How Restaurant Owners and General Managers Can Write a Great Employee Developmental Plan in 5 Easy Steps

For restaurant owners and general managers, the process of creating a restaurant employee developmental plan is very similar to writing quarterly goals – only there are no predetermined categories.  The action steps should have many of the same characteristics as the steps in achieving goals.  They should be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. 

So, here’s how you can write a great employee developmental plan for your restaurant in 5 easy steps:


Step 1 – Conduct an Evaluation

Every good plan starts with an accurate evaluation of the employee’s strengths and areas of opportunity.  You should always have the employee fill out a self-evaluation so that you can compare your assessment and come to an agreement.  It is important to have specific examples ready to support your assessment.  This makes it easier for the employee to understand the point you are trying to make.  When you conduct the evaluation, have the employee lead the conversation, and state your opinions after they have stated their own.  This allows them to be an active participant in their own development and provides immediate buy in. 

For your restaurant managers, I suggest that you also have them complete a personality profile assessment, such as the Helm Test or Myers-Briggs, to provide even more insight into their work habits, how they receive and process information, what motivates them and what shuts them down.  Keep in mind that the results of these assessments are another tool to use in developing an employee; what you have gained from your interactions with the individual is just as important. 

Step 2 – List Areas to Target for Improvement

Start the evaluation by creating a page with the two headings: 1) Strengths and 2) Areas of Opportunity.  Add items to the appropriate list as you conduct the evaluation.  When the evaluation is done revisit this list, praise the strengths, and remember to always give the employee responsibilities that play to those strengths.  Guaranteed wins are important in any developmental plan.  Prioritize the areas of opportunity and select the top 4 to 6 items as a starting place.  Giving an employee too many things to work on can be overwhelming and counterproductive.  Try to balance behaviors that can be corrected quickly with behaviors that will take a much longer period to amend.  The goal is consistent and continual progress. 

Step 3 – Identify Specific Tasks, Reading Material, or Interactions That Support Growth in the Targeted Area

Once you decide on the areas to be addressed in the developmental plan, list the steps required to improve in each of those areas.  First, ask the employee what they think would be helpful to them.   Remember each task must be SMART: 

  • Specific— clear and easy to understand 
  • Measurable – easy to quantify in numbers or in specific desired results 
  • Achievable – steps should push the employee to grow in the specific area but should not be so far reaching that they become defeated instead 
  • Relevant – make sure that the step will truly help the employee develop in the specific area 
  • Time Bound – everything should have a deadline 

Be creative with assignment of tasks.  Things like weak cooking techniques can be corrected by training side-by-side with the chef on all positions.  Getting better at motivating your restaurant staff may only require reading a book for one person, while situational roleplay may work better for another person.  Correcting behaviors often requires placing your employee in uncomfortable situations and coaching them through it.  We all grow by leaving our comfort zones. 

Step 4 – Assign Deadlines to Task List and Follow Up on Progress Accordingly

This is a simple one.  Once you have assigned action steps to a developmental path, make sure there are deadlines assigned to each step.  This is another place you and the employee should reach agreement together to ensure the deadlines make sense.  Most employees agree to unrealistic deadlines, which can also be very defeating. 

Following up with the employee to determine progress is equally important.  In the beginning you should schedule set weekly meetings to have the employee walk you through what they have done so far and what they have learned.  You will need to give a lot of advice and feedback in the beginning, but after the first few weeks you will be able to decrease the frequency of meetings.  Understand that some directives in the original plan will need to be altered as the employee finds roadblocks or additional issues.  You also might alter directives for the opposite reason because the employee is speeding through and quickly mastering some tasks. 

Step 5 – Set a Date to Reassess Employee and Adjust Developmental Plan As Needed

Always begin with an end in mind.  Set a time to assess the overall success of the current developmental plan, which usually is at the 6-month mark.  At this time, you may choose to conduct another evaluation and create a brand new developmental plan, or you may assess progress of the current plan and add new items to it. 

It is amazing how many restaurant employers do not take the time to assess the skills of their people and set them on the path to success with a clear plan.  A good employee developmental plan comes from an understanding of the individual; it is geared to their way of learning and is only successful if they have a part in its construction.  Once you have the commitment of the employee and demonstrate that you intend to follow up regularly, you will find it to be a process that drives itself, and results will come quickly. And thanks to these 5 easy steps, you’ll have a restaurant employee developmental guide ready in no time!  

Michael Maxwell – Partner, Blue Orbit Restaurant Consulting

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