November 22, 2022

For The Newbies: Best Practices When Training Green Restaurant Employees

In this article: Best practices for training restaurant workers who have never worked in the hospitality or food and beverage industry before.

Training restaurant staff is a full time job. 

Even the employees with years of experience require at least 2-3 days of training before they’re able to hit the floor on their own. When you hire an employee with no experience, however, the same training schedule doesn’t quite do the trick.

Why would you hire an employee with no experience? If you’re asking that question you must not work in the hospitality industry. Hiring green employees is our forte.

This isn’t a bad thing! We’re an industry that hires mostly young people; students, gig workers, part-time actors. Training someone to work in a restaurant even if they never have before doesn’t have to be difficult, but it’s helpful to keep a few things in mind when doing so.

Let’s take a look at a few tips and tricks that will help you effectively and simply train green employees in your restaurant.

Break your training into bite-sized pieces

The scariest thing for a green employee coming into your restaurant is most likely the amount of information they will have to consume during their training.

Most non-industry people think that working in a restaurant will be straightforward, especially if they have gone out to eat a lot and understand service flow. It’s always shocking just how much information goes into training, even when the employee has experience. If you’ve ever been a trainer, you know what I’m talking about here…cue the lost, empty gaze as you ramble on about how to skewer garnishes for 15 minutes…

A good practice for ALL of your staff training, but especially with green employees, is to break your info down into bite-sized chunks. The only way to do this effectively is to get highly organized with that information first.

Related: Organization: The Key To Restaurant Success That Most Overlook

Being organized will give you some clarity on exactly what it is your team needs to know. Once you do that, you will feel more confident and in control of how your venue runs. Sure, this process may require some time, but I highly recommend fine-tuning your training program in a way that works best for your team if you want to streamline new hires in the future.

Related: Building An Effective Training Program For New Restaurant Employees

Once your training program is organized, your new hires will be able to digest the information more efficiently, and will also have more confidence that they have the information they need to be on the floor successfully.

Build a terminology list/index

Example Terminology List

I’m just gonna say it - we love our lingo.

Having a solid restaurant index that is up to date and reflects the terms your staff utilizes is super helpful for a green restaurant worker who definitely doesn’t know why the chef keeps screaming “ALL DAY!” at her.

For those of us who have worked in the industry for a long time, our lingo is just our language. Oftentimes it even becomes part of who we are, so much so that we don’t realize just how long it took us to learn it all! Think back to your first day working in a restaurant. Unless your family raised you in one, chances are it took you at least a few weeks to get comfortable with the chaos.

Give your new employee easy access to an index, or keep one printed and in easy view! Once you start creating your index, you will probably realize just how many terms you use regularly that people in the real world would be confused by!

Related: 3 Red Flags That Make Restaurant Workers Quit A New Job

Slow it all down! Build patience into your training

Be patient! No matter how short staffed and frustrated you are, putting pressure on a green employee to get where you need them to be is a recipe for disaster.

Build some empathy and patience into your training program. We’re all human, and the best way to boost your workplace morale and increase retention is to allow that human element to be there. Basically, don’t be a jerk - give the newbies some time to get situated before slamming them down for not pouring the perfect draft beer.

Related: Why Traditional Training Methods Don’t Work For Restaurant Teams

Being patient and intentional with your new hire training will also give you the ability to clearly assess the person's strengths and weaknesses. Keeping the energy positive, calm, and patient will lift some of the tensions that tend to make employees ultra nervous. Making them feel at home not only builds trust, but allows them to be themselves.

Honestly assess strengths and weaknesses

Assessing your new team members strengths and weaknesses during their training is crucial to their success within your company. With inexperienced restaurant workers, they may think that being a server is what they want, but you may notice that they are better suited to be behind the bar. Have an honest conversation with them, explain what skills are required for each position, and where their natural strengths lie.

Related: How To Write An Honest Job Description For Restaurant Workers: Part 1

Keeping someone in a position that they aren’t suited for doesn’t help anyone. Remember that you are the expert here, not them. You know what skills are required to be a great bartender, and what other skills are required to be a sous chef. They don’t know, so it’s your responsibility to teach them.

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Be kind and remember what it felt like to be a newbie too.

The last piece, and in my opinion the most important, is to be kind! When you’re working with a new hire who is green to the industry, chances are they are young, vulnerable, and nervous (or some combination of all three). Take it easy on them, and remember what it felt like to be new.

I’m not saying that you should baby them, or be extra lenient. Green employees should be held to the same standards as their coworkers, that’s why you hired them. 

Just keep in mind that there may be times when you are frustrated with their inexperience. You wish they just got it, and you didn’t have to repeat yourself 15 times. Be kind, guide them through the rough patch, and see if you don’t find a loyal, trusting employee who will be grateful you gave them the chance.

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