Training Restaurant Staff

We all know that the restaurant industry has a bad reputation for having incredibly high employee turnover.  This often leads managers feeling defeated, leading them to substandard training programs.  After all, why waste time training staff if they are just going to leave soon anyway, right?  NO.  Undertraining your staff will always backfire on you.

The best way to get loyal staff is to treat them with respect, and to invest the time to properly train them.  No matter the experience level of the new hire, you need to train them on how you want them to perform specifically at your restaurant.  Sometimes, this will even involve them unlearning bad habits they picked up from past jobs, ensuring that your guests have the experience that you envision.

Below is a sample training check list for a server and a line cook – two positions that typically require the most training.  These can be modified for various other positions such as bussers, prep, host, etc.  Be sure to have every employee sign-off on each item on your list, so that you are sure the employee received each portion of the training, thoroughly understands it, and is aware that they will be held accountable for their performance.

FOH – Server BOH – Line cook
Orientation, restaurant policies, uniform, clocking in and out, health and safety procedures, etc. Orientation, restaurant policies, uniform, clocking in and out, general safety procedures, etc.
Menu memorization and abbreviations. Familiarization with how the food is prepared, cook times, plating, garnishing Food safety, hygiene, sanitation, proper temperatures, cross contamination, allergens
Floor plan, table numbering Menu memorization and abbreviations. Recipes, prep sheets, cook times, plating, garnishing
How to greet guests and introduce specials Operation, cleaning, and basic maintenance of equipment
How to take food and beverage orders Receiving food, proper storage for both dry and refrigerated items, first in first out (FIFO), date dots
Soft skills such as upselling techniques, handling customer complaints, teamwork, etc. Training on individual stations
Using the POS system Opening and closing duties
Food running and delivery
Closing out a check and handling payments
Opening and closing duties, side work
Check out procedures
Hands on training, shadowing


Becoming ready to fly solo does not necessarily mean that the new hire’s training is complete.  Consider these ongoing training methods to keep your employees motivated and engaged:

Crosstrain both FOH and BOH staff.  Most managers see the benefit of a bartender being able to run food or pack a to go order if the bar is slow during a lunch shift, but some overlook the benefit of cross-training the BOH staff.  There is a huge benefit in training all BOH employees on how to properly power on and off, or how to maintain and clean each piece of equipment.  Consider the potential benefits of having your fry cook know how to clean the broiler should you be short staffed, or how to power off the dishwasher if it malfunctions.

Provide constructive feedback, often.  Don’t wait until there is an issue to address your staff.  Feedback needs to be clear and specific to reinforce behaviors that you want to see more of, and to deter those that need to stop.  Decide how management will provide feedback, and create guidelines for every manager to follow.

Practice ongoing training.  Keep your staff fresh and motivated by creating an environment in which they are always learning a new tip or trick that can improve performance or make their job easier.  This can be a quick demo during the pre-shift meeting in which the bartender teaches the waitstaff wine pairing to help them upsell, or you might have your star cook talk to the other kitchen staff about proper plating and consistency.

The Ctuit Guide Restaurant Human Resources outlines strategies for effectively hiring, training and managing employees to help you build a team that makes your restaurant thrive. HR requires a lot of time, and can leave you facing legal issues due to the constantly changing laws and regulations at both the federal and state levels. Ctuit highly recommends outsourcing and/or using a consultant when you can, especially on complex issues such as payroll and taxes, so those topics will not be covered in this series.

Read the complete series:

  1. Human Resources Basics for New Operators
  2. Hiring the Right People
  3. Building a Strong Team with Behavioral-Based Interviewing
  4. The Restaurant Employee Handbook
  5. Training Restaurant Staff
  6. Managing Restaurant Staff
  7. Developing a Winning Culture in Your Restaurant