10 Tips for Restaurant Training Success

1. Be an expert. The quickest and easiest way to deflate an audience is to not know the jargon and ins and outs of your business. Be knowledgeable about your topic, and connect the concepts and techniques to real-life experiences. You’ll be effective, believable, and confident.

2. Set the stage. Restaurants are not ideal training venues. The design, lighting and table layout create a galaxy of distractions. Consider the private dining room. Or, do a trade with a local hotel. Turn the lights up and the music off. Conduct the class away from the kitchen. Place tables in a crescent shape so no one is looking through someone else’s head (see photo)roomsetcrescentroundstylefrombackview. Make sure everyone has a workbook and pen.  And turn off your iPhone.

3. Sell. The word “seminar” conjures images of falling asleep at your desk back in high school.   Substitute “seminar” with “workshop.” Post upbeat messages: “Don’t miss Service Excellence for Lifetime Loyalty: Learn the art of respectful phrasing and how to handle guest complaints. Snacks and prizes included.” Great American Restaurants sets a professional tone using its GAR State university-style learning center with a schedule of courses and expected outcomes.

4. Create buy-in with benefits. Starting with, “During the next two hours, we’ll discuss …” ensures   a roomful of clock watchers. Say, “In a short amount of time, you’ll learn how to …” Tout common benefits: less stress, more fun, better money, and an improved position in the marketplace. Give prizes for participating. Energize with a chance to win a Starbucks gift card or movie tickets.

5. Engage, entertain, and educate. Delight with real-life examples. “I was at Macy’s in the Dulles Town Center yesterday and couldn’t get a single person to help me find socks.” Relate to the importance of greeting. I tell how personal shopper Keith Beres of Neiman Marcus at Tysons Corner artfully sold me an entire outfit and then link it to selling a complete meal.  Stories provide a powerful way to make a point. They also amuse and ease the mind with mini mental vacations.

6. Boost with games, activities, and role-play: Don’t tell. Show, demonstrate, dramatize. Use the power of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. For example, conduct a Raw, Prepped, Final food show. Have your chef prepare four trays: one for a whole red snapper, another for the garlic, rosemary, sage, thyme, and olive oil marinade, another for uncooked linguini and spinach, and the last for the final plate. Talking about a dish’s origin and health benefits and showing how it’s prepared engages all the senses and learning styles. Add variety with a mix and match of lecture, storytelling, pictures, role-play, activities, and stretch breaks.

7. Create a safe environment.  Avoid put-downs, a surefire way to get participants to shrink into their seats and wonder, “Am I next?” Or worse, think, “I can’t stand this guy.” Honor your participants’ insights, ideas, and efforts, and they feel they’re creating the workshop with you.

8. Make certain managers and team leaders attend.  Workshops are mini focus groups that reveal the strengths and weaknesses of participants. Training sessions also enable managers to fine tune, recast, and ensure the skills and techniques are reinforced.

9. Measure. Beyond tracking check  average, guest satisfaction and employee retention, try “say/do” certification. For example, if your focus is sequence of service, have your trainee role-play every touch point from greeting to good-bye.  You never know if the training sticks until you evaluate performance.

10. End on a high note.  Celebrate by drawing the winning tickets and handing out the prizes. Then thank participants for their creativity, sense of humor, patience, and courage to role-play in front of their peers. Great training leaves participants with skills that make their jobs easier and a feeling of pride and hope for a brighter future.

Contact Bob for DVD for the new DVD “The 8 Keys of Dining Sales Success,” “The Raw Prepped Final Food Show.” and the “7 Keys of Beverage Sales Success” at 703-726-9020 or

About the Author

BOB BROWN, president of Bob Brown Service Solutions,, was the #1 speaker at the 2017 National Restaurant Show. He has worked with hospitality icons such as Disney, Hilton, Morton’s of Chicago, Nordstrom, Olive Garden, and Ritz Carlton and works internationally with the prestigious seven-star Burj Al Arab in Dubai. He has appeared on the Food Network and is author of The Little Brown Book of Restaurant Success, selling over 100,000 copies worldwide. Contact Bob for keynotes, breakouts, and workshops at 571-246-2944 ©Bob Brown Service Solutions 2016.

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