Restaurant Rockstars Episode 398

Why You Should be OBSESSED with Restaurant Training


When I owned multiple concepts, I was obsessed with restaurant training.

I knew that training my FOH team in hospitality, product and restaurant knowledge would uplevel service and increase sales. I also knew that cross training my entire team would be a necessary backup plan when someone needed to call out, but then it paid dividends in new skillsets and promotions.

Talk about a positive investment!

In this episode of the Restaurant Rockstars Podcast, I speak with restaurant training guru Rachael Nemeth of Opus Training.

Listen as Rachael advises:

  • That 1 in 5 restaurant jobs are filled by 1st time workers lacking soft skills
  • Why restaurants can be setting their staff up for failure by not clearly stating expectations
  • How to establish leadership and performance through effective restaurant training
  • The “keys” to consistent restaurant training (how often and how long) for optimum results
  • The ins and outs of eLearning and why it’s the way forward
  • The importance of creating a company culture that boosts and sustains morale
  • How to deliver 5 STAR service. To get 5 STAR reviews

And why a 1 STAR increase in your restaurant’s reviews equates to a 5-9% sales increase!

And DON’T FORGET…The Sales Stars FOH Staff Training Program is included in the Rock Your Restaurant Academy!  Are you a member?  Let US take staff training off your plate.  Simply add your staff members into YOUR RYRA membership (for FREE) and we will train them how to Serve & SELL. We will also train your entire BOH team how to save you money, systemize your inventory, maximize your menu profit and minimize waste!   WE ARE OBSESSED WITH TRAINING….and you should be too!  With an owner membership, staff members are FREE!

Now go Rock YOUR training + YOUR Restaurant!


Connect with our guest:

Welcome back to the podcast. Thanks so much for joining me. Today’s guest, Rachael Nemeth, is from Opus Training. And this episode is all about leadership and setting expectations and holding our teams accountable. Did you know that one in five new restaurant employees actually lack the soft skills to provide great service to your guests and even understand what true hospitality is?

Well, this episode is out to change all that. Again, leadership versus management, telling people, you know, what their expectations should be, how to meet those expectations, and the accountability piece that’s lacking in so many organizations. You’re not going to want to miss this episode, so stay tuned.

Thanks so much to our sponsors. Thanks, audience, for tuning in. Now, on with this episode.

You’re tuned in to the Restaurant Rockstars Podcast. Powerful ideas to rock your restaurant. Here’s your host, Roger Beaudoin.

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Welcome back to the Restaurant Rockstars podcast. So glad you’re with us. Rachael, welcome to the show. Thanks for being here.

Thanks for having me. Excited to be here.

Me too. You are a training expert and some would say a guru. And this episode is going to be all about restaurant training for frontline workers.

And that is so critical for every restaurant success. But before we do what, why hospitality is a career choice for you and where did it all begin?

For me personally, hospitality in many ways was not a career choice until my later years. If anything, it was it was an industry that I had grown up in.

My mom is still in the hospitality industry. My grandfather owned a barbecue chain called Don’s World of Beef. And hospitality was always ingrained in my family. Which meant that when I went to look for my first job at 15, it was hospitality. But that was not the end goal for me. It was always just a means to make some cash to, get gas money and pay off student loans.

But later on in years when I moved to New York, it really did become a career for me when I worked for Danny Meyer and started to see that the underbelly of hospitality was so well intentioned, but so broken. And that’s really where the inspiration for solving a lot of these problems around training and career paths really began for me.

That’s a great answer. Danny Meyer, a real illustrious figure in our business today. And, obviously Union Square Hospitality Group, the beginnings and all those famous restaurants and whatnot. And now he’s continuing on with other projects and he’s become an investor. And wow, right?

What did you do for Danny Meyer? And tell us what you learned there, because I know that training was really critically important to his organization across the board. And they had very high standards and they continue to have high standards in all of those restaurants and that had to be an influence, but tell us a little bit about your experiences there.

Yeah, I think, so what I did at USHG is interestingly, I had already started my first company at ESL Works. And what we did is we delivered English language training to restaurants. And at the time, it was not a tech platform. It was a services business. I had 12 ESL teachers that I would ship out into different New York City restaurants, really a logistics business.

And I got a call one day from the executive chef at Gramercy Tavern, Mike Anthony who is a mentor of mine. And he said, listen, you’ve really got something at ESL Works, but you’re not really going to understand what it means to train in hospitality and to build a business until you’ve actually worked.

For Danny Meyer, he’s the best in the world, Mike knew that I had worked in every kind of restaurant, I had worked in bakeries, I had worked in manufacturing, I’d really seen it all, but I hadn’t seen it through the lens of Danny Meyer’s philosophy. I hadn’t seen it through the best of the best.

