Cut staff turnover with better training

Two bar groups are investing in their staff to ensure they don’t want to go elsewhere

• Staff training is “top priority” at Buzzworks venues such as Elliots in Prestwick (above).

IN an industry notorious for its high staff turnover, bar and restaurant operators are using new methods to retain staff.

Training in licensing and food hygiene is required by law, but additional coaching is offered in areas which might raise a few eyebrows.
One such unusual approach is found at the Stonegate Pub Company, which employs a trainer with a background in martial arts.
Lee Woolley, head of training and development, said: “We operate a training scheme called Accelerator for our managers and the guy who runs it is particularly into martial arts.
“He uses the principles and discipline behind martial arts to help staff motivation. We have about 100 staff who have been through the Accelerator programme and we think it’s really worthwhile.”
The four-month scheme was devised as part of ‘Albert’s Theory of Progression’, a series of programmes which train deputy managers to become successful general managers.
The firm, whose bar brands include the Slug & Lettuce, Yates’s, The Living Room and Scream, also teaches personal finance skills to its staff.
Recognising that lack of confidence can be a barrier to development, each course participant is given a “success coach” who continues to guide them when the course is completed.
Deputy managers are also asked to organise and deliver a charity sales event presented in a Dragons’ Den-style format to senior directors.
Lee believes training can help retain staff and foster enthusiasm to stay with the company.
He added: “What we’ve seen from doing the service training is that we get to keep people in the business.
“A lot of people in our trade didn’t mean to work in the industry, but they then have an opportunity to do some training and move on to bigger things.
“We do some really detailed profit and loss with them and we also show them how to put a business plan together.
“But we don’t just teach them things relevant to the business, we also teach them about personal finance and about getting a mortgage.
“It’s really about fresh thinking and energy.
“If you want to be successful you have got to want it.”
Training is also a focus at Buzzworks Holdings, which operates a cluster of boutique bars and restaurants in Ayrshire, including Scotts, Lido, Elliots, Treehouse and Dome.
The group hosts between one and three training schedules every week.
Susan Earle, people development manager, uses a variety of coaching methods.
“Our staff receive a range of training from soft skills training [on] the customer experience, communication, adaptive service and hosting to technical sessions based around the practicalities of floor, bar, cocktail and barista service,” she said.
“We use a blended approach to our training, including classroom-based, online, on the job, tests, quizzes, feedback and coaching to deliver our training.
“We also invite a range of guest trainers to our business to inspire our staff to deliver great service and also improve their product knowledge.
“In addition to that we also have our own suite of management training on offer to both front of house staff and kitchen managers.”
