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How to Create an Effective Server Training Manual [Server Training Manual Template]

Nick PerryAuthor

Good (or bad) service can make or break a restaurant. Nobody wants to eat where they are mistreated. Proper training is a major component of providing good service and retaining quality employees.

For quality server training, every restaurant should have an employee handbook and a server training manual. Not only do these documents provide legal and employer expectations of servers, but they also help train new hires faster.

In this article, you will learn about the importance of a server training manual and how to create one yourself.

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Training Manual Template

Use this restaurant training manual template, a customizable Word Doc, to provide your staff with the rules, guidelines, and clarity they need to do their jobs efficiently.

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The importance of a server training manual

Being a restaurant server is a demanding, often under-rewarding job. That’s why there continue to be high levels of churn in server positions. Restaurant staff that churns say that their top pain points are poor hourly pay (47%), not being recognized for hard work (44%), and bad managers (37%). Although the most successful staff have two or more weeks of training, 74% of staff receive less than two weeks of training.

Restaurant owners and managers have an incentive to streamline training servers, but not at the expense of quality service. Every restaurant is different and even experienced servers need to understand what’s expected of them and how to best do their job in a new environment. From requiring servers to knowing company policies to developing customer service skills, there is a lot that a server training manual can cover.

As restaurant consultant Donald Burns says, “All restaurants have two customers: internal and external. We focus so much on doing all that we can to turn the external customer (or guest) into raving fans that we lose sight of a vibrant, vital customer base right in front of us…our teams.”

Servers are a crucial part of any restaurant team, and giving them proper training and guidance will not only help them be better servers, but it will build camaraderie and loyalty while showing them that you truly want them to succeed. Those internal customers are the ones who will keep your external customers coming back.

How to create a server training manual

Think clearly through these steps before starting to work on your server training manual.

Define your objectives

What do you want to achieve with your server training manual? The obvious answer is good servers. However - what does that actually mean for your restaurant? 

Are good servers ones who spend a lot of time at tables or a little? Do they frequently make recommendations or let customers make decisions? Should they be able to solve problems with customers themselves or pass those problems to managers?

A server training manual covers a lot of ground, so defining the objectives will help you understand what you want to include. Identify the specific skills, knowledge, and behaviors a server absolutely must have, and those you want to help them develop. It could also be helpful to make a server training checklist.

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Structure your training manual

Like an essay, you should outline and structure your server training manual before you get started. When you can clearly define objectives and delineate the structure, it’s much easier to organize the content you would like to cover into sections and subsections. Then, it’s just a matter of filling in the blanks.

A common structure may include:

  • An introduction to the restaurant, including a bit about the history, the clientele you serve, and the values you support.

  • General skills you want servers to develop, like communication skills, food handling skills, alcohol training, and problem-solving ability.

  • Skills specific to your establishment you would like servers to develop, like menu knowledge, important restaurant staff, and daily procedures.

  • Any values or rules you want to instill, from a commitment to continuous improvement to not drinking on the job.

When you know what you want to cover, begin laying out sections or chapters to build your server training manual.

Write engaging and clear content

A server training manual is a serious thing, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Don’t be afraid to write with more of a fun tone, while always striving for clarity and conciseness. Write at a basic reading level to make the manual accessible to all trainees.

When you have to cover complex concepts, break them down into smaller units or use visuals and examples wherever possible. People learn in different ways, and things like infographics and case studies can help illustrate what you want to say.

Include interactive elements

Again, server training can be boring and monotonous, especially if you are going over the recommended two weeks. Things like quizzes or role-playing scenarios can help make the manual less dry and reinforce important concepts. If you are doing training with a group, then activities that involve everybody or group discussions and encouraging questions can keep people engaged.

Improve and update periodically

As your restaurant grows, your server training manual should evolve, too. Feedback from your team during and after training and evaluation periods will help improve the training process while making employees feel more involved in the culture. After all, servers are on the front lines of your restaurant every day and know the ins and outs of how it truly works.

Being open to company policy changes as your restaurant grows and making improvements in culture and HR are great ways to increase employee retention. Servers want to feel like part of the business, not just labor.

Server training manual example

Every restaurant’s server training manual will look a little different. You may not need all of the below sections. Still, it’s a good guide to help you train servers for your restaurant.

Introduction to the bar

  1. Restaurant history and mission statement: A brief history of your restaurant and what it stands for in your community.

  2. Service philosophy and core values: What about the service keeps customers coming back? Why should employees feel proud to work here?

Service standards and expectations

  1. Appearance and grooming guidelines: Some restaurants are higher-end than others. Some have certain outfit requirements. Whether you want servers to be clean-shaven or avoid certain types of dress, here is where to get into it.

  2. Punctuality and professionalism: You, of course, have expectations that servers are on time and act professionally in the workplace.

  3. Communication and teamwork: Describe the importance of the entire staff working together to deliver extraordinary service.

Menu knowledge and recommendations

  1. Detailed menu descriptions and ingredients: Servers may not be able to make the dishes themselves. However, they should know what comes on each plate and if there are any potentially hazardous ingredients.

  2. Daily specials and seasonal offerings: If the menu changes regularly, servers should know.

  3. Dietary and allergen information: We are more aware of restrictions and allergies than ever today. Servers play a large role in ensuring that customers can dine safely and comfortably.

Table service techniques

  1. Proper table setup and arrangement: Properly setting a table is an important factor in your table turnover rate, which makes an impact on the restaurant’s bottom line.

  2. Steps of service from greeting to farewell: Every server wants to know how to get better tips and this section is a good way to develop better service guidelines.

  3. Carrying trays and cleaning tables: From proper carrying technique to clearing plates, these are crucial steps of the server workflow.

Problem-solving and handling complaints

  1. Active listening skills: Hearing orders is one thing - learning how to actually listen to the subtext of what customers are saying is another.

  2. Resolving guest complaints with empathy: Some guests will be difficult. Servers must learn to understand where guest complaints are coming from to better assist with resolutions.

  3. Escalation procedures for difficult situations: When is it time to get a manager involved?

Training on POS systems and technology

  1. Cash handling guidelines and accountability: Cash isn’t as common these days, though it’s still often left as tips. Make sure servers know how to properly report cash and divide up cash tips to the staff.

  2. POS system functions and navigation: Nearly every restaurant uses a POS system among other pieces of restaurant technology, so servers should be familiar with all tech related to their jobs.

  3. Splitting checks and processing payments: Restaurant technology can help with a lot of this, though servers should know restaurant policy, especially if there are gratuities or a rule against splitting checks for larger parties.

Selective selling and upselling techniques

  1. Identifying opportunities for upselling: There won’t always be an opportunity to upsell, but savvy servers should be able to identify one when it arises.

  2. Product knowledge and recommendations: Servers who know the menu well will be better able to offer recommendations that are more high-value to the business.

  3. Creating a positive upselling experience: Nobody wants to be aggressively sold on an item they are not sure about. Still, it’s a nice feeling when a server suggests something that you end up loving.

Health and safety guidelines

  1. Food safety practices and regulations: Every server in most states is required to earn a food handler’s permit and should be familiar with food storage and health regulations.

  2. Personal hygiene standards: Ideally servers don’t need too much guidance on personal hygiene, but it can’t hurt.

  3. Emergency procedures and First Aid: Accidents happen at restaurants. From fire safety to First Aid, servers should have basic emergency training.

Closing procedures

  1. Closing checklists and duties: Your server training manual should establish how you expect employees to close down the restaurant every night.

  2. Cash reconciliation and reporting: Servers should have at least basic bookkeeping knowledge to help the business reconcile its accounts.

  3. Cleaning and restocking protocols: Starting the next day is a whole lot easier if everyone follows proper cleaning and restocking protocols the night before.

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Every restaurant should have a server training manual to streamline new server training and establish a high standard of service. This manual will not only help servers understand how your business operates and how to provide great service, but it can also build team culture, too.

Remember to keep your server training manual updated as your restaurant changes over time. This guide will help you get started and it needs to adapt to your restaurant as it grows in the future!
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Employee Handbook Template

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