And he actually, Mike invited me to join his team at Gramercy Tavern as a people operations manager. And then my role there, it was one of the first HR positions that was actually out in the field. And I was tasked with building those systems at Gramercy Tavern and then carrying them over to Untitled at the Whitney when they opened that restaurant.

It was actually my first HR role. Everything I’d done in the past was general management and operations. So it was a very different experience for me to see the HR side of that, but it really rounded out my resume and helped me see some of the shifts that were happening in hospitality. Training was increasingly in operations.

Responsibility and less so on the HR compliance side. And I learned a lot about what it meant to train effectively. But, and I know we’ll probably get into this, one of the key learnings was that great training happens in person and it doesn’t happen online. But we can get into that later. So that was really a formative experience for me.

And I think I had a unique experience at USHG largely because I was also running a business simultaneously. And it really helped shape why we chose to focus on the hospitality industry at Opus which is the company that I founded after ESL Works. Hospitality, I don’t have to tell you the statistics.

It was an obvious industry to focus on and to serve, given my background, but just the pain points were so clear for a need for training and better training.

And that is still the case today, especially with today’s restaurant challenges post pandemic. Those that are still standing really need to move their businesses forward and service, I have always believed, it’s foundational.

So you’ve definitely had formulative experiences that combine to what you’re doing now. You posted, I just read a recent post of yours from LinkedIn, and I believe it’s a Harvard University study that says nearly one in five restaurant jobs now are being filled with frontline workers that don’t have any experience

and especially with soft skills in dealing with people and in guest service and in hospitality, what do we do? We need people. Every restaurant out there is complaining still that I still need good people. Where do I find them? Unfortunately, there’s too much hiring that’s going on versus recruiting.

We’re taking warm bodies that come in the door, yet we still have to offer value and great service to our guests that have these high expectations, yet these people are untrained. Where do we begin?

I’m curious to actually toss you back a question. You just referenced hiring versus recruiting. What do you think the difference is when it comes to the frontline?

So You can drive down, I’ve said this in many episodes before, but you can still drive down any street USA, and I don’t care where you are, and you will see sign after sign in restaurants and in all kinds of businesses, and they say now hiring up to 18 an hour, 22 an hour to start, whatever. And I believe there are three types of employees in any business.

There’s the C team, of course, and those are the people that just show up for the paycheck, there’s someone else’s headache, they bounce from job to job, they don’t show up, they call in sick, and they’re not doing your business any favors. In fact, they’re sabotaging your business. Yet, we are hiring these people, which is sad.

And then there’s the A players. And that goes without saying, that’s someone that has a terrific personality, that’s engaged, that’s there for the right reasons they’re there to make friends with the guests, they enjoy interacting with people, they’re team players, and they have experience and polish.

They even have salesmanship skills. And the B players have all those same attributes, except maybe their first time restaurant employees. They’ve got the skill set, they’ve got the personality. All we need to do is, you mentioned mentorship, okay, so shadowing on a few shifts and getting best practices from some other A players and then turning them loose.

And this is what people do. And as harsh as it sounds, you’ve got to weed the garden, get rid of the C players, you’ve got to develop your B’s into A’s. So where does the recruiting come in? I’ve told this story numerous times, but 30 years ago, I was starting my first restaurant, and there was a hotel.

Coming into my town at the very same time, I needed to staff up a restaurant. I needed about 15 or 20 people. This hotel needed about 200 people, everything from valet parkers to front desk to housekeeping to service bartenders, you see the point. And I’m thinking, how am I possibly gonna, I can’t just put an ad in the paper 30 years ago, that was old school advertising, right?

And I had one A player and I said to that person, you’re fantastic. I just hired this person and I didn’t even know what they could do yet because we hadn’t even opened the doors, but I could just tell the personality, the soft skills. She was just eager to make friends with our new customers.

I’m like, do you know anyone like yourself who might be unhappy in their current job? And if so, you bring me those people and I’m going to give you a hundred bucks for every person you bring me. And 30 years ago, a hundred dollars was a lot of money as an incentive. And then I said, if those people do a good job for us for 30 days, I’m going to give them 300.

And I knew that was an investment. It was not a cost. And I knew even then that, if I didn’t train these people, if I didn’t build this company culture and recruit versus hire, then. My business was going to fail. And that was the foundation of hospitality and service and training for me. So that is just my recommendation to other owners and operators.

You got to recruit. You can’t just pull people in off the street and hope for the best. And then you need leadership and we’re going to dive all into leadership, but I’ll throw that back at you. What do you think?

I certainly agree with you that, that Good hiring comes with a thoughtful process. I don’t think that restaurant owners have a great advantage these days, though, and are able to cherry pick talent.

The odds are really stacked against them. They have, they are, for the first time in history, they’re not just competing with the restaurant across the street, they’re competing with Target and Walmart and the grocery store around the corner. And, Because we’re not generating careers in hospitality anymore.

