Many restaurants still have a clear divide between the kitchen and the front of house, which is often referred to as ‘them’ and ‘us’. However, more modern thinking chefs are now realising that this is not the way to operate and a more collaborative approach is far more beneficial for the business, not to mention working conditions. Part of that is for chefs taking on a more integral part of front of house training and development, particularly with the culinary education of dishes and menus.
What is wrong with my training?Typically, front of house training on the menu consists of; the chef making all the new dishes on the menu at one time/session, allowing the waiting staff to taste them all, ask questions about the dishes and hopefully for them to make notes. Which is good if this happens at all, but this form of process has been proved to not be very effective. The main issues are:
- Waiting staff cannot remember much more than 5 -6 dishes at a time to fully understand the important elements of each dish that will allow them to talk to customers with confidence.
- Not ALL service staff will be able to attend this session and any new members of staff that start after this session will not have any of this knowledge and will have to learn as they go along.
- Individual hand-written notes tend to get lost if not given to them in a proper format and potentially information can get lost in translation.
Why should I train the front of house team?When was the last time you were told by a server in another restaurant, “I don’t know I have never eaten that dish.” If front of house staff are well educated on the menu, you will see the following benefits in your business:
- Service teams can sell the dishes with confidence…
- …without having to come and ask about each dish in service.
- The better the relationship will be between kitchen and front of house.
- Both the service team and your customers will be happier and the busier your restaurant will be.
So how do I improve my front of house training?The key points you need to remember are:
- Photograph and create recipes for every one of your dishes
- Leave space for waiters’ notes on recipes (the manager can assist with this) consider key points such as:
- Particular supplier/farmer details
- Special cooking techniques/ processes
- Cooking medians – (braised dishes can not be medium/rare!)
- Cutlery required
- Condiments to be offered
- Up-selling opportunities if applicable
- Wine/beverage suggestions
- Dish information- history/ why the chef has created it etc..
- Ensure you have key allergens on recipes – if customers ask, service teams can confidently run through the ingredients in each dish, without disturbing the chef during a busy service
- Give a hard copy and also a disc/memory stick with this information on to every member of the team (you can add supplier information, menus and any other information if you wish the team to know on this as well)
- Make spare copies of the above mentioned discs/ memory sticks for any new members of the team so they can learn the menu before they even start work.
- Stagger showing new dishes over a number of days displaying 5-6 dishes each time, the week before the menu starts.
- Present 1 dish per service per day at the pre–service briefing and talk them through all the details.
- Consider once the menus start, showing one of the dishes every week for the team to taste and discuss.
- Encourage any customer verbal feedback from the service team, great chefs always listen to their customers!
“Hospitality is present when something happens for you. It is absent when something happens to you. Those two simple prepositions – for and-to-express it all.” Extract from ‘Setting the table by Danny Meyer – America’s most innovative restaurateur.