As your restaurant business expands, how effective and consistent your training program is becomes paramount. While you may have established new hire training programs and management training, the challenge arises when you need to adapt these programs to scale across multiple locations.

Training for a single location differs significantly from training for multiple locations. Staff training for a single location is typically more personalized while training for multiple locations requires a scalable approach to ensure consistency across a larger workforce with diverse needs. 

Failing to prioritize your training program before growing poses significant risks, potentially leading to suboptimal guest experience and operational challenges.

Start early: get your restaurant training program ready to scale before you need to

Getting your training program ready to scale before you need to will help make sure you're not down to the wire, or worse too late, when you're growing. Proactively addressing operational challenges and refining training formats will help you identify and work out any kinks early on, minimizing disruptions as you grow.

Also, starting early allows you to test the effectiveness of your training model and formats to make sure they're scalable and aligned with your company goals.

Building a strong field leadership team is essential for driving consistent training practices across multiple locations. Encourage innovative approaches while maintaining consistency among field leaders. This will make sure that training standards are consistent and customized to suit the unique needs of each restaurant location.

Here are 7 steps to scaling your restaurant training program:

1. Review your training and process documents

Evaluate whether these documents are being applied consistently in your current operations and understand the reasons they're working or failing. Ask yourself if the current training processes are realistic for restaurant employees to accomplish.

Take into account logistical challenges such as limited resources or time constraints among the restaurant staff. For example, can the operations team realistically allocate time for training during their daily responsibilities? Identify any bottlenecks and barriers, whether that's time or logistics, such as one computer for back-of-house team members to share. By addressing these issues proactively, you can optimize your training approach and improve operational efficiencies.

2. Map out necessary skills and topics 

When developing a comprehensive training program, it's crucial to map out the essential skills and topics required for success in various roles within your restaurant and to know where you have a skills gap. Here are some key areas to consider:

  • Brand culture: Reinforce the restaurant's brand values, culture, and service standards through training sessions and team-building exercises. 
  • Corrective action and conflict resolution: Equip restaurant owners and managers with strategies for addressing conflicts and resolving issues effectively. Provide training on conflict resolution techniques, active listening, and de-escalation strategies to promote a positive work environment and maintain team cohesion.
  • Customer service: Emphasize the importance of exceptional customer service and creating memorable guest experiences. Train staff on interpersonal communication skills, empathy, and problem-solving to handle customer interactions.
  • HR and compliance: Educate staff on HR policies, as well as anti-harassment training. Provide training on food safety protocols, sanitation practices, and compliance with health regulations to maintain a safe and hygienic dining environment.

Management and leadership: Provide training on effective leadership techniques, delegation, and performance management to equip managers with the skills to lead their teams successfully. Include modules on train-the-trainer programs to enable them to effectively train new hires and disseminate knowledge within the organization.

💡 Did you know? Management and leadership training emerges as a top priority for 80% of people, according to the Hospitality Training 360 Report.
  • Marketing and upselling: Offer training on marketing initiatives and upselling techniques to boost revenue and enhance the customer experience. Educate staff on promoting menu items, suggestive selling, and leveraging promotional offers to increase sales.
  • Product knowledge: Ensure staff are knowledgeable about the menu offerings, including ingredients, preparation methods, and dietary restrictions. Develop SOP manuals outlining best practices for various tasks to ensure consistency in operations across all locations.
  • Restaurant technology training: Familiarize staff with the restaurant's technology systems, including point-of-sale (POS) systems, online ordering platforms, and reservation systems. Provide hands-on training and troubleshooting guidance to ensure smooth operations and minimize downtime.
💡 Get started with these 6 common restaurant training manuals, including examples

3. Prioritize against business goals

Prioritizing training initiatives against business goals is essential for gaining buy-in from stakeholders, including executives and field leadership. The more you can show how training aligns with improved business outcomes, such as increased revenue or customer satisfaction, the easier it will be to secure support and budget for training programs. 

When Just Salad prioritized its sustainability efforts, the team created a dedicated training program on food waste. More than 700 trainees completed the 13-minute training, and that led to a 10% reduction in food waste across 55 stores. That’s just one example of how to tie training efforts to business goals. 

If your restaurant is growing fast and hiring a new restaurant team, new hire training becomes a must. Alternatively, identify gaps in the business operations and develop training programs to address these areas, so you can show a measurable impact as you scale.

4. Choose a suitable training method

The training method should be tailored to the specific skill or topic. Start by identifying the tasks best suited for online learning versus those requiring in-person instruction. Then, apply the "tell, show, do" method to guide this decision-making process.

  1. Tell: This involves teaching through courses or instructional materials. Online training platforms, such as Opus, are ideal for providing employees with access to courses and resources that they can access independently and across mobile platforms.

  2. Show: Quick training videos or image-based guides can effectively demonstrate tasks or procedures, so employees can visualize what needs to be done. Incorporating videos and images is particularly useful for conveying practical skills or demonstrating proper techniques.

  3. Do: Hands-on training allows for direct supervision, feedback, and interaction, and employees can practice tasks in person under the guidance of experienced trainers or managers.
With Opus, managers and trainers can prescribe when and how to conduct in-person training sessions while tracking employee progress and capturing valuable training data. By leveraging Opus' capabilities, you can optimize your training approach and blend online learning with in-person instruction to maximize employee development and performance. Learn more about blended learning. 

