Emotional Intelligence: The Key to Hospitality Retention

Adjoa Kittoe
Marketing Manager
January 19, 2022

Interviewed and Co-Authored by: Li-Li Wu

“It's really about finding out about this person and being one with your team and communicating with them in a way that will help to understand them and grow with them. So the communication, it could be different, but the message needs to stay the same.” —Elisa Singh of Fields Good Chicken

We sat down with two learning and development professionals and spoke about the future of learning and training in the hospitality industry. Laura Ratner, Director of Service & Training at Lawry’s Restaurants, and Elisa Singh, Human Resources Manager at Field Goods Chicken provided their expert opinion on the advantages of technological integration and emotional intelligence in hospitality training.

Whether your company has been established for 100 or 5 years, it's important to continuously evolve your training techniques. Laura and Elisa found that using customer feedback improves the training experiences for their frontline teams.

All Feedback is Great Feedback

Every restaurant receives feedback from customers. Whether the feedback is positive or negative, both types of feedback are valuable in training and development. What are best practices for utilizing feedback to facilitate training? Laura says, "So if someone gets a lot of positive mentions in Yelp reviews or Opentable reviews, we certainly make sure they know that. And if there's a particularly negative one, we do our research.” If a piece of negative feedback is confirmed to be true, trainers can develop lessons to break bad habits and re-iterate best behaviors. By improving behavior early and often, hospitality groups can provide better service to their customers as well as provide more growth to their employees.

Elisa states, “When you look back at a few months, you're like, oh, I didn't realize how much I've grown, how much I've learned. That really builds that retention. So training them and getting them to a point where they can look back and say, ‘Hey, in the past few months, look at how far you’ve come. Let's look at the next few months and see how we can get you there.’ Make it into smaller steps rather than one big, giant step.”

In addition to better experiences for customers, effective training can lead to greater employee retention by providing a visible career trajectory.

Train to Retain

In 2018, the National Restaurant Association found the restaurant turnover rate to be 74.9% annually. In contrast, the private sector’s turnover rate was 48.9%. A report from CNBC found that the annual turnover rate for fast-casual restaurants is 130-150%. What do restaurant operators need to combat this war on talent?

It’s time we shift our focus to training. As a new team member, one of the first people your frontline will meet is a person from L&D. Laura states “successful training makes a huge impact on whether they're gonna stay. If we do our part to take the time and train them and give them a very accurate view of what is to be expected, I think that they're much more likely to stay on board.”

Technology’s Effect on Hospitality Training

The digital world is not just the future, it is our current reality. Technology affects our daily lives and has a huge impact on the way we learn.  In the case of Lawry’s, technology has made training objectives clear.

“I think that the technology has helped us be more transparent with the trainees. So it's very clear: you are training, you have completed training when this is done, and you can see that very easily. Whereas before, without all of the technological advantages, it was more ambiguous.” — Laura Ratner

The key for employers is to keep training brief - typically less than 10 minutes, as the average human brain will only focus for three to five minutes.  Training should be broken into a series of small training "sessions".  At Fields Good Chicken, Elisa’s trainees are generally much younger than other industries. “In the beginning, everyone is fresh-faced and ready to learn all these things. So you gotta catch them right then and there. You're using whatever methods you can: you're using videos, you're using exciting things to get their attention.”

Hospitality Training: 2022 and Beyond

Training is not a one-size-fits-all. Within the food industry, policy and guidelines change regularly. From food safety guidelines to public health policies, we are in an industry where we must be up to date with the current trends. Elisa believes technology plays a huge role in hospitality training. It goes hand in hand with the evolution of this industry. What matters to Elisa deciding on what's right for her individual teams. For Laura, training is the key to expansion: “I think training next year is gonna have to be a huge level up. Whether that's looking at our kitchens, looking at the execution, going above and beyond in terms of the guest experience.”