How to Train Your Seasonal Bar & Restaurant Staff

By Andrew Turnwall


Andrew Turnwall

December 18, 2017

Posted in Restaurant Management, Industry & Culture

You can turn a holiday employee into a permanent one.

The holiday season is back in all its hectic glory. For many bar & restaurant owners, this season signals the rush of hiring new holiday staff to handle the large influx of traffic coming through the door. But, how can you train your seasonal bar & restaurant staff to not just be competent workers, but also fit into the culture of your establishment? Here are a few helpful tips to get you and your new hires on the same page (and hopefully turn them into permanent team members).

bar staff

Interviewing: Why do you want to work here?

Applications will likely never be more abundant than during the holiday hiring season. You save a lot of time on training when you find good people who already embody what you want from the start. Starting at the interview process is the best way to find someone who is a great fit for your company culture. Asking more casual questions such as, “What’s your favorite drink?” serves a very specific purpose in identifying culture fit. Will this person fit in with your staff? Do they seem like the kind of person that embodies the environment you are trying to cultivate in your bar?

Training: One of us

The one thing you don’t want from a seasonal employee is to have someone come in and just go through the motions. You need to make sure that there is no difference in service and hospitality between your regular employees and holiday help. This starts with your culture. They need to learn what makes your bar different, what makes it special, and how to convey that to patrons.

The best way to do this is to push your core principles from the start of training. In my experience, our first day of orientation only covers what makes us who we are—the way we treat patrons and the way we tailor an experience. Manual processes come second.

Training: The power of shadow shifts

The best way to do incorporate new hires into the culture is to schedule a number of shadow shifts. These shadowing shifts serve as unofficial training time where the holiday hire can be observed without them being totally on their own. During these shifts, your holiday hires will get to see your culture principles in action. It’s much easier to pick up and adapt mannerisms that you’ve seen when working in person.

Regular and permanent hires have the luxury of time to train up to a level where you’re comfortable leaving them alone. Holiday hires don’t have that luxury. Luckily, you’ll likely have a higher than normal number of employees on the clock for parts of the day, and it’s in those moments that you can layer shadow shifts for holiday hires. In those situations, other employees can correct any errors and answer questions.

Seasonal staff can become unexpected treasure

Training seasonal bar & restaurant staff can be a lot of extra work for little reward. On the other hand, there is no better testing ground than the holiday season. If you’ve hired well, trained, and supported your new workers the right way, you may find yourself with an excellent new permanent employee.

Some of the best co-workers I’ve ever had were originally temporary and seasonal hires. In fact, I’ve been working for eight years after being hired seasonal. You may go through some duds over the years, some forgettable hires, and some that just never work out. But if you train correctly and foster a strong culture, you can turn this time of year to your advantage.

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