Server Training That Transforms Your Waitstaff into Brand Ambassadors

Training waitstaff to embody your brand and culture pays off more than just in profit margin. Proper training builds a restaurant environment with lower turnover, happy staff, word-of-mouth marketing, and regulars who are excited for their next visit.

Is creating high-quality ambassadors as tough as it sounds? Not when you have the right procedures in place. When training waiters, below are a few major must-dos for restaurant owners to shift staff mindsets from, “I just work here,” to “I love working here, and here’s why.”

Hire Those with Similar Ideas on Service and Hospitality

Anita Greene, owner/operations manager at Peppervine and Artisanal, says hiring someone with values that mirror your brand helps them buy into your restaurant’s culture. It means that they’re already on the same page about how to serve guests and provide exceptional hospitality.

Look for brand values such as a servant leadership mindset, strong focus on treating guests like family, or a fun and lively attitude that fits your culture. If you’ve already begun training waiters and realize they’re not demonstrating your brand values, consider cutting them immediately to protect the culture you’ve built.

Train Waitstaff to Embody Your Brand, Values, and Culture

Rock Creek Restaurant owner Carol Thomas says her team members, some of whom have been with her over 30 years, respect their intensive server training. This includes, for example, teaching waitstaff what honesty and transparency mean to their restaurant culture, how to execute the restaurant’s above-and-beyond service, how to treat other staff members well, and being tested on their menu and wine knowledge over several weeks.

All new servers continue to train until Thomas and her management team feel confident in their ability to fully embody the brand’s culture and values. This also helps keep unprepared servers off the floor, and ensures they’re not interacting with customers until they’re mirroring exactly what’s been trained.

After the initial training period, Thomas has monthly meetings to reaffirm expectations through honest, transparent communication. If waitstaff know your expectations and that you trust them to deliver for you and your brand, they’ll spread the word of your restaurant like wildfire.

When people feel like their feedback is being heard and their opinions are valued, they naturally feel like they have more of a stake in the company.

Value Employee Feedback

As part of training waitstaff, communicate that you consider their feedback incredibly important. After all, your waitstaff typically speak to customers more than you do, says Thomas. “Really take their opinions into consideration. They can get more information than you can, and when people feel like their feedback is being heard and their opinions are valued, they naturally feel like they have more of a stake in the company,” she explains.

Prove to Waitstaff You Care Through Your Actions

Because of her restaurant’s culture, employees see how Greene cares about them from her actions. That helps staff believe in the restaurant’s philosophies, then carry out the brand’s mission and values to every customer. “If people truly believe in what you do as a business then they’ll be you when you’re not there,” explains Greene.

Thomas gives her waitstaff monthly spends and discounts to try new dishes. This also spurs their continued enjoyment of the restaurant. “They eat [here] a lot. That’s such a big thing, if the waitresses and waiters aren’t eating the food, that’s a bad sign, but [my staff] are always coming in on their days off,” explains Thomas.

Spending their free time at the restaurant also encourages staff to spread the word about how wonderful it is to work for you. This helps increase referrals for top-notch hires who may be a fantastic fit for your brand.

Ask Current Staff for Potential New Hire Referrals

Greene says you have to keep the idea of recruiting new staff members top-of-mind with your current waitstaff. Ask, “‘Hey, do you have anybody you feel like would be a good fit?’ We’re always looking for good people, that’s my philosophy,” she says, “But I feel if they’re those ambassadors and they’re happy to be at your establishment then they’ll sell it themselves. Just talking about work and how much they enjoyed being there, I feel like that alone brings new staff members.”