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Training your FOH Staff: Top 5 training topics.

By Kate Edwards - Owner Kate Edwards Consulting LLC.

Training your FOH Staff: Top 5 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 ambassadors of your brand you must support your team by informing them and giving them input and knowledge. There are literally thousands of important details to work on so you must be diligent to highlight and share each of them!

Here are the top 5 training topics that every FOH restaurant worker needs to understand in order to be a better ambassador and salesperson.

1.   The Hello

Hospitality in embodied in the welcome of your guests to your restaurant. You must train your staff on how to greet your guests and help them get comfortable being hospitable. Hospitality takes practice so give your staff some examples of the proper hello for your restaurant. Make sure your “hello” 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!

2.   The Good-bye

“Good-bye” is also an 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.

3.   Listening

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 all 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 you heard him. This trust will (and must) continue throughout the meal.

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 is potentially starting and once a problem has occurred. It is important for the entire team to be 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 a second person inquiring about the meal. 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.

5.   Self Awareness

We must always be self-aware whenever we are in the dining room. There is no place to hide and since our guests 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.


About Kate Edwards


Kate Edwards is the owner of a full-service restaurant consulting business that is a result of her more than 20 years of experience working in NYC.

Her focus is opening new properties, revitalizing existing businesses, optimizing and improving existing systems as well as improving customer service. She also works with restaurateurs to help focus their vision, align their goals and amplify their philosophy and values. Kate has worked with clients in New York, New Jersey, and Seattle in the US and Anguilla in the BWI.

Kate is also an Instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education where she teaches Restaurant Management classes to students of both the Restaurant Management and Career Culinary Arts programs.

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By Kate Edwards