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How to Perform Effective Cross-training of Restaurant Staff

How to Perform Effective Cross-training of Restaurant Staff

Nate Lozier

Nate Lozier

Cross-training restaurant staff has multiple benefits, from improved operational efficiency to greater employee satisfaction.

In response to restaurant labor shortages, cross-training staff has emerged as a powerful solution, equipping staff with a diverse skill set to handle more tasks. This strategy increases operational efficiency, while also improving both customer satisfaction and employee retention.

In this article, we’ll share some of the benefits of cross-training your restaurant employees as well as best practices when developing training initiatives.

Operational Efficiencies

Cross-training staff introduces operational efficiencies by enabling employees to work in multiple areas. For example, let’s say a bartender calls in sick right before their shift. Having a cross-trained server, who knows bartending basics and how to mix your specialty cocktails, can help you out of a jam, ensuring the shift goes smoothly.

This approach extends to many areas of the restaurant. Kitchen staff can be trained to handle customer service and servers can be easily trained to assume hosting duties. Even managers can be cross-trained to step into various roles when there’s staff shortage with little notice.

One example of effective cross-training comes from Velvet Taco, a fast-casual chain with a scratch kitchen, where management employs a seamless integration of roles between the front and back of house. According to an interview with Restaurant Business Magazine, Velvet Taco dishwashers engage in prep tasks such as creating rubs and marinades, while prep cooks are trained to handle line duties. Counter servers not only expedite orders but also contribute to maintaining a clean dining room, and managers are proficient in working the line.

Employee Appreciation and Skill Development

Restaurant jobs can involve many repetitive tasks. Performing the same duties day in and day out can lead to disengagement and decreased job satisfaction. It’s one reason many restaurants experience high employee turnover.

Cross-training demonstrates an investment in employees, fostering a sense of value and motivation. Employees appreciate the opportunity to enhance their skills and contribute across different areas of the restaurant. This cultivates a deeper appreciation among team members and offers them potential for career growth – and an increase in pay scale – by learning a new skill.

According to Harvard Business Review, the investment can drive a measurable impact. At Moe’s Original BBQ, cross-training contributed “to better communication and a sense of belonging”, and helped two franchise locations reduced employee turnover by 30%.

Cross-training also instills a deeper appreciation among employees in different roles within your restaurant. Your waitstaff probably doesn’t know how much meticulous preparation goes into turning raw ingredients into a well-crafted plate. Similarly, your kitchen staff might not understand the challenges of ensuring customer satisfaction in a bustling dining room. Cross-training employees in other roles fosters a sense of empathy between the front and back of house to work as one team.

Efficient Staff Rosters for Cost Reduction

With more cross-trained staff, restaurants can operate with fewer team members on the roster. This not only ensures efficient operations but also allows for the selection of more synergistic teams, reducing overhead costs.

In times of staff shortages, this training also alleviates stress among managers and staff. Confidence in a well-trained team’s ability to handle shifts, even in the absence of some members, reduces hiccups and ensures a smoother operation.

With today’s restaurant management software, operators can also better track all their cross-training efforts. This software lets managers create detailed employee profiles that include current positions, skills, and training progress/history. Integration with scheduling software also helps ensure that employees with the necessary skills are available for various shifts.


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Better Customer Service

Cross-training in restaurants contributes significantly to enhanced customer service, offering a myriad of advantages that directly impact the dining experience. First, it provides flexibility during peak hours by allowing employees to seamlessly transition between roles. A server cross-trained as a bartender can expedite drink preparation, minimizing wait times for patrons, which is crucial during unexpected rushes.

Beyond flexibility, cross-training develops multi-tasking abilities among employees, a vital trait for delivering attentive service during busy periods. A staff member trained in both serving and hosting, for example, can seamlessly transition between roles, ensuring a smooth flow of operations.

This sort of cross-training improves communication, particularly in reducing barriers between front-of-house and back-of-house teams, ensuring that customer orders are accurately relayed and made correctly. It makes for consistent service quality, as employees trained in various roles understand and uphold the standards expected in each area of the restaurant.

Perhaps most importantly, positive customer interactions are fostered by cross-trained employees who feel confident and competent in their roles. The resulting positive atmosphere contributes to an overall pleasant dining experience, leaving customers satisfied.

Tips for Successful Cross-Training

While there are a number of benefits, cross-training requires careful planning and execution by management. Here are some things to keep in mind when cross-training your staff.

Tracking Your Progress

Introducing cross-training in your restaurant demands a significant investment of time and effort, involving the creation of training materials and the hands-on experience of trainees alongside seasoned staff. It’s important to actively track the tangible benefits derived from your cross-training initiatives. Utilizing restaurant management software provides a valuable tool for evaluating and understanding the real impact of cross-training on your operations.

For example, you may see changes to your actual vs theoretical labor cost. This can indicate cross-training is increasing employee efficiency, allowing for better scheduling and less overtime.

The same can be said for your actual vs theoretical food cost. Changes can indicate you’re effectively cross-training staff on tasks like ingredient prep. If they’re increasing, it could mean you need to rethink your cross-training strategy.

The overall goal of cross-training is to enhance operational efficiency and employee satisfaction throughout the process, while offering a better experience to your customers. As the industry evolves, adopting cross-training not only addresses immediate challenges but positions restaurants for long-term success and resilience.

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