We’re, we are getting warm bodies. And so when we think about the talent that we’re bringing through the door and our responsibility as employers, the stakes are a lot higher when it comes to training and the responsibility to develop great leaders so that they can train their team effectively. And that need has gone up significantly.

The core difference though, is generational. The, I think a lot of what we’ve seen at Opus is that managers are more green. They are younger. And really that’s out of desperation. You’re seeing we saw a big wave of folks retiring from hospitality early. And when I mean retiring, I don’t mean that they stopped working.

They left hospitality.


They left the industry for something that provided a better work life balance. The hospitality industry has never served leaders well in that respect, nor the front line. And I don’t say that out of spite, I say that out of reality. I worked, you and I both worked in the industry.

You’re not working 40 hour weeks, you’re working 60 hour weeks for 50 grand a year. And then you have to work your way up the ranks. So the beauty though, just to circle back to this, I think the most beautiful thing about the hospitality industry that is really important to remember is that we have a very low barrier to entry.

And I, so I see recruitment a little bit differently. What I think is the bigger challenge is that we have a very high bar for growth. And we limit people to staying in entry level positions without creating opportunities for them to grow. And I think there’s a lot of reasons why that’s happening.

Not just training it’s management, it’s lack of just like feedback loops, all of these things that can lead to a lot of stagnation in the workplace, which leads to higher churn. So I’ll stop there. But yes I think overall I agree that great recruitment practices lead to better operating restaurants.

And I also think outside of that initial piece of the employee life cycle, it’s the second area, which is like, how do we. Make those 30 days the best 30 days they’ve ever had.

Okay. I see your point. Restaurant owners are not about to shut the doors down and move on to something else. I think you started this discussion by saying that we’re competing with Walmart and Target and a work life balance.

That takes us to company culture because traditionally restaurants are fun places to work and there’s such a team spirit and camaraderie. And so many young people have entered this business. because it’s fun and it can be lucrative and they can make really good gratuities and all that if they provide hospitality.

Let’s talk about creating a company culture because, too many restaurants just maybe they have a mission statement on the wall, this is what we believe in and these are our standards and blah blah blah and nobody cares. But a culture isn’t necessarily something that you force on people.

It’s what you create that becomes an image, an aura. It’s what do people feel when they work here? And is it fun? And is it lucrative? And do people recognize us for our contributions? And do they provide upward mobility? And is there a future here? And can I take these skills, even if I work for this restaurant for six months or a couple of years, can I take these skills somewhere else and better myself?

And that’s not always the case. What do you think the key is to creating that culture?

You just said a lot there. I don’t have the perfect answer. I think that great culture starts with great management though.

Perfect. Let’s transition then. I think I mentioned to you before we started recording about that word manager. What are your thoughts on leadership and changing the mindset?

If you’re a restaurant owner or an operator, maybe you’re a multi unit, maybe you’re a single independent, and you’re struggling with some of these challenges, I still think the mindset relates back pre pandemic when the owner was the boss, or even a general manager was the boss. And that didn’t necessarily mean that their office was on the floor, it’s like their office was in the back and they’d bark orders at people and tell them what to do, and that no longer flies.

You’re not going to get your best results from people like that. Delegation. Is an overused word as well. Anybody can tell somebody what to do or even how to do it, but it’s rare that we empower our people. That is a complete paradigm shift. And I don’t think a lot of the industry really thinks of it that way.

We still use the word manager and delegate and I’m the boss and do what I say and blah, blah, blah. And that’s why people have left the industry. I think that’s just one reason. There’s many reasons, but. What do you think about transitioning the mindset to more towards leadership and what might the keys be to doing that?

I don’t have any particular preference for the necessarily the mindset shift between manager to leader. I think a lot of the kind of fundamental challenges that we have today in the workplace are around a lack of transparency around not only where you are right now, but where you can go. And, I’ll tell you a short story here.

When I was Doing research and kind of formulating this plan for Opus many years ago I went into a restaurant, a friend’s restaurant, it’s a multi unit brand here in New York, and I sat down with all of their GMs, And I asked them, I gave them all a stack of post it notes and I asked them all to write down each of the jobs in the restaurant.

It was an easy task. They all did it in seconds, right? And so each of the post its had one of the jobs in the restaurants. And then I asked them, can you please take those post its and arrange them in the order of how people, your reporting structure, right? Your infrastructure.

They did

that in seconds and they all matched.

And then I asked everybody. To take those post it notes and arrange them into how people grow in their restaurant. And every post it note was different. Every arrangement was different. There was no consistency in how even the leaders in that restaurant saw how people


So when I think about what it means to develop a great culture, a culture of learning and development and growth in a restaurant, it has to start with an agreement among your leaders That we will commit to training and developing our people, but we also will help them understand what’s next.

