How This Café Trains the Best Staff
Training the best staff — and creating a restaurant culture that empowers them to be the best — isn’t just good for your restaurant. It’s good for your bottom line. The average turnover for American restaurants in 2018 was as high as 75%. That’s real money you’re losing, too — according to a recent study from Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, losing and replacing an hourly employee can set you back $5,864. With a 75% restaurant turnover rate, that means losing up to $428,072 annually!
Welcome to Starfish Café, Mississippi
Take a trip to the state of Mississippi and you may stumble upon Starfish Café — one of the not-so-hidden gastronomic gems of the south. But what makes this little eleven table café so amazing is not just the great food. It’s also a job training program that prepares people coming from tough situations with life and kitchen skills for a bright future in hospitality.
Owner Diana Fillhart started her experience in the restaurant industry at age fourteen and never left. When she opened Starfish Café, passing on her hard-earned knowledge to her students became a way to pursue her passion.
The Starfish Method
One of the most important things, she says, is developing an understanding of all areas of restaurant operations. Says Fillhart, “We cross train intentionally so that everybody has a respect and an understanding for both [front and back of house].” This teaches staff how the whole restaurant works together regardless of what task they're working on that day.
After that, Fillhart uses reviews to emphasize observing and proactive hospitality skills. Says Fillhart, “It’s a training opportunity for our staff to talk about looking at issues from the customer’s vantage point and seeing what we can do to respond to what the customer wrote. It helps us teach them that a roving eye will always save you and other good practices about being aware and responsive.”
Reviews are a great way to get customer feedback, which can be used to train and motivate your staff. There are many ways to encourage guests to leave a review, but one of the most effective is simply training your staff to ask them at the end of their meal. Teaching them to do this is also a great way to encourage them to engage and connect with their guests.
If you ask Fillhart, the key to her program is hands-on experience. “We use: See it. Do it. Teach it,” says Fillhart. “If they see how you want it done, and then they begin to do it, the next thing you want to do is give them the opportunity to teach it. Because if they can teach it, they know it, they own it, it’s theirs.”
If you are working on training the best staff, Fillhart recommends emphasizing for them to: “Always be proactive with a customer, because they just want to know that you see them and they’re valuable.” For owners, she recommends having processes in place for staff to be successful: “[That way], you know they will be able to be successful — so that you can be successful.”