So maybe you didn’t go to school for restaurant management. Maybe you didn’t even go to school to be a chef. You’ve cultured yourself and skills of the restaurant business model by learning the ropes. School or not. What is the first rule we learn which makes a successful restaurant? Consistency. This is something corporate restaurants, and franchises have dialed in. If you have had the, some might say unpleasant, experience working in such a corporate chain, you know what I am talking about. What is their secret to maintaining consistency? For the lucky few who have not had this experience, the next bit is some behind-the-scenes information that makes the corporate guys work, and even more, expand. It could work just as well for a sole owner or mom and pop shop.
Laying down the rules first. As an owner or manager, you cannot have any real weight placed on regulations with out a rule book, or an employee handbook. I am not going into the details, but everything you wish to be followed and most importantly respected should be in this book. A handbook is a great teaching tool, but can also come in handy in the case of any legality issues. If you are not sure where to start. Have a read or re-read through your business plan, it could give you some ideas. I am going to give you a start: uniform and appearance, sexual harassment, rules of engagement, greeting guests, house recipes, cleaning standards…etc.
The basics. If you are just opening a restaurant or are planning to, there is no better time than now to implement these rules into your business plan. If you are already established, it could be a challenge changing things up a bit. It will take some time and adjustment for yourself and your staff, but it can work.
The corporate model is about attention to details. You cannot expect your staff to pay attention to the finer points if it does not start with them personally. Uniforms. For kitchen; non-slip-no-open-toe shoes, chef pants, an ironed-pressed-white-clean-chef coat. FOH; same with the shoes. It doesn’t matter what the uniform is, even if you have chosen nice jeans and a button up shirt. The key is cleanliness. They need to respect their appearance. It only reflects back to them and of course on the restaurant.
The details. It is not uncommon for corporate establishments to give written tests to their staff.
The prep crew. They should be tested on basic house recipes. How food should be stored. Correct freezer and refrigerator temps. Cooking temps of protein. Methods
of cooking. Proper techniques for rapid cooling. If they are present to receive food delivery, the steps for doing so, and for putting items away.
The line. One word, pars. Saving money, or at least maintaining a budget starts here. In order for menu items which are brought to your guests to remain (that word again) consistent from guest to guest or for the regulars, pars must be in place. How many ounces of chicken go in the salad? How much bolognese sauce with the pasta? You get it. This should be on the test. They should know these verbatim. After all, they are setting up the line, and they probably have ladles and spoons for the precise amount the recipe calls for. If they don’t know this, the same dish is not the same each time and you are loosing money, especially if erring is on the side of excess. Same as the prep crew; food storage, storage temps… (see above: The prep crew.)
FOH. Of course you do not have to get as detailed with menu items to test the FOH crew on as the kitchen, but they should know the main and basic ingredients that make each one special. *One thing all FOH staff needs to know, without a doubt! What food items contain, nuts, garlic/onions. I am not going to go into the consequences of making the error of bringing someone a dish containing something they are deathly allergic to.
Test the FOH on preparations. Obviously grilled salmon is going to taste different than poached. Have fun with the test. Ask them to describe how they might sell plates to guests. If you have a food and beverage training program or sommelier, they should be tested on suggested pairings. Test on cleaning standards. Set up standards. Greeting standards. Answering phones. Taking reservations. Times of operation.
*Your bartender(s) should know pars for mixing drinks and pours. This is another area where you could loose money.
Of course all of these are the basics. Each establishment for BOH and FOH might have specifics they want their staff to know. All of the information they need to know should be included in their employee handbook or distributed to your staff when there is new information to learn. Have a test every 3-6 months. Give them an incentive. Gift them a bottle of wine for scoring well, a complimentary dinner with a significant other. If the person is a loyal employee who has just passed a significant time mark with your establishment, give them a raise or bonus.
These are the very basic standards of the successful franchises we are all familiar with. Yes, they create much needed consistency, but there are more benefits. A certain culture and relationship is formed with these standards, between employee- establishment, employee-employee, and employee-employer. The culture is about respect and professionalism. All of these ingredients will breed success for any business model.