A great way to exceed customer expectations is to invest in restaurant employees/

From international delicacies to neighborhood burger joints, it can feel like new restaurants are popping up on every street corner these days. The industry is at an all-time high, exemplified well by food service being forecasted to reach $997 billion in sales this year. Clearly, the full-service restaurant industry, and food culture in general, is growing quickly and significantly.

While quick growth is exciting, with it comes its challenges. Full-service restaurants are now competing with one another at higher intensities than we’ve seen before. According to a survey by the National Restaurant Association, 47 percent of restaurant operators expect competition to be more intense this year compared to 2022. As a result, restaurants must consider every area in which they can stand out to ensure they stay afloat.

Good food is a foundational start for restaurants to stand out. In fact, it is a must. That being said, good food is no longer all that it takes. When customers dine out at their local restaurant, they now expect not only decent cuisine, but friendly service, efficient operations and a positive experience. A good meal is worthy of an Instagram photo, but the experience is what is going to prompt a customer to post a positive review on Yelp, to come back weekly and ultimately, to let the restaurant into their identity as a consumer. 

A great way to exceed customer expectations in those areas is to invest in restaurant employees, which is where learning management comes into play. Learning management—applications that help administer and deliver educational courses and training programs—empower employees to do the best job they can and ensure continual growth across the restaurant. The benefits of learning management include better equipping employees, minimizing operational errors and ensuring consistency in the quality of service that customers receive.

Equipping employees to handle issues as they arise

Learning management mitigates the number of present and future mistakes from employees. When all procedures and best practices are shared and demonstrated upfront, employees can get started on the right foot and quickly get up to speed on protocol. Not only that, but learning management makes it less likely that managers will need to step in and use valuable resources to course correct in the future. 

Additionally, properly equipping employees helps to retain them. When an employee is confident in their responsibilities, they are less likely to seek the relief of quitting. This is especially valuable with today’s labor shortages, as 62 percent of restaurant operators say their restaurant does not have enough employees to support customer demand.

Minimizing operational errors

For restaurant employees, it can be easy to forget protocols during a rush. For example, say your uptown burger location is notoriously busy at 7 p.m. on Fridays. Instead of your employees being readily available to serve guests, they realize they forgot to refill the ketchup bottles. The ketchup is not where it should be, and soon your employees are wandering aimlessly around the restaurant in effort to find the misplaced condiment. They look to their manager for guidance, but the manager is pulled away by a bartender in need of help. Now it is 7:15 p.m., the restaurant guests are wondering where their food is and the ketchup bottles are still empty. 

Operational errors like this example are easily avoidable when employees have organized learning management to rely on, and thus a central resource to reference with the restaurant’s operating procedures. The misplaced ketchup never would have been an issue, as the employee who misplaced it would have had clearer directives and compliance checks from a central portal. 

Ensuring consistency in quality of service 

When all employees are trained with the same resources, the restaurant can set a standard for service. Setting that standard is important because if a customer goes to a restaurant, has a great time, comes back, and then service is lackluster, it is confusing and detrimental to the restaurant’s reputation. Additionally, one bad experience could keep a customer from coming back, losing that restaurant repeat business. 

Proper training from the start that is provided to all employees regardless of their experience or job roles helps prevent those losses. No single employee becomes a weak link, and customers can come to expect consistent good service.  

Something to chew on

At the end of the day, learning management is about continual improvement. It helps restaurants become competitive in the guest experience they offer, which in turn drives loyalty and engagement. As restaurant success is dependent on many factors, any and all advantages are crucial. That way, the restaurant can run operations and not just survive, but thrive. 

Gary Stonell, SVP of Sales and Operations, Opterus, has 20 years of sales management and business development experience in CPG and SaaS. Beginning his career in CPG, he worked for Kraft Foods, Philips Electronics, then SunRype Products fostering partnerships with retailers and managing various aspects of the sales and marketing processes. More recently at Sysomos/Meltwater, a SaaS based Social Media content management platform, Gary led the Enterprise sales team responsible for managing existing clients and new logo acquisition. The key to his success has been a meaningful focus on building business relationships with collaborative solution based partnerships

Expert Takes, Feature, Labor & Employees