And I think that’s a huge flaw with what’s happening today in restaurant training. There’s no goal. And instead we’ve replaced it with tactics. around gamification and small kind of incentives, which are fine and dandy, but they’re temporary. So at the end of the day, what people really want, and I don’t mean to sound crass here, they want more money.

They want to make more money. This is an economic issue. And I don’t mean that people are being greedy. I mean that we are underpaying this workforce, including managers. And so when we create opportunities for those people to make more money, and to grow, and to be promoted, then all of a sudden, the energy changes in a restaurant.

So when I think about great examples of that Kevin Hart has a new vegan brand, it’s a QSR brand, based out west, called Hart House. They see virtually no turnover. Because they’ve taken the time to create a culture where people know where they can grow. They pay more than a living wage. They’ve created benefits for their team around healthcare and financial wellness.

And Andy, their CEO, will show you how those investments in his team, those economic investments in his team, have actually led to a more profitable restaurant. It’s a hard transition, but all of it starts with just knowing how people can grow, and then it ends with A willing investment by an employer to support that growth.

I really appreciate that answer. It brings me back to running my own restaurants, and I do believe that money was important, but I also thought that your point on money can also improve one, morale, and two people taking more responsibility, people Achieving more and going above and beyond. So we had recognition reward programs every week where we awarded cash to someone who went above and beyond and making a difference either for a guest or helping a team member.

And it was something that we did every single week that people looked forward to, and the whole team would gather together and we did it twice because Not, I had 55 employees in my biggest restaurant and obviously Fridays and Saturdays are the busiest nights, so not everybody works both shifts. So we did it on a Friday and we did it on a Saturday so that everyone had a chance to participate in the program.

And then we went so far as to have brainstorming sessions, like once a month where the whole team was invited and we’d sit in the dining room and I’d have all these flip charts with Sharpie markers, and I’m like, you guys are in the trenches, things every day. Things that are. Inefficient.

Better ways of doing things. If you can come up with ideas that either save us money or improve our sales or our profits or just any crazy idea, throw it out there. And I said, I’m gonna, I’m gonna write all these things down and I’m gonna look at everything and I’m gonna put a short list together every month.

And if I can track and improvement in either cost savings or. increased efficiency or profitability And if I could put a dollar figure to that, I’m going to give you a piece of the action for as long as you work here and as long as it continues to generate either that cost savings or that improvement. If that didn’t up level participation and morale and create this culture of inclusion and everyone was pulling for the team.

And it was more fun, and then that weekly recognition and rewards program that we did just was icing on the cake. And guests could tell the difference. Guests knew something special was happening in that restaurant. And I sold those properties in 2014, and I went to that flagship restaurant just last weekend, and three people hugged me that had literally worked there for 25 plus years that, I founded that restaurant, they started very quickly after I founded it, and they’re still there, and it’s I still see the guests having amazing experiences, I still see the team loving working together and having fun and sharing true hospitality.

And that’s like capturing lightning in a bottle, and if I could bottle that and sell it to every restaurant in America, I’d love to do but that’s where we’re going with this discussion. That’s the culture thing. What can we do to give people more than a living wage and to compete with the Walmarts and the Targets and all these other, companies out there and really You know, develop A and B players only and that’s a powerful thing.

So I’m really glad you shared the money piece because yes, everyone works for a paycheck. Everyone needs to make more money, but people also work for recognition and knowing that they’re contributing and making a positive impact and also having a voice and knowing that their opinion matters. And I think giving people a voice in our restaurants is also important and not being too busy.

Having an open door policy. Being encouraging to new ideas. Thanks for sharing. I think that’s tremendous. Let’s talk about the, you probably hear it too. It’s I travel to restaurant shows. I speak across the country. I’m involved with this business. And I hear often from owners and their GMs that today’s workforce is just challenging.

It’s like, why don’t they do what I tell them to do? Why do they call in every day? It’s like, why can I not rely on them? It’s what do we do? It’s Are we setting them up for failure? Is it partially the leader’s fault or the manager’s fault? Because we’re just expecting things without doing the training, without laying the foundations.

What do you think about that?

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To your first point, I think we see this with every generation. The seasoned generation is always going to have an opinion about the incoming generation. And I think, it’s like the age old, I walked five miles in the snow to school.

There’s always going to be generational differences. And that’s an important thing to recognize is that we shouldn’t be expecting. for any new cohort in our workforce to operate in the same way that we did before. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be evolving as a society or as a workforce. So it’s a good thing that we have new perspectives and new expectations that are being set in the workforce.

Gen Z and soon Gen Alpha are entering and make up 30 to some studies say 40 percent of the American workforce right now. It’s massive. And with that comes a real shift that employers have seen where they’re demanding more. They’re demanding a better work life balance, more pay more flexibility more benefits.

