Is Lack of Consistency Making You Pull Your Hair Out?

How restaurant staff development cultivates a consistent guest experience

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Consistency is critical to restaurant operations. It might be even more important than the quality of the product itself. Let’s take Spam as an example. It hasn’t won a James Beard Award or been awarded a Michelin star, but it has developed a cult-like following over the years, because it is the same – every time. The original product has never been tinkered with, and so it has gained a life of its own.

And consistency is not limited to products – not at all. In fact, the consistency of the service experience is just as important in the minds of guests. When people return to your restaurant, they have a picture of what it’s going to be like. Hopefully their first experience was amazing. But now they have neural pathways that have been built. Expectations have been established. The food, the service, and the whole experience at your restaurant are written into their subconscious.

As an operator, you know that you can’t let them down when they return. And then it happens – your staff blows it. The food is not completely the same. The experience was good, but different. And while it’s not the worst possible scenario, it’s still a nightmare for operators everywhere. In order to keep these fears at bay, you have to figure out how to build that consistent, same-every-time experience that great establishments have.

How Do You Build Consistency?

There are a couple of key considerations, but they all revolve around staff development. It’s true that making the same menu item or drink over and over again does require consistency of ingredients. You can even make that easier with products that help save time and labor, like many products available from US Foods® Scoop.

But the largest opportunity for error comes from your people. You have to develop them – get them all moving in the same direction. And it’s not just saying and doing the same things over and over again, although that certainly is part of it.

A real staff development paradigm that cultivates consistency revolves around developing three areas:

  • Knowledge
  • Skills
  • Values and Beliefs

Your staff needs to know the right things to do. Then they need to do the right things. And most importantly, they need to believe that these things are the right things to know and do.

So first, you need a systematic way to train your employees. First is “book learning,” i.e., the knowledge part. Call it ground school. It could be paper documents, live classes, shoulder to shoulder, or online content. Ideally, this part is codified and written out, which takes some of the human factor out of the equation. You’ve seen people play the telephone game, where the message gets garbled and lost in translation as it gets told from person to person. That same thing happens with your trainers. Listen in on two different trainers as they teach. You might be amazed at how off-message things can get.

Then it’s skill time. Skills need to be demonstrated, then practiced, then observed and corrected by a coach. That’s the difference between coaching and teaching. A coach observes a behavior or a skill in action, and then helps make adjustments to get it right. That means you need a good tracking system to make sure that these observational checks are proceeding correctly – and that employees are not turned loose on the world until they’ve got it.

Restaurant manager working with staff member in kitchen

And then, both of these approaches need to be imbued with a sense of purpose – a culture of values. It’s so easy to get this part wrong, but employees yearn for that feeling of belonging to something bigger than them – to be part of a winning team, to do something great. Even working the drive-thru window can be done for a higher purpose; however, only you can decide what that purpose is. Is it to make guests happy? Make a better world? What do you stand for?

Your written materials, your trainers, your videos, your coaches – and most importantly, the rest of the team – all need to be aligned on these values. It takes time and a consistent drumbeat of messaging, but those core values will sink in and become part of the culture –– especially if the higher-ups in your organization live them, day in and day out.

Ok, so once you’ve got the knowledge, skills, values and beliefs all aligned and working, you’re successful, right? Wrong. You have to keep them there. That means spinning the plates. It means making sure your training messaging is right, making sure that people keep doing what they are supposed to be doing: sharing and re-sharing your key points. It’s a campaign. It’s quality control. It’s never accepting anything sub-standard. And it’s never ending.

However, the more ingrained your message of consistency and excellence becomes, the more successful your operation will be.

About ExpandShare: ExpandShare powers staff training as part of CHECK® Business Tools. ExpandShare helps simplify staffing processes to save operators time and money. Onboard new employees, increase performance and improve employee retention with a proprietary online learning system. Learn more about ExpandShare by visiting Staff Training in CHECK Business Tools.

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