another, and keep training top of mind.
Yes, customer expectations are rising. However, with the right training, your back-of-house employees can help you exceed them with super-prep powers that make your entire restaurant a hero in your customers’ eyes.