And to your point more voice. And that’s intimidating when you come from a generation when I worked in restaurants, you did not speak up. You did the job and you went home and and you didn’t ask for a raise. You hoped for a raise and you didn’t get health insurance and you didn’t ask for health insurance.

And and you worked for tips. I didn’t get a paycheck. So it was a very different. world But I don’t think that it’s necessarily a bad thing that this newer, younger generation is challenging the status quo. I think it’s enforcing better, more balanced policies in the workplace and I think it’s demanding better training and it’s also, I think the outcome as a result of that.

is that we actually are going to see more growth and we’re going to see more folks that are going to start to make hospitality a career again. I don’t think we lost some of that with millennials. I think they got tired and didn’t really want to make hospitality a career anymore. I remember like feeling that and seeing that.

When I was in restaurants and I remember a lot of the trainings would be around this is what it means to have a career in hospitality. And this new generation is saying, great, I want that career, but I don’t want to make 50 grand a year. I have to make more than that so that I can have a life so I can live a comfortable life.

And but the previous generation, the messaging was great. I’ll have this career and I’m just going to have to sacrifice everything for it. So that shift, I think, is really important. It’s definitely going to lead to a new form of acceptance from employers, but I think we’re already seeing it.

Because this is the generation that is going to help support better guest services, and it’s the people we have to employ moving forward. So the question is, if we have one of the most multi generational workforces we’ve ever had in history, we’re employing five generations of workers, How do we ensure that there’s a synergy between all these generations?

Good point.

And how do we also make sure that the training is truly leading to growth? The demands of which are different. We have a younger generation that is not willing to sit in a classroom anymore. And I know we’ll talk about e learning, but attention spans have changed. The expectations in the restaurant have also changed and the needs of the business are changing more quickly at a faster pace.

So the second your average star rating goes down, you have to react instantly. That wasn’t the case four years ago. Now we have more data on our guests and the market, and so we’re able to change as employers. We have to react with better, faster training.

You really struck a chord talking about multi generations working in the same business and how we relate to each other, how we work together, how we build that team spirit when we’re different, obviously we have different generations.

We have younger people, we have older people, and I’ve seen it work. But it’s like, are there any keys to bringing those people together and team bonding in some way and getting them to learn more about each other and understand the differences and somehow use those differences as a point of reference to move in the same direction?

That could be a real challenge in a business. That is a really good point that you made. Let’s shift gears a minute and let’s talk about accountability. Because it’s one thing to hire a new person and maybe train them or just turn them loose and then get performance out of someone if that’s not necessarily their approach or their mindset or if they are a new frontline worker and they don’t really know what to expect and They’re not really given any direction, but that we have high expectations and there’s the complaint, why don’t these people perform?

And it’s I think it’s our fault if we don’t lay a foundation that, that makes it clear, this is your job description. These are your primary responsibilities. These are the key success factors that you should bring to the table in order to make this work for you. And then even give them opportunities to move up.

And if you do great with your primary responsibilities, here’s where we can take you to the next level. And these are the incentives that we can offer you if you take it to the next level. And if you have them review this in person, if you’ve never done it before, and these people have worked for you for a while, you can start or with a new person walking in the door.

But I really think accountability is necessary so that you have a your own point of reference. When you see things going sideways and not meeting those expectations, that’s when you can revisit that job description. And instead of saying get out there and do it the right way, you can say what can you do to get back on track to what you agreed that you could do to the best of your ability with this job description?

So that’s accountability. And then there also needs to be certain disciplinary procedures for. Minor infractions for more serious infractions. And a lot of restaurants don’t have those policies in place. And then all of a sudden something happens and they got to deal with it. And the other employees are watching.

And it’s you have to handle things fairly with impartiality. You have to handle things correctly. There’s harassment issues today. It’s become really complicated to run a business, but without these foundational framework systems, what do you do? You must come across that too. But accountability and disciplinary are necessary to leadership, I think, and getting the most from your people.

Yeah. And I think the best analogy here to the importance of thoughtful accountability, is when you’re thinking about just in teaching in general whether it’s online or in person, you, there’s a phrase we use in instructional design called swobot, students will be able to. And so at the start of every lesson, you’re meant to say to a learner, not what will they.

Learn, but rather what are they expected to do by the end of that lesson? Very different framework, right? The first is, okay I want you to learn how to use the register. But if I tell you as an instructor, by the end of this lesson, you will know how to enter an order and complete a return. Then there’s a level of accountability on that learner that says that they’re taking to heart what is about to happen, and it’s a responsibility for them to pay attention and to be accountable to that outcome.

I think it’s the same in any scenario when we think about setting expectations and also managing them. It’s the role of a manager or leader, if you will, to ensure that. The goalpost is set properly. And if you mess it up, if you’ve, if you halfway through, you’re like, Oh man, the goalpost was wrong.

To be clear and say, we got it wrong. We need to make an adjustment. And I think all too often we just don’t see those standards being set thoughtfully at the start, which means that we can’t expect for a successful outcome both from our leaders and, frontline teams.

I agree with that.

What’s the key to consistent frontline trends? Do you believe in pre shifts exercises? Sure. Yeah. And how often, how long should they be? It’s what’s, is there a sweet spot there in your mind?

I don’t think there’s a formula. Every restaurant has its own flavor and it has its own needs. I think pre shifts are great.

They are not the end all be all, but they’re a great opportunity to set a tone for the shift that’s coming and to clarify any changes. It’s also a great way to train quickly and get people moving. Against a common goal versus doing like a huddle after shift where it’s done and everyone’s tired.

So it doesn’t matter. But I think the perfect formula for training really must always start with a great train the trainer program, a great program that teaches your managers how to be better teachers. And if you’re expecting, in a larger restaurant group, if you’re expecting a field trainer to come in and solve all of your problems.

It’s false training takes time. It takes patience and someone dropping in for a couple of hours to teach something does not mean you’ll get the highest levels of knowledge retention. You need to ensure that there’s consistency in your messaging, that there’s managers who are constantly retraining and coaching their team.

And so regardless of what your framework is. Whether you do, I’ve seen some restaurants that just relegate training to once a week or once a month. Others prefer this new fancy term everboarding, where, we’re constantly training our team. Frankly, like I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer as long as it is consistent and people understand what’s expected of them throughout their employee life cycle.

Now you struck another point with train the trainers. Are you also seeing a lot of first time managers coming into this business that perhaps don’t have the communication skills or the motivation to inspire others, but yet they’re being hired in those positions? Does, is that happening?


Yeah, but I’ve seen plenty of legacy managers who also are really terrible teachers too.

So I would actually argue that’s not a generational problem. I think we forget. That managers can be great on a technical level or great on a people level, but being a great teacher is a skill. It’s why we send people to school for it. And there’s this third pillar. That I think is unrecognized.

There’s, of course, the hard skills, let’s take a general manager, for example. You need to be able to read a P& L, you need to manage sales per labor hour, whatever your metrics for success are, reduced turnover, what have you. Increased profitability. The second being those soft skills, the people skills, you need to be able to handle a progressive discipline issue.

You need to be able to handle a customer dispute, hire people. Neither of those pillars includes being a great teacher. And I think one of the pillars that we’ve continually overlooked when it comes to manager development is that piece. Instead, what we’ve done is we’ve said, I’m going to do train the trainer just for my trainers.

I’m That’s just for my people. And I think that’s a mindset that needs to change in order to really create a generation of leaders who are well equipped to be independent and continually grow in the restaurant.

Thanks for sharing that. Another thought comes to mind, and this is a traditional problem that’s been happening probably for generations in restaurants, because there’s this division between front of house, back of house.

And, the two different clicks, and sometimes they come together, and sometimes they don’t. Maybe even your experiences with Union Square might play into this, because I’m sure that didn’t happen there. But, It’s a stressful position sometimes when you work in restaurants, especially if it’s a busy restaurant and here’s where I’m going with this.

Not every meal comes out absolutely perfectly and a guest has a complaint and now a server has to bring that to the kitchen and get a recook or a new meal or whatever it is. But the kitchen’s working under 800 degree temperatures, they’re on their feet for six hours, the tickets are on the floor, it’s like they’re just trying to get the food out as best they can and now they got to stop what they’re doing and there’s a wrench in their gears.

And servers can be intimidated to approach the back of house and the back of house might be in the heat of battle and they’re yelling back at the server saying, I don’t have time for you. It’s what’s the key to that? I’m sure you’ve seen it. You’ve heard it. And it’s we have to bond those two teams together and the show must go on, but the guest comes first.

And there has to be a priority to serve every guest to the best of our abilities. And it takes both front and back of house to achieve that. But that’s a common problem. And I still see it today. How about you? What do you think? I think

that I agree with all of that. I think some of what I heard you say is just this division between front of house and back of house.

What I’m about to say is incredibly unpopular. And especially as somebody who studied linguistics and second language acquisition I think this change and basically saying it’s not back of house, it’s heart of house it’s not front of house, it’s guest facing teams. I think it’s total BS.

You can’t change a name and as a result, change a culture.

And so I think it’s a band aid. And I think it changes 1 percent of the problem to say, Okay we’re going to reframe what this role means and how hard it is. But what it actually takes, And what I think is truly shifting, that will not go back, is the ever growing need for cross training.

Now, it started

as an operational need, right? It started, actually, COVID really brought this to light. A lot of employers were short staffed and they had to cross train, they had no choice. But now what they’re seeing is that there’s a lot of operational efficiency as a result of that. And then the end result, that I don’t think was truly the original goal is you develop cross departmental understanding and respect.

I think with cross training, and I know it’s not possible in every operation, right? In fine dining, the level of mastery is so different. But I think generally speaking, if there is a deeper understanding of what your colleagues are doing and how they’re doing it, it’s Then the culture between front of house and back of house.

Fundamentally changes, no matter what you call those departments.

You made a very interesting point there, and I agree with you. And now it goes back to that money thing again, because when I said the word division between the two, I think I’ve specifically seen the service staff is making a fortune and, they’re making hundreds of dollars a day and the kitchen staff are not being paid the same amounts of money.

And obviously they’re maybe even under harder conditions. But I’ve also seen the problem where when the whole thing is over, it’s like people get a shift drink or they go to the bar and now one server is telling the other, Oh, I made 500 tonight. I made 600 bucks tonight. And there’s the line cook that made 18 bucks an hour.

And you get the idea. It’s so I think if I’m, Not incorrect. Didn’t Danny Meyer pioneer that uplevel the entire organization by sharing the wealth and now the back of house shares in the front of house gratuities, or, is that a trend that you see for the future? Will that work?

Ooh, that’s a complicated question for a very different podcast. I can’t really speak to hospitality included or any of those programs. I was not a part of that.

But I think we saw several examples of the attempt to try to make it work and to try to achieve economic equality at work.

And I think the intentions were right and they were good, but there’s a lot of things that are broken in American, in America that prevented that from happening. And when diners aren’t willing to pay more, even if, when gratuity is included, when when there’s just fundamental issues around accepting that change I think we have a long road ahead of us before we can achieve any level of economic equality.

Again though, if people know where they’re going in their job, if people know what’s next, I Then a lot can change. And I think we underestimate how powerful it can be to tell a dishwasher, listen, no one wants to be a dishwasher for life. Here’s the three jobs that you can grow into. If you show up to work on time, if you execute well, and if you keep a positive attitude, knowing where you can go can have a meaningful impact on an individual.

And I don’t think that we’re doing enough of that. In restaurants right now. I think we’re just putting to what you had mentioned earlier. There’s a lot of buts and zits, and that’s fine, actually. If you need to solve the immediate problem, that’s fine. Just take a moment to say, okay, and here’s what’s next for you, because I guarantee you one five minute conversation with someone, they’ll remember it forever.

And if the business changes, if the needs change, sit down with that person again and say, listen this isn’t the case anymore. We filled this position, but now you can grow in this way. And so with that also helps employees can develop agency and responsibility to seek out training, and to develop themselves.

Yeah, on the economic piece, it’s, there’s a lot of work to be done, and I think a whole other challenge, but but I think we’re starting to make strides, especially when it comes to the prioritization of training and, especially in restaurants that are scaling fast and know that it’s, they have to in order to create great leaders.

Thanks for sharing your viewpoints there. If we went back in history they used to say that word of mouth was the most effective form of, obviously, marketing, and it still is. And before the digital age, however, there were no online reviews. It was simply the customer might complain, the customer might not complain.

They may never come back again. They’ll tell a hundred people, don’t go to that restaurant. And now there’s the danger of online reviews where people will slam you for the slightest infraction some people are right, and they might have a point, and other people are just disgruntled. They had a bad day, and okay, they didn’t have a perfect experience, but they’re going to over embellish it, and now we have to be on the front lines dealing with online reviews, both positive and negative.

And this came up because you mentioned something about the impact of a one star increase in a review and the impact that has on a business, both in terms of increased sales, increased satisfaction, more people going to that restaurant because they’ve got a better review. But not every restaurant knows how to respond or what to respond, and they don’t necessarily have a person that’s in charge of doing this, yet it’s so critical important.

Do you have any advice for those restaurants that really want to do better with their reviews and how they can improve their star ratings?

Start sharing them with your team.

 I don’t think it’s a secret that your team are also diners.

Your team are also eating at, whatever QSR down the street to grab a bite, grabbing a burrito, what have you, between shifts. And they’re putting on the same filters that you and I are, Roger. You’re saying, what’s the top rated, taco shop in my neighborhood within a one mile radius? This is the blessing and the curse of Google and Yelp.

And with that comes a high level of transparency. That the consumer has now about those restaurants, whether for better or for worse, right? Sometimes you’re like, oh man, it like, I only have 18 reviews and one was bad. So it shot my star rating down, but outside of just like the numbers game, It’s important to share with your team that at the end of the day, we’re all here for the customer because if the customers don’t come through the door, we don’t make money.

And if we don’t make money, we don’t stay open. And if you’re constantly talking about how everything we’re doing is for the guest, then you also have to show the positive and negative impact of that. And so I think sharing those reviews and developing a procedure for corrective active training is really important, but it’s burdensome to growing groups.

When, you have huge marketing departments and 54 locations and a lot of different locations that kind of operate differently. I think that’s actually what’s most exciting about what the possibilities are with technology now is taking that really amazing data that’s out there from all of these CDPs and, marketing platforms and leveraging that better for training.

Perfect segue. Let’s talk about e learning and the benefits and the balance between people being on their phones in restaurants and training and the effectiveness of that training and how it all should work, how it all does work. Take us there. Give us a crash course in e learning.

E learning is not new.

The first LMS was developed by universities many years ago. LMS, if you’re not familiar as a listener is the learning management system, which is e learning, same thing. And e learning is any form of training that happens in an online setting. That could be a traditional system where you’re sitting in front of a computer with an email login, watching a video.

It could be something more modern, where you’re using an app to learn. But the benefits of e learning are are clear, especially in restaurants that are cutting costs, that are trying to increase efficiency while not increasing admin overhead. And so e learning can act as an effective replacement for traditionally what was a team of trainers that had to go out.

And frankly. Couldn’t reach everyone. And so as a result of that, it wasn’t that for lack of interest or lack of need, just hard to match head to head when you have a thousand people and you have three trainers and you have a big initiative like an LTO or a bad guest satisfaction, it’s really hard to turn the ship as fast as possible.

So e learning can act as a companion to that to help reinforce, but also to help educate. In parallel with what your GMs are doing day to day lots of different forms of e learning, but the end goal is that e learning, at least the way we see the world at Opus, is not, it’s not meant to replace the in person component, but it is meant to enhance it significantly and help employers.

Save a lot of time and money.

Do people train on e learning, whether it’s Opus or any LMS out there on their own time outside the restaurant? Are they in fact paid for that time? Is it dedicated time during their work hours while they’re on the shift? It’s like, how does that work? Like, where does that?

Legally employees must be paid for training if it’s work related. And so the best practice is to allocate. time at the start of shift for training, which by the way, a hundred percent of employers are already doing with a pre shift, but they’re not tracking any of that data. There’s no system of record for that pre shift besides a wrinkly piece of paper with menu changes.

What if we actually tracked that in the training platform, added an interactive quiz to it, and certified people for that shift? The whole game changes. The level of accountability changes. The methodology behind e learning is that it’s meant to fit within your workday, or I guess modern e learning the way we see the world.

I think traditionally, e learning was more of an appendage, kind of something that you had to call someone in to watch the three hour harassment training and then you had to pay a spread of hours and it was really costly so it didn’t actually shave much time off of training labor, it just shaved time off of overhead.

Now it can actually sit within the workday more effectively because of the technology that has been developed. And but, To go back to what we were talking about earlier we continue to try to build a path forward for this, to make it easier and easier for employers to incorporate training throughout the workday.

But I think the biggest. Shift that we’ve seen is a cultural shift. There has to be a culture of training in your restaurant to begin with. You have to care that your managers are good trainers. You have to care that your team can develop a level of mastery. You have to create pathways for them to grow.

Otherwise, it’s not, what is it all for? Where are you all headed? What’s happening as a result of it? Yeah strong feelings about e learning and its positive impact on work, but it does require some change management and shift on how employers see training in the workplace.

Awesome. That’s terrific. Let’s talk a little bit about Opus and what the focus is on that e training with that particular platform.

At Opus, what we do is we are focused on building the most accessible training platform by not just tackling training in a different way, by making it a more personalized experience for the end user, but through a mobile app that automatically translates training into a hundred global languages and three Spanish dialects.

We’ve introduced listen mode, which allows somebody who maybe has difficulty reading, maybe is just tired. And a lot of other features that support true accessible, accessibility to training. It’s our goal that we’re making training, we’re reducing all of the barriers to entry. So the second thing that makes Opus really different is that we’re never going to promise that we want to digitize a hundred percent of your training.

We’ve developed technology that allows you to track how your managers are training your team. It’s, we have a coaching component that supports that train the trainer methodology. So we actually want to encourage you to use Opus as a part of an employee’s workday in a really thoughtful way. So that a guest isn’t saying, why is that employee on their phone, but instead the employee’s on their phone for a few minutes, they get back to work, the manager coaches them, and only the phone is only out for a few moments, but it gets them the punchiest, the most important outcome that you need for that shift.

Fantastic. It’s been a tremendous conversation with you today, Rachael. I really appreciate you being with us.

Thanks for having me. It was great to be here.

Thanks so much audience. That was the Restaurant Rockstars podcast. Can’t wait to see you in the next episode. Stay tuned and stay well.

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Thanks for listening to the Restaurant Rockstars podcast. For lots of great resources, head over to restaurantrockstars. com. See you next time.

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