Sven Almenning on why internal training is about so much more than making drinks

Story by Sven Almenning, founder of the Speakeasy Group, as well as the online training and management platform Ananas. He was given the 2009 Bartender Magazine Award for Outstanding Contribution and has been featured in the top ten on the Bartender Magazine Most Influential List at every award since its launch over a decade ago.

During COVID the industry saw many venues experience incredibly high staff turnover, some venues may have lost as many as 80-90% of their well-established crews. Other than the obvious devastation for venues seeing these valued family members go, the other unfortunate learning was that intricate venue, operational and even customer base knowledge left with them. From the specifics as to how a drink is made to the preparation for a signature dish, even things as obscure as who painted the artwork in the entrance,
may have gotten lost in the process. This isn’t new to Covid, but Covid has certainly exacerbated it

This is a problem both for the business and for the teams, but it can be mitigated through a rigorous Internal Training program. Internal, venue specific training, is an aspect of staff training that often gets overlooked. What exists of “Internal Training” is often buried in a thick restaurant or bar manual that is issued to the team when they first start with the venue and, I’d wager in most cases, is rarely referred back to or referenced again.

Regardless of whether your venue uses an online training platform such as ANANAS, or you’re simply doing it old-school, the importance of providing your teams with detailed information and training on how you want things done in the venue, as well as company policies and process are paramount both when it comes to consistency and speed of service as well as internal and government compliance.

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If you, for instance, have a food poisoning case in your venue and you cannot quickly and easily demonstrate to the department of health that your team has been trained (and tested) on the various allergens, as well as what measures have in place both to prevent food poisoning and what to do when it occurs, you could be in trouble.
The below represents some of the key areas that I believe all venues should have on file and train and test their teams on.

If you have a food poisoning case in your venue and you cannot demonstrate that your team has been trained on the various allergens, as well as what measures you have in place, you could be in trouble.

Service Standards
This is a quick overview of how you want your products served and presented in your venue. It can differ from venue to venue, or be generic across your entire group depending on how you operate. Helpful Inclusions: what glassware to use for what drinks, how much a standard wine pour is, the type of garnish that goes on your G&T’s as well as a list of your core partner brands that you want your team to promote and sell.

Sequence of Service (SOS)
One of the most important training courses for any bar or restaurant, especially if table or floor service is offered. SOS training basically describes every touch point and every step in your guests’ journey. This is where you cover how to greet guests, and how to farewell them; when you want menus presented, waters poured, plates collected etc.
SOS training and testing means more consistent and better service for your guests, which should deliver more return guests, revenue and tips for the team

Allergens & Dietaries
This is super important in all restaurants and venues that serve food and can cover a wide range of points including common allergies dietary, requirements as well as listing out the various allergens that are in your dishes and drinks. Obviously, this must be updated with every major menu change. It should also include your processes and procedures for managing allergens in service as well as First Aid and what to do in the case of an emergency.

Local Area Knowledge
This is an oft overlooked training course and most venues rely on their staff to have an understanding of the local area so they best can recommend guests what restaurants to visit next, what hotel to stay in and where the nearest bus or train station is.
By creating a short, but informative local area knowledge course your staff will be able to serve your guests and offer them local recommendations like a pro, on their very first shift in your venue.

Company Vision and Values
This is another great and very helpful training document to have available for your team. Understanding the team culture you are striving to achieve and the vision you have for the business makes it easier for your team to align with what you do as an organisation and by understanding what you stand for as a company they are better able to represent your business to your guests.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of course. Cocktails Specs, Food Recipes, FAQ’s, how to handle RSA in venue are of course all important as well and the list goes on. Depending on the style of venue you run, as well as the number of staff you have, you may want to include a host of other courses that go into more specific detail in areas that are of specific focus to you. These can be short documents that simply state the why’s and how’s of an incentive you are running, to longer documents and courses around your management procedures and tools.

One of the key benefits in hosting all of this online is that it is always there and always is available to those on your team who needs it. Given the current staff-shortage across the industry, as well as the aforementioned turnover of staff, being able to onboard and train your team efficiently is more important than ever. Hosting and managing this online can automate and speed up the process both for staff and owners.

As always, Stay awesome!

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