5. Invest in resources and technology, if you haven’t already

Allocate the necessary financial and staff resources to ensure your training programs have the support and infrastructure they need to succeed. Additionally, leverage appropriate technology solutions to streamline training processes.

The ROI of technology often offsets the cost of time to train employees. For instance, if you paid an employee one hour to complete a training session in person, you’re paying two hours of time—one for the trainer and one for the trainee. If the trainee can learn via online training, that’s only one hour of paid time. 

Technology can help improve learning outcomes and expand the reach of your training program. E-learning adoption has seen significant growth, with 100% of L&D leaders using e-learning, up from 88% in 2019, according to the Hospitality Training 360 Report. Despite its widespread use, many organizations are not fully maximizing the potential of e-learning platforms—77% plan to increase their company's e-learning usage in the next year.

It's important to recognize that the goal of investing in technology is not to replace traditional training methods entirely but to complement them and enhance on-the-job learning. Training technology can create consistency in training delivery, improve accessibility, and provide ongoing learning and development opportunities. 

6. Test, learn, iterate 

Running a pilot program or proof of concept at one location or with a cohort of employees can help you test, learn, and iterate before full-scale implementation. You can gather valuable feedback, identify potential challenges, and fine-tune your training materials and delivery methods. It can also help you build a bench of internal advocates to build credibility when you do the full rollout.

During the pilot program, closely monitor key performance indicators and solicit input from participants to gauge the impact of the training on their skills and job performance. Assess factors such as engagement levels, knowledge retention, and the practical application of newly acquired skills. If you’re not seeing the outcome you’d like, then it’s time to iterate quickly. 

Additionally, use the pilot program to assess the feasibility of scaling the training initiative across multiple locations or entire teams. Identify any roadblocks and develop strategies to address them.

7. Gather feedback along the way

If you want to grow fast and you’re working toward a deadline, you can’t wait for things to be perfect. Make sure you have a process for collecting feedback regularly and addressing any concerns promptly. 

Solicit feedback from both participants (end users) and stakeholders (those who support training initiatives) to gain insights into the effectiveness and relevance of the program. Take note of any areas for improvement or adjustments needed to enhance the training experience.

Refine the training program based on the feedback received before rolling it out across the entire organization. Incorporate suggestions, address concerns, and make necessary revisions to optimize the program for broader implementation

💡 Did you know? Opus helps you move faster and iterate efficiently. The built-in feedback process collects real-time feedback from learners and then you can adjust the training content in real-time that new learners automatically see. 

Common challenges when scaling training programs

Scaling training programs can be challenging, especially amid growing operational and logistical parts of the business. Here are some common barriers to expanding training programs: 

Lack of roadmap and goals

Without a clear roadmap and understanding of organizational goals and gaps in training, it's challenging to develop targeted and effective training initiatives that align with business objectives.

Lack of buy-in from corporate and field leadership

Securing buy-in from both corporate and field leadership is essential for the successful implementation and adoption of training programs. Yet it’s a top challenge: 69% of L&D teams say they’d benefit from more field-level buy-in. Without their support, initiatives may lack the necessary resources and momentum to succeed.

No accountability for in-person training

Ensuring accountability for in-person training sessions can be difficult, particularly if trainers are not held responsible for delivering and monitoring training consistently.

Overreliance on managers for training

Relying solely on managers to conduct training is problematic, as they may lack the time or expertise to deliver training consistently. Additionally, this approach can strain manager-employee relationships and hinder overall effectiveness.

Trainers are typically part-time or full-time staff who are responsible for delivering and monitoring training. 

Limited budgets for training and development

Insufficient budget allocation for training and development initiatives can restrict the scope and quality of training programs, limiting their impact on employee performance and organizational growth.

Hiring new employees over training existing employees

Onboarding new talent rather than training existing employees can lead to increased turnover and missed opportunities for skill development and career advancement within the organization.

Perfectionism that delays implementation

Waiting for training programs to be perfect before implementation can result in missed opportunities. Finding the right balance between refinement and timely implementation is essential to avoid spending too much time to get it perfect.

Training isn’t a box on a checklist; invest in continuous learning 

Training should not be viewed as a one-time event but rather as a journey that promotes continuous learning and development among staff members. Here are some key aspects of a culture of learning:

Importance of continuous learning: Emphasize the importance of ongoing education and skill development. Fostering a culture of ongoing training prepares employees to adapt to changes in the industry.

Cross-training opportunities: Allowing staff members to learn new skills and take on additional roles within the restaurant boosts their versatility and flexibility and promotes teamwork and collaboration. Cross-training also helps to mitigate the impact of staffing shortages and absenteeism by enabling employees to fill multiple roles as needed.

Professional development resources: Access to various professional development resources, such as workshops, seminars, online courses, and certification programs, demonstrates a commitment to staff development and career advancement. Providing employees with opportunities to expand their knowledge and skills not only enhances their job satisfaction but also increases their value to the organization.

Providing employees with the necessary knowledge, skills, and resources can ensure consistency in service delivery across multiple locations and drive business growth. Preparing your training program to be ready to scale will drive operational efficiency and customer satisfaction in the short term and also foster employee retention, loyalty, and overall organizational success in the long term. Don't be fooled by waiting too late to prepare your restaurant training program to grow as your locations expand.