Restaurant Opening: The Essential Kitchen Training Documents

When opening a restaurant, it seems only right to document and put in place a structured training agenda that will aid your kitchen managers and chefs in the training of themselves and their staff. Perhaps you hire a consultant, like Blue Orbit, or you have someone on your staff who loves documents, spreadsheets and calendars just as much as they love a clean cutting board and sharp knife. While that person is a great asset, it’s one thing to create these tools and another to implement and maintain the standards that they set.

Do your cooks really want a 40 page packet documenting the rules, dress code, schedule, recipes, etc.? That’s doubtful. A cook is a cook for a reason, right? Hopefully, whomever you have hired has gone through your interview process and they have demonstrated that they at least have a good head on their shoulders. What do you need to provide for your cooks? Here are a few documents you should considering handing your cooks as tools to help them through the first days of training.

Avoid confusion: set and publish clear expectations.

DO print and post your training and opening calendar. Each staff member can get a hard copy and/or you can post a large copy of this on your kitchen wall. It’s critical that your staff knows when they need to be at work. Missing training days early in the training process likely results in termination. These are days you cannot win back and are days lost if you do have to terminate someone and bring in someone new. Training weeks (and weekends) seem to run without end and the cooks need to understand their importance and their presence.

Don’t overwhelm your staff with documents they won’t use.

DO NOT print recipe books for employees to take home. Each station should get one recipe book with pages in plastic inserts (for up-to-the minute, manager-approved changes). Encourage your staff to bring notebooks (the pocket-sized ones work great) to take recipe notes. If they want to copy the recipe word-for-word into their own book, that’s great. It gives them another chance to study the recipe and learn it away from their station. Bringing recipe books home is a disaster waiting to happen. Recipes don’t get updated, they get lost, and honestly, who really reads them when they get home?

Keep recipes out and posted on each station for easy review… and to show how serious you are about sticking to the script.

DO print each station’s menu items. Each station should have a list of associated menu items printed and posted on their station for training. It gets very challenging to stick to a “learn three items on Monday, four items on Tuesday, etc.” regimen. With the list posted on the station, the cook can use this as a guide to be sure that, as training moves forward, they are covering the dishes they are responsible for. Try laminating them and keeping a dry erase marker nearby. Each time a cook learns and executes a new dish, mark their reps so it’s documented which dishes are being learned and mastered.

Depending on the size of your restaurant and menu, you might want to print some other documents that correspond to your training agenda. Station ingredient lists are great so each cook can learn what ingredients he/she is responsible for. Cleaning checklists are also very helpful. It might take one document or ten to keep your training moving forward. Whether you create and document your training program or you engage someone else to do it, it’s important that it gets done. Restaurants that open without solid, organized, and disciplined pre-opening training systems are unnecessarily exposed when it comes to bringing their product to market.  It can be time-consuming to create a sturdy training program, but it goes a long way to ensure success.

Ray Camillo – CEO, Blue Orbit Restaurant Consulting

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