Though it usually doesn't require a formal education, working in a restaurant involves a significant amount of food service training. One way to enhance the training period for your staff is to incorporate games into your instruction program. Successful restaurants nationwide use various types of restaurant training games to provide pleasant and professional instruction to new hires and to improve the service skills of senior staff members.
An ideal way to get an accurate sense of your servers' table-side manners -- and find ways to improve them -- is by conducting role playing games within your training program. Create a few basic restaurant scenarios and have your staff members act out dramatizations to see if they react appropriately. For instance, let a few staff members portray difficult-to-please customers and have another portray the server. Monitor the way the server handles the situation and critique her performance at the conclusion. Create similar games that focus on the proper ways to handle issues among co-workers as well.
Blind Taste Tests
Most restaurant owners organize taste-testing meetings as part of their training so servers can accurately describe menu items to inquisitive patrons as well as distinguish one item from another in kitchen expediting areas. You can take this procedure a step further by administering blind taste tests. Have your servers seated at a table and blindfold them. Serve small samples of various menu items -- one at a time -- to the blindfolded servers, and have them smell, taste and try to guess what each sample is. This game helps servers recognize food items by taste and smell and distinguish distinct differences in items with similarities.
Waitstaff Relay Races
In fast-paced high-volume restaurants, speed, balance and agility are required to provide fast and efficient service with minimal spills, collisions, accidents and injuries. An effective way to train inexperienced servers, and to enhance the skills of seasoned professionals, is organizing relay race games. Set up an obstacle course in the dining area -- preferably before or after business hours -- and assemble your servers to compete against one another as individuals or in teams. Have some make-believe customers seated at a table on one end of the course and a table of dishes, water glasses and silverware at the other end. Provide waiters with trays to serve the drinks and plates to the customers while maneuvering through the obstacles. Use a stopwatch to time participants and establish a winner. Set the rules according to your specific restaurant server needs.
A fun way to encourage restaurant workers to learn more about your establishment and memorize menu items and ingredients is to play "Restaurant Jeopardy." Modeled after the well-known TV game show, "Jeopardy," the game includes numerous categories of answers to questions that relate to the restaurant, employees, company policies and menu items. The object of the game is for players to choose different categories -- such as "Company History," "Dessert Menu" or "Dining Room Floor Plan." Participants are given the answer and required to assign the appropriate question. For example, if you choose to play within the "Dessert Menu" category and are given the answer, "A warm slice of chocolate cake topped with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge and whip cream," the appropriate question response is, "What is a brownie sundae?"