Never too early to train

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Like most UK retailers and caterers I’m avidly watching two TV programmes running at the moment: Mary Portas’ Secret Shopper and Michel Roux’s Service.

Secret Shopper
Mary Portas is her usual truculent self and she’s right to bemoan retail service – on the whole it’s dire with a capital D. Despite embarrassing some of the biggest names on the high street, I’m not sure an over-edited show (we saw the same clip five times) will have the desired effect and have management draw their swords, demanding the engagement necessary to perform at such a level.

Last week’s Service showed a huge contradiction from the management team. When teaching recruits the basics of waiting tables they described eye contact and ghost-like speed, but neglected to mention to serve dishes from the customers’ right shoulder and to clear from their left.

As they didn’t teach this practice from the beginning, or in any of the live restaurant sessions, the recruits’ habit was to serve and clear over both shoulders. In most environments this wouldn’t matter one bit, but in last week’s 5 star restaurant at Bovey Castle it saw them pilloried.

The newly introduced procedure confused and frustrated the cohort, adding yet more pressure to an already stressful learning curve.

The rule here is simple: if something is crucially important and fundamental, say it upfront. Make up a song or a mnemonic. Do whatever is needed to drill the message home early, but don’t let your team drive on the right only to be told weeks later they should’ve been on the left all along.

Photo credit: pasotraspasto

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