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Restaurant Training – Waitress and Waiter Training Role Play Tips for Hospitality Education and Learning

Written by Amine

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Incorporate role-playing into a winning training program

Take one…take two…take three…ready to shoot?

Are your teams performing at their best with every guest that walks through your door? Incorporating role-playing into your training programs will help your guests give an extra performance every time.

Role playing is one of the most effective tools in the trainer’s toolbox where participants can experience real life situations and ‘learn by doing’. Role playing can be used to train all levels of company employees, including employees, managers, and even company executives.

Role playing allows teams to experience real life situations in a simulated and controlled environment. By having participants play the roles of guests, employees and managers, they can be better equipped to deal with situations.

In a controlled environment, role playing allows the coach to assess an individual’s strengths and weaknesses and devise an action plan for growth and development. When role playing is used to master a skill, it builds confidence as the skill is practiced and the coaching is coach driven. Since the coach is side by side with the student, he can easily determine if the student has mastered the newfound technique and is ready to work on his position solo. When role-playing is used to highlight another person’s feelings, it allows teams to recognize those feelings and understand the effects of their behavior or the behavior of others. For example, role-playing a guest situation will allow teams to better understand how the guest is feeling. This will teach them the level of service that should be provided to provide a quality experience. Another benefit of role-playing is helping team members understand the consequences of policy violations, such as coming to work late, and the stressful impact this can have on the entire team. This will teach them the importance of being on time.

How to begin

Prior to the scheduled training date, a company assessment should be conducted to identify specific areas of performance/improvement that need to be addressed. Then the company facilitator should determine the overall results to be achieved and how the issues will best be addressed. For example, the coach should determine whether the problems are more about emphasizing feelings or strengthening a skill.

Furthermore, the company facilitator should identify the specific characters associated with the problem and the specific roles they will play. There are many roles that can be played, such as guest and service representative, manager and team member, service representative and kitchen team member, or similar combinations.

Finally, armed with the necessary scripts and scenarios, the corporate facilitator can develop training aids and other training tools to address the overall program objectives.

To get you started, we’ve listed some suggested scenarios to help you roleplay with your teams. Always ask for volunteers before role-playing so shy or less experienced teams can watch others first to help build their confidence.

Recommended scenarios

1. The cashier is talking on the phone and does not acknowledge the incoming guest

2. The server is abrupt when taking the order and rushes the guest (asks questions curtly, quickly and displays hurried body language)

3. The server is overly friendly and talks too much to a group of business guests having a meeting

4. The server berates the kitchen staff about an incorrectly placed order

5. The host/hostess is sarcastic and short-tempered when a guest asks for menu information

6. The host/hostess defensively tells the guest “I told you to wait 20-25 minutes and you only waited 10 minutes”

7. The bartender is cold and unfriendly, while the only diner is looking for attention and conversation

8. The bartender is chatting with some regulars and ignores a guest who obviously needs something (drink refill, napkin, condiments, etc.)

9. Two people from the bus are talking about personal problems and ignore the guest’s signal to the service

10. A kitchen team member loudly requests a server to pick up an order

11. Disrespecting the dishwasher because the attendants throw dirty dishes without scrubbing them first

12. A problematic team member who causes colleagues to do extra work; creating discord among employees; control of undermining; constantly being late; and similar situations.

13. The manager tells the guest “no” or “we can’t do that” without apologizing, explaining, or offering options

14. Manager points fingers and argues with guest while handling complaint

15. Manager threatening the work of a team member

Alkis Crassas, president of EVOS USA, Inc., a healthier fast-food chain based in Tampa, Florida, uses role-playing regularly and says, “Although role-playing pushes the boundaries by putting the participants in the spotlight, after the butterflies disappear, will smooth out and your team will begin to see the main goals of your restaurant”.

If designed correctly and effectively executed, role playing can be very valuable to the success of any company. Most importantly, when role-playing is interactive and fun, your training goals will be maintained and the result will be a high return on your investment. Role-playing adds to the life experience of each participant, and when people experience something, they take it away with them more than any book, video, or lecture could ever replicate.

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