Every day is a school day - Ashdale Business Consulting

Every day is a school day


Over the last few years I have delivered a number of seminars and run various training workshops.  Some have been specifically aimed at those working in the hospitality industry whilst others have been more around general Marketing principals.  In most instances I am usually blown away by the enthusiasm of those attending and with very few exceptions I also come away having learnt something new as well as hopefully sharing my own experiences and knowledge with those attending.

Perhaps as impressive are the managers and business owners who have had the foresight to recognise that helping their employees to develop is more about investment than cost.

In these situations I am again reminded of the supposedly quoted conversation between two company managers “What happens if we train them and they leave?  Yes, but what happens if we don’t and they stay?”  Whilst it has become a bit of a cliché the sentiment is definitely true.  Along similar lines Richard Branson famously penned the following in 2014 “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough, so they don’t want to”.

Wise words but from a practical point of view what does it mean for operators running restaurants, bars etc.?

Not just about ticking boxes

For anyone familiar with working in a pub or a restaurant there are a number of things these days which are all but mandatory.  Depending on exact roles these may include being up to speed on Health & Safety and Food Hygiene through to more specific training around Cellar Management.

The key for me is to make sure that whatever course or training a team member is asked to complete it is made clear to them as to why it is important.  Best practice for me is when the benefits of completing any given training can be explained in terms of what it provides them as an individual, the customers they are serving and of course the success of the business itself.  This helps to re-inforce that it’s not just about going through the motions but more about raising standards and doing things in the right way.

Up-skilling your employees is not only great for making them better at what they do, it also gives them an opportunity to broaden their skillset.  This can come in handy when team members with particular skills are unavailable; for instance, if your bartender is ill.  In this situation, it would be useful to have other staff members who are also bar trained, and able to easily step in and cover for them.

Not just a one-off

Another big thing from my point of view is for operators not to think of staff training as a one-off.  The best results will usually be achieved when training becomes part of any individual’s on-going development.  That said it also needs to be kept simple for both managers and staff.  To that end I like to think of it as a three staged process which then gets repeated.

  1. Train Your Employees
  2. Re-inforce Best Practices
  3. Watch Them At Work


This not only helps get the best out of the team it also should encourage an environment which is supportive and focussed on continual improvement.  What it must not create is a blame culture or an environment where everyone is working in fear.  So typically what could these three steps include?

Not just about courses

When it comes to training your staff it doesn’t mean that everyone has to be sent on external training courses.  In fact some of the best examples I have seen have been based around on-site in house training which has been conducted by existing experienced members of the team.  What is important is designing training which best suits the needs of your staff as well as those of your business.

One area which is often surprisingly ignored is for (new) staff not to be given an overview of what the restaurant or bar is all about.  There can be a tendency to just jump into the detail of what a given individuals personal tasks and responsibilities are.  Painting a picture of what you are trying to deliver can often be a very powerful way of getting people on-board.  This is particularly true when it comes to how and what you want them to deliver when it comes to customer service.  For example, fast and well-organized versus more relaxed and laidback.

A particularly good way to help people to develop is to have them observe and assist more experienced members of the team.  This doesn’t have to be onerous.  It may only be for a couple of shifts or a bit longer for more technically involved roles such as chefs.

Another area which I have talked about before is familiarizing staff with all aspects of the operation not just their own.  This will help them become more flexible in their duties and give them a better understanding of what it takes to run the restaurant or bar successfully. 

Practice makes perfect

As well as repetition one of the most important ways anyone can develop their teams is by setting a good example.  Remember if the boss is seen as yelling or being unhelpful then most likely this will signal to other members of staff that this sort of behaviour is acceptable.  This can be particularly true when it comes to new members of staff.

As already mentioned, training shouldn’t been seen as a one-off.  It is also worth remembering that the world moves on and that things which were acceptable or encouraged in the past may not be relevant or appropriate in the future.  Reinforcing best practices is not just about training and coaching, it is also about recognizing those members of your team who do an outstanding job.  By recognizing these employees, you’ll send the message that you are paying attention and that their efforts are being noticed.

Eyes and ears

A good operator will regular observe how there staff are performing.  This is not about spying on them but more about seeing if they are putting into practice the things which you have asked them to do and what they have hopefully learned on their training courses.  As well as what they are doing it is also worth seeing how they are interacting with other members of your team.  Good team work is key to running a successful operation so any signs that this might not be happening in your outlet needs to be addressed immediately.

Making notes about what you observe is also worth doing so when you need to talk to a member of your team you can base it on evidence.  It also helps combat short-termism whereby you only remember what happened most recently rather than over a longer period of time.

Having managed in the corporate world for many years I have to admit that performance review time often fill me with dread!  However done properly reviewing your team and also letting them feedback to you can be very powerful in your own development.  The key is not to focus on just one thing, be it positive or negative but rather look at the overall performance and contribution that each member of staff makes to the business.