Forget the whiteboard and throw away the felt-tip pens (at least for now). Spring fever is in full swing and the only way you’ll keep your team focused on any type of restaurant training is to make it as fun – and useful – as possible. So use your imagination to find creative ways to show servers and other staff members the big picture through your restaurant training program. Here are three ideas to get you started:

  • “Be our guest, be our guest, put your service to the test” – Pick a slow night like Sunday or Monday to close the restaurant a bit early (or do it after closing) and have the chefs coach the front-of-the-house staff on how to prepare a family-style dinner. Then, let the front-of-the-house staff sit down and be served by the back-of-the-house staff. Let them role play a bit (use up-sell techniques, handle difficult customers, etc.) and then, while everyone eats, pinpoint the challenges that each side faces. After the dinner, while everyone cleans up together, award two winners: the “server” with the most sales and the “chef” with the best team skills.
  • Roadrunner vs. Sponge Bob: Pair your team members by job description (a server and a host pair up while a bus person and a dishwasher work together). Have each duo prepare a short presentation of their role (what we do, what we can do, why we’re important, our challenges and how you can help us). Then, have them pick a fictional character (from sports to cartoons to politics) and have that “character” make the presentation. You’ll find that choosing a character will prompt team members to think outside the box about their challenges and possible solutions and it will spark interest in others who rarely consider another team member’s challenges.
  • Don’t Dodge the Ball: Throw a beach ball in the air and whoever catches it must rattle off a selling point of something in your restaurant before passing it to the next person. Encourage each department to use their own job skills to come up with original ideas. For example, a prep cook might say, “Fresh chopped basil from the farmer’s market” and a bartender might offer, “Hand-shaken martinis with caramel rims.” Try this exercise in pre-shift meetings to spark awareness of the specials or new menu items or use it as full team exercise to internally market your operation.

For more ideas on how to add fun to your restaurant training programs, check out Playing Games at Work: 52 Best Incentives, Contests, and Rewards for the Hospitality Industry. You’ll get 52 ideas that will improve profits, increase morale, and energize restaurant training programs. That’s one idea for every day of the week!