If you’ve never owned a restaurant, you may think that the only thing that is important for success is that your guests rave about the food. While having well prepared, delicious food is an important factor, it’s not all that matters.
Having a well trained, professionally dressed staff that knows your menu inside and out is important as well. If you’ve ever been to a restaurant and asked your server what their favorite item on the menu is and gotten a blank stare in return, then you know how off putting it is. If someone that works there isn’t excited about the food, why should someone who’s paying to eat there be?
For this reason, and many more, it’s important to make sure that your staff knows your menu well enough to describe each dish, and make each guest want to try everything. It’s not as easy as it sounds, however, so not only will you find out why your staff needs to know your menu, you’ll also learn how to make sure they do to.
Diners Will Ask
While many people will sit down in a restaurant, read through the menu and choose something without question, you’ll be surprised at how many people have questions. Questions will range from “What’s in this dish?” to “Can I make a substitution?” to “What do you recommend?”.
A lot of people will ask, and many will ask questions that surprise you, even after you’ve been in business for a while. While you can’t prepare for everything, you can make sure your staff knows the answers to the most common questions, and has answers that sound genuine and honest.
This is especially true if you’re serving something unique. If you serve ethnic food, food that may be considered trendy, or super healthy food, you’ll be asked over and over what something is, where it comes from, how it’s prepared, or even how it’s supposed to be eaten.
You’re Proud of Your Menu
You’ve spent time crafting the perfect menu, and you want your customers to be excited about it. It’s an employee’s job to sell your food; that’s why you’re in business.
It Can Be Interpreted as Poor Service
Even if a server is the friendliest person in the room, with the biggest smile, a half hearted response about a menu item comes across as lazy, and can leave guests feeling like they should have spent their money elsewhere.
Since customer service is a huge factor in whether or not someone returns to a restaurant, it’s important that you make sure they are treated how they expect. Remember, it doesn’t matter if you think the customer service is great; what matters is that the person paying you believes it’s acceptable.Now you know why you need to train your employees on your menu, but how do you it? Read on:
Train All of Your Employees on Your Menu — Not Just Wait Staff
Your wait staff will definitely get the most questions about the menu, and they should be the first ones to know it inside and out. It’s important, however, that every single employee in your restaurant, from the hostess to the busboys should be able to handle common questions about the menu, including having a favorite dish. Because, remember, they will get asked. Not as often, but they will. And you want every guest to always feel like they made the right choice by choosing your restaurant over the many other choices out there, don’t you?
Let Your Employees Taste Everything
This might be difficult, but it’s important. Let your employees taste your food. Maybe not all at once, but they should know what each item on your menu tastes like. This way, when a customer asks how spicy the chili is, the server can be honest in answering. It’s okay for a server to say he or she hasn’t tried one thing, but if they haven’t tried anything, it can be leave diners wondering why they’re bothering eating there when the employees don’t.
Give Them a Menu to Take Home and Study
Instead of letting new hires look over your menu for a few minutes before they start their shift, why not send a menu home with them? They can look it over at their leisure to make sure they know exactly what’s on it. Consider giving quizzes as well to ensure that it’s actually looked over. This may seem like overkill, but your employees aren’t diners who need to pick something from the menu once; they need to know it in and out, every day.
Make Sure They Have a Favorite
A common question in every type of restaurant is always “What’s your favorite thing on the menu?” or “What do you recommend?” Many seasoned diners will ask this simply to see if the staff knows the menu; others genuinely want guidance. No matter the reason, each employee should have a clear favorite, and be able to describe exactly what they like about it.
Make Sure They Know All the Ingredients
Whether a diner is picky and doesn’t like onions or has a legitimate allergy, he should be able to ask the server if a particular dish includes ingredients offensive to his tastes and get a straight answer. Don’t allow your servers to guess whether a dish has something in it, make sure they know, and they can answer the question with confidence each time they are asked, about each dish on your menu.
Make Sure They Can Pronounce Everything
If your menu has offerings that aren’t common, such as super health food ingredients or hard to find ethnic ingredients, make sure that your staff knows the proper pronunciation for each ingredient. Not doing so can make both you and your staff look lazy, and possibly ignorant, to diners that do know the correct way to say it.
Keep Your Staff Up to Date With Menu Changes
If you’re open for a while, you’ll eventually change your menu. To keep up with the times, you should change it frequently. It’s important to remember that when you do, you update your staff on it as well. Don’t let a server be surprised by a new menu item when a guest asks a question about it; be proactive in letting them know beforehand. Diners don’t care how much your staff knows about your previous menu; they have questions about the current one. Even if you make small changes, such as adding an item or changing ingredients, always let the staff know beforehand.
Opening a restaurant is not a decision to be made lightly. A lot of thought and planning goes into it, as well as time and money. Creating a well thought out menu is no easy task, and once it’s done, you should be proud. Part of being proud is making sure that each and every employee you have knows the menu like the back of their hand. This shows diners that you are not only proud of what you’ve created, but also that you want their experience to be the best it can be from every angle. Don’t let this seemingly unimportant detail get overlooked. Make sure your staff knows your menu before they begin working.