In this article: How to use quizzes and tests to enhance your restaurant staff training program, including 3 most common mistakes restaurant managers make when testing employees.
Let’s talk about the restaurant industry’s relationship with tests.
Nobody wants to admit it, but we are freaking obsessed with quizzes and tests. Every restaurant implements some type of testing into their training program, whether it’s one comprehensive test at the end of the week, or daily quizzes to review along the way.
Additionally, most restaurants continue to test employees regularly even after their initial training. Maybe a monthly quiz on the updated menu items, or a mock wine service to address some errors that have been happening on the floor.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is that tests and quizzes are really just part of our culture as an industry, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
The nature of our work is that there is a ton of product knowledge, and it’s always being updated! Testing the team is the easiest way for managers to have a sense of how well someone will perform.
While using tests and quizzes of all types are in fact a great way to train and prepare employees to get the job done well, there are a few different ways that I often see testing fall short and not be so effective.
I was consulting a restaurant on their training program once, and when they showed me the quizzes they were currently using, the very first question was “Explain why it’s important to write every order down in your server book.” Now, this is a fine question, except for the fact that this restaurant had switched their servers to handheld tablets instead of server books, and no one had written an order down in the year since they switched over. This question was out of date.
Hand-crafting tests and quizzes is hard. Keeping them updated is also hard. That is why material being out of date is the #1 most common issue. Restaurant managers have a lot going on, and they are not school teachers. Creating and executing training is a full time job, on top of their full time job.
The second most common mistake I see with test and quiz programs is inconsistency. Like anything else, consistency is key to seeing real results. If only some people are taking tests, if you’re not following through on issuing tests or storing scores, you can’t expect to see the results you want.
It takes some work to outline your ideal testing program, and then implement it successfully. I often see inconsistency lead to feelings of frustration and people wanting to give up altogether and just go have a smoke out back. I get it. If you’re feeling that way, take a deep breath and a step back from everything. Start looking at your training program from a wider perspective and get really clear on what’s important for the venue.
The third most common mistake I see restaurant managers/operators make is using the wrong test or quiz format for the information they are testing on. For example, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to have a server take a multiple choice test on how to perform wine service, instead you might use a practical test format (mock service) where they actually perform the wine service.
When you’re thinking about ways to make your training program effective, making sure that you’re using formats that fit the information is a great place to start. Think about all of the sections of your training that you want to test on, and for each section decide which format makes the most sense.
You may find that you’re able to consolidate the number of tests you actually need, or you might find that you want to convert everything to multiple choice format so that your managers never have to hand grade anything ever again.
At the end of the day, the most important tip that I can give you when building your test or quiz program is to make it work for you and for your team.
There are a million guides out there and templates for testing and training restaurant staff. When you’re just getting started these can be helpful and give you something to work off of. However, if there is anything I know about the restaurant industry, it’s that even if I’ve been a server for 50 years I will still have to complete the training at my new restaurant, and most of that information will be new to me. Having solid tests and quizzes not only help your managers do their job, but also help your employees feel confident they have the knowledge they need to perform at their best.
Building a test and quiz program for your restaurant is important if you want to be able to effectively train new employees and gauge their product knowledge and performance levels. As a business owner, your talent is one of your largest assets and you want to be able to make sure they have the information they need, and are meeting your standards.
Take a look at your testing program and see if you can find any of the three most common mistakes. Identify what the weaknesses are and where you would like to improve, and then start doing it! Your team will thank you, and so will your bottom line.