In this article: 4 key elements that your restaurant staff testing program for new employees should focus on to reduce turnover and improve performance/morale.
We all know the drill.
Get a new restaurant job, complete the training days, take the tests.
What do we have to test on? Well, the menu that you just spent the past three days obsessing over, chugging red bull to pull all-night study sessions. What’s in the ranch dressing, you ask? Does the house margarita come with salt or tajin on the rim?
Then we have to learn all of the ins and outs of our new gig before we can do our job, so we get tested on things like restaurant facts and service standards.
Finally, we usually have to pass a practical test at the end of our training (most of us know this as a mock service) to make sure we really know what we’re doing, not just writing it down on paper.
Testing is important
Learning everything you need within a week-span can be challenging, but it is critical before interacting with guests on your own. Managers who thoroughly test their new hires are really doing them a favor, ultimately keeping them from falling behind in service because they have all of the information they need to do the job correctly.
Let’s take a look at 4 of the key elements that your tests should be focusing on. If tests are a part of your training program, you’ll want to check this one out.
#1: Menu/Product Knowledge
If you want to help your people out, make sure that you’re holding them accountable when it comes to menu and product knowledge.
We’re all here for the same reason: to serve food and drinks to our customers in an efficient, hospitable manner. Of course there are a million things that go into making that happen, but the key element has to be that we know exactly what we are serving.
The first restaurant job I had that thoroughly tested me on the menu was the most lucrative (and easiest) job I ever had. The tests were simple: here are each of the menu items, write out the details of each one. Even though it was challenging to memorize everything, I felt so confident once I hit the floor. I rarely got stumped by a customer because I just knew the answers. Keeping your team out of the weeds should be your goal!
#2: Company Information and History
Knowing about the history of your restaurant is extremely helpful when it comes to interacting with guests. Besides talking about the food, customers are always asking questions about the brand, the ownership, what used to be in the space, etc. Being able to have a conversation with guests about the company is crucial to establishing a good rapport with them, and for building regulars.
Make sure you are incorporating thorough training about the restaurant's history and overall “fun facts” that guests will ask your staff about. I think this can sometimes be overlooked, but it really can change the tone of a team and elevate the hospitality element.
#3: Steps of Service
If it isn’t already a focus point of your training, make sure that steps of service become something that new hires are thoroughly familiar with. If you haven’t already, take the time to outline the specific steps of service that you want each team member to follow. Make this information accessible to your employee during their training, and then incorporate it into the testing program as well.
A steps of service test should be open-ended, where the employee can accurately recite or write the steps to follow when interacting with guests. In my opinion the best way to test on steps of service is with mock service, which we’ll talk about next.
#4: Mock Service
Restaurant workers aren’t going to be sitting at a desk all day long, so making sure that you’re testing on the actual performance element is crucial. Although it can be nerve wracking, many of us actually find doing a mock service or trial shift easier than taking a written test - we’re just more in our element under that kind of pressure!
If you aren’t already, make sure you incorporate practical tests as a good chunk of your testing program. Not only will you get to see exactly where your team member is at, but you’re also giving them a safe space to work out any kinks or insecurities they have before they hit the floor. It’s the final boost of confidence they need to hit the ground running.
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What does your current testing program look like? Has it been updated recently? Do you even use tests in your training? Take some time to consider what you are trying to accomplish with your staff training, and make sure that your tests match those goals.
Be sure to keep your testing information organized and up to date, test thoroughly on product knowledge and information that will actually serve your employees to know, and then make sure to see it all in action by using practical tests as well. Before long you will have a confident and over performing staff who will thank you for helping them succeed.