Imagine this – you just worked a short 12-hour day in the kitchen, you finally get off, and you go for a pint. You go to your favorite pub and order your favorite Irish Stout. It comes to you in a chilled pint glass, filled with an iced cold rich dark chocolate liquid with just a 1/8 of inch of off-white foam on top. That is a perfect pour. You expect that every time you go to your favorite pub. How do you feel when you receive that pint, it is clouded with foam, and it resembles a cup of cappuccino more than your favorite stout? I always feel like someone was not trained the proper pouring technique, nor do they understand why it is so important that the pint is poured perfectly.
How many times in our careers have we brought on new hires, paired the most convenient employee to train them, and just trusted that they will receive the training they need to be a server, dishwasher, or busser? Then, when it is time for that person to do the job on their own, they are not ready because of inadequate training; I know that I am guilty of this. I also know that this has come back to bite me before.
About 8 years ago, a company I was working for introduced 100% proficiency training when it came to putting together our accounting packages. After much training, I received my 100% proficiency sign off on the new accounting program, and I started to realize that we really should be applying this to the FOH and BOH staff also. It took a little bit of office work, but I started to create benchmarks for my staff. I decided that they needed to have a full understanding of these benchmarks before I would sign them off on their 100% proficiency.
First and foremost, you are not training your staff to be robots whom just do things because they are told to. You need to create a level buy-in and understanding by your staff to make this work. Once they start to see the “why” of what you are teaching them, they should start to come around to seeing the benefits of 100% proficiency.
When it comes to the FOH, it fairly obvious why this should be in place. I personally added benchmarks for the FOH like “never enter or leave the kitchen empty handed,” as well as things likes “always make eye contact with your guests if you are passing their table. “Ignoring a table can lead to dissatisfied guests and the loss of potential sales, and you never know – that brief eye contact could have led to an additional $40+ bottle of wine added to the bill. As a chef, one of my biggest pet peeves is when a server sets a plate in front of a guest clearly in a manner different to how the chef intended for it to be presented. It only takes a little training and explanation for the staff to understand why.
Same goes for the BOH. I have a memory for food for how it tastes, smells, and how it looks. Unless there is a deliberate change being made to the food, it should always look, smell and taste the same. This consistency does not just go for the cooking aspect of the kitchen – it also needs to be in place for cleaning, HACCP logs, and storing product, among other things.
I always found that creating benchmarks did two things. First off, after my initial interview with a new hire, they would walk away with a copy of the bench marks in hand for the position they applied for. It set the kind of genuine expectations for the job that you can’t really get across in an application. Secondly, once you have signed off on the employee’s 100% proficiency, there are no excuses any longer for an employee not doing their job to their fullest. You can then hold them to that standard going forward, and base their raises off of that performance.
Proper training of your staff can lead to increased business and revenue, as well as more specific scenarios like being ready for the health inspector to show up. Essentially, you are creating a level of consistency that makes your business shine.
Back to that stout. There is a secret to pouring the perfect pint of Irish Stout – patience. Good things come to those that invest the time. First time I poured a pint of stout from a tap, I failed. I went too fast, the glass was at the wrong angle, and it was all foam. It takes time, repetition and an understanding of why that pour needs to be perfect every time.