KEY POINTS:
* Upskilling and educating staff not only ensures your business delivers superior customer service — it also forges stronger team loyalty and a more harmonious working environment
* Your core staff can provide valuable input in examining the service aspects of your business to identify any performance gaps and room for improvement
* It’s important to create an environment where staff members feel they can make a positive contribution
* The more well qualified, highly motivated staff you have already, the more you’re likely to attract

Whatever the nature of your foodservice operation, it’s imperative not to overlook the ‘service’ component. Customers are looking for an enjoyable and satisfying dining experience — and that’s measured not only in the quality of the food you serve, but in the way you serve it.
Staff who are well presented and trained play an important role in maintaining your business’ competitive edge. The way staff interact with customers can make all the difference in generating repeat business. And not only will satisfied customers keep coming back — they’ll also recommend your business to friends. That will bring even more people through your doors!
By investing in upskilling and educating staff, you’re not only ensuring they will present your business in the best possible light — you’re also helping to make their work more personally rewarding. Staff members who know they are valued will feel more motivated, secure and happy — which means they’ll be more likely to go the extra mile on your behalf, and to stay loyal to the business when times are tough.
So where to begin in ensuring your staff are trained to the standard your customers expect? A good starting point is to involve your core staff, by seeking their input in examining the service aspects of your business — everything from table service to back of house management — to identify where there’s room for improvement. Be sure to distinguish between those areas which could be improved and those which should be improved — i.e. which improvements are mandatory to ensure the best possible levels of service and efficiency, versus improvements which are simply desirable.
Your core staff then have an important role to play in communicating these areas of focus through to the wider staff — and they will often be able to suggest better ways of doing things.
By closely examining the quality of your customer service, you’ll be able to identify any ‘performance gaps’, such as customers being kept waiting too long for a table, or too much time elapsing between being seated and having their order taken. Issues such as inefficient storage locations causing delays, or communication breakdowns between the front and back of house, will be more easily rectified once you can see where and why the problem is arising. Then all you need to do is upskill and educate your staff as required to fill those gaps — thereby providing your customers with more consistent service everyday.
There are many informal opportunities to encourage greater staff involvement. For example, if your menu changes seasonally, you can encourage kitchen staff to experiment with new dishes, trial them as specials and see whether they prove popular with customers. You can take the opportunity when revising the menu to also review the service component along with the food and beverage choices.
Again, be sure to give staff members the opportunity to give their input — it’s important to create an environment where staff members feel they can make a positive contribution. When they see their suggestions being acted upon, they’ll be more likely to take ownership of their contributions and be more forthcoming with them in future — in the knowledge that they’re playing a role in helping the business run more efficiently. Investing in your staff in this way forges bonds of loyalty. When staff see that you believe that they’re worth the effort of time and investment, the result is positive for the entire business.
Having more efficient and dedicated staff means you’ll be able to promote from within, rather than having to bring someone in from outside to fill an important position if an existing staffer moves on. This increases your staff’s sense of security and it also strengthens your business skillset, providing a stronger base in the event you plan to expand your operation or encourage franchising opportunities. The more well qualified, highly motivated staff you have already, the more you’re likely to attract — because everyone wants to work in a fulfilling, supportive environment.
The outcome is a more harmonious working environment, leading to improved workplace productivity and more satisfied customers, who’ll keep coming back because your restaurant, café, pub or club offers warm, friendly service and a relaxed and welcoming ambience.
Well trained staff make all the difference
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