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Blog | Industry News and Trends | Training

Why It’s Time to Rethink Soft Skills Training for Restaurant Employees

New studies show that restaurants need to help develop their employees through soft skills training. Here’s where to start!

There’s a growing need for soft skills training for U.S. laborers across the entire workforce — not just restaurants. However, the soft-skills gap is an issue that the restaurant industry could help solve. Currently, one in three American adults received their first job experience in a restaurant. This puts the restaurant industry in a unique position to tackle the problem.

The industry can set an example for soft skills development, helping to grow competencies such as teamwork, time management and customer service.

Each of these skills plays a key role in a successful restaurant environment. When your workforce is strong with soft skills you can create a truly memorable brand.

A Growing Soft Skills Gap

In an increasingly technological world, businesses want workers that provide the “human touch” to customer interaction—and they’re falling short.

Several recent studies have found that executives are worrying over this gap. A survey of 6,200 people from the general U.S. population commissioned by McDonald’s found that soft skills such as teamwork, customer service, and responsibility are in high demand in the workforce, yet remains in short supply.

And this gap is in all industries. A recent Wall Street Journal survey of 900 business executive produced the following findings:

  • 92% said soft skills were equally important or more important than technical skills.
  • 89% of those executives reported having a “very or somewhat difficult” time finding the right people with those skills.

Why You Should Care About Soft Skills

Soft skills are the foundation of what makes a successful hospitality brand. The food is important, of course, but let’s look closer.

Diners often remark on how well the food was prepared to their specifications (active listening), the speediness of service (time management) and the experience with their waiter (customer service).

People return again and again and become fans of a brand because of the service they receive. These soft skills are harder to teach and can be used in future careers, especially in management positions.

According to research conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Center, “85 percent of job success comes from having well-developed soft and people skills and only 15 percent of job success comes from technical skills and knowledge.” [Source]

One bad experience due to poor “soft skills” can damage a brand’s reputation. Many potential restaurant customers, especially those looking for a place last-minute, read reviews on sites such as Yelp! to decide where to go. A recent low review — or, God forbid, a string of bad reviews — will negatively impact their decision.

When restaurants are struggling to fill all of their positions, a worker with excellent soft skills can make the difference for a customer experience.

Developing Your Workforce with Soft Skills Training

As employee retention becomes increasingly difficult for restaurants, employee engagement and workforce development must be priorities for operators across the country.

After a recent U.S. Senate hearing on workforce development, National Restaurant Association President Shannon Meade noted that on-the-job training and education is an excellent way for the restaurant industry as a whole to combat the increasingly tough labor market.

“Restaurants act as a training ground for new employees and also present many opportunities for career advancement,” she said.

Workforce development training is a surefire way to engage employees, especially if your training program can help them develop skills that will be useful in their future career.

However, a smaller workforce and low retention rates, are making it difficult for word-of-mouth training or older pen and paper methods to be effective. Even talented trainers can only teach effectively to so many at a time.

Rethinking Soft Skills Training with Digital Tools

Digital training, especially with metrics, can help support and bolster in-person training methods. Learning management systems make on-the-job training more powerful and impactful, especially when you have fewer trainers.

Furthermore, digital training can be used and adapted quickly to several learning styles. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work in our varied work environments. This is especially true when you consider the vast age gap between employees — many teenagers get their first jobs in restaurants, and a 16-year-old is likely to have a different learning style than a 25-year-old.

A learning management system like Clarifi Talent Development can be easily adapted and changed for your brand. As you need or create new content, it’s quick and easy to update while still tracking important metrics.

Take the case of Hopdoddy Burger Bar, a Clarifi Talent Development customer who has gotten creative with their learning management system courses when it comes to soft skills training. Hospitality is one of Hopdoddy Burger Bar’s core values, and in order to bolster that value, the Hopdoddy training team put together a video course for employees to refresh them on the right way to interact with customers.

Hopdoddy team members were given Go-Pro cameras to capture their interactions with customers. Those videos were then used for a refresher course on hospitality, to remind team members first-hand what genuine hospitality looks and feels like. Teaching “people skills” can be tough in a traditional paper-based format, but with interactive and video technology, it becomes more clear.

With the right technology partner and a new training philosophy, the restaurant industry can begin to help bridge the soft skills gap in the American workforce, one order at a time.


Discover how you can bridge the soft skills gap with Clarifi Talent Development.

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