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Restaurant Management Tips: Cross-Training

The food service industry can be a brutal business, and sometimes the differences between making it and breaking are very, very thin.  As the manager, you have a lot on your plate – from training and supervising employees to running budgets and purchasing new equipment and supplies.

This series is intended to help you navigate the treacherous waters of restaurant management.

Train Your Staff To Handle Multiple Jobs

Cross-Train StaffThis technique is also referred to as cross-training, and is one of the most effective ways for you to reduce labor costs.

Inevitably, gaps are going to appear in the line of tasks involved in seating, serving, and feeding your customers.  Line cooks get sick.  Bartenders quit suddenly.  Servers and hosts no call no show.

And even if you get through a shift with every one of your staff present and ready for work, a busy night gets hectic, and someone is always going to need extra help.

This is where cross-training comes in.  Some examples include:

  • Train your hosts to be backup servers
  • Train your servers to be backup hosts
  • Train prep cooks to run the grill
  • Train bussers to expedite and run food
  • Train top servers to bartend, and bartenders to serve

Effective cross-training makes your staff more efficient and brings better service to your customers.

It also allows you to save on employee hours: on a slow night, cut your hosts and let servers handle both hosting and serving.

Bussers who can run food allow your servers to handle more tables, meaning you can schedule one less server for that shift, saving you money and making your servers happy because they will get more tips.

The list of benefits you reap from cross-training goes on.

Conduct periodic employee reviews.  Tracking staff performance is always an important task.  The best resource you have when it comes to evaluating your staff is the staff themselves.  Sit down face-to-face with each member and get a feel for how they and the employees around them are performing.

Use these meetings as a way to hand out raises, promotions, and feedback.  Meanwhile, you’ll be getting feedback on how your restaurant is running, and what areas need to be addressed.  Employee reviews help you cut the staff that aren’t working while quickly promoting the staff that are performing well.

The review and cross-training process are mutually supportive.  Every review period should reveal the areas that require more training, and as you train more you’ll be able to conduct more reviews to track progress.

About Greg McGuire

Greg has blogged about the food service industry for years and has been published in industry magazines, like Independent Restaurateur and industry blogs like Restaurant SmartBrief. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two sons and enjoys reading, live music, and the great outdoors.

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  1. There is a added benefit not mentioned in this article. When you cross train a employee you get to see his or her strengths and weakness in a way you never have before. If you have a employee who has been doing the same job for years you might be surprised to find out that employee would love a opportunity to do a different job, even if it is only for a short time. I have also known people who cross trained and found they liked the new position and was actually better at it than the person who normally performs that work.

    I would advise you to make sure the person doing the cross training don’t “take it the wrong way” (IE: feel like there job is threatened in any way). On the other hand if a employee knows there is someone ready to step in, it might make them more likely to show up on time and overall be a better employee.

    Present it as a WIN / WIN for everyone. I always like to point out that anything you learn can only improve your skill set and education is the only thing you get from a employer that they can’t take back when you leave.

    Cross training is a GREAT idea and should be utilized as often as possible!

    Kevin Loving
    Galveston Texas (where I wish I has ANYBODY to cross train; but nobody wants this job–LOL)

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