Alternative staff training: Get staff excited

Young chefs at Jamie Oliver's Fifteen restaurant group learn about oysters on a trip to Jersey

Teaching your staff new skills in a static, boring environment will only succeed in ensuring information goes in one ear and straight out the other. Try some of these ideas to get your staff buzzing when it comes to teaching them new tricks.

Meet the suppliers
It’s one thing raving about the way your sustainable fish are caught, but another to show your team exactly how it’s done. Excursions to meet your suppliers can provide lasting knowledge about the origins of products and how they should be used. They can also act as very useful team-building exercises. Some suppliers, like Jing Tea, even run special short product training courses for their clients, which often demonstrate how their produce should be used.

Go abroad
If you’re running a Vietnamese restaurant you’d want your staff to understand at least something about the culture and cuisine of that country, right? It may seem like a costly exercise but taking an annual trip abroad can not only improve your team’s knowledge and service skills, but your staff retention rate is bound to pick up too. Pizza Express recently took the staff of its Richmond test site to Naples to understand the nature of traditional Italian cuisine, before putting them to work in the restaurant.

Go a huntin’
Take example from Jurys Inn, which runs a citywide Treasure Hunt event for staff working in every area of its hotels. A set of clues leads employees to all corners of the city they work in with the goal of arming each member, from front-of-house to housekeeping, with great local knowledge so they can all become a Jurys Inn Concierge. Not only does this act as a great team building exercise, but guests benefit from the improved, knowledgeable service they provide.

Role play
This can be a great way of preparing your staff for dealing with sticky situations when they arise – both with customers and fellow team members. Working together as a group, encourage your staff to act out different scenarios, from dealing with customer complaints to handling an upset co-worker, whichever is appropriate. This method of training helps inspire confidence in your staff, and can also help develop communication within your team as well. The practical nature of the training also helps staff members understand and remember how to respond to those situations when they arise in the ‘real world’.

For one (quiet) day each month swap around the job roles of a handful of staff. This not only helps them understand how each section of the business works, but what pressures are put upon their team members. In restaurant environments this has been known to help improve front and back of house relations and improve patience amongst the team.

Read more articles in this series here.

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