There are plenty of reports and articles that show national turnover rates for restaurant servers are as high as 70%.  They talk about how you should offer competitive compensation packages, build better employee engagement and invest in your staff.  These are great ideas that have one thing in common:  they don’t change the fact that restaurant servers have no pre-job training that is comprehensive in any way.

When recruiting for a restaurant server, even the best candidates had their training on a previous job, with no continued training after their usual 3-5 days training period.  Many restaurants have training checklists and training manuals that are read once if they’re read at all.  Restaurant server training programs most commonly consist of new hires shadowing another server, who also has had no further training or learning beyond the 3-5 days of training they had when they started.  The training focuses on menu knowledge, greeting the guest, taking orders and learning the restaurant’s system for ordering.  These are the ‘mechanics’ of restaurant serving, and don’t focus on guest relations, the guest experience, sales, or hospitality related language & communication.

There are little or no restaurant server training activities or ideas that include personality identification to offer better service.  There are no training activities or ideas using language to conduct a productive conversation designed to achieve a particular result, or that will enhance both the restaurant’s sales or the guest’s experience.  In most cases, the trainer and trainee aren’t even in the same room together for more than half of the server training shift.  There’s no discussion around mindset or what a server’s goals are with each step of the guest experience.  They’re given the “steps of service”, and wind up going through those motions.

Terminology that’s prevalent with server communications these days suggests that the focus of most restaurant servers is in the wrong place.  Servers most often refer to their “tables” rather than their guests or customers.  Phrases like, “how’s everything tasting?” have replaced “how is everything?”.    Hospitable terms like “you’re welcome” have been replaced by the ever popular “no problem”.  Is that the bar for service we’re setting today – for what we do for our guests to simply not be a problem?  Is this language guest centric or is it server centric?

Most professions have come to recognize the importance of ongoing training.  Even the most successful professionals today have coaches themselves.  So, why do we continue to settle for less in the restaurant and hospitality industry?

When a restaurant server begins the job after their 3-5 days of training, they are at best a new employee with much to learn about your restaurant, and in some cases, about sales & service in general.  Once they’ve been on the job for 6 months or a year, they’ve simply been repeating that performance, most often with no additional coaching or ongoing training.

What opportunities do restaurant servers have to improve the service they’re giving to guests?  What skills are they learning or adapting to increase sales for your restaurant, which of course would increase their own income (tips)?  What opportunities are there for your best servers to continue to grow and become exceptional?

The answers to these questions will be the most valuable tools you’ll ever have to recruit and retain the team of sales & service professionals that you and your restaurant deserve.

Gaining a reputation as a restaurant where the training is excellent, where servers make the most money and where they can grow their skills to become exceptional  – this will have recruits seeking you out, and the existing members of your serving teams stay with you for long & healthy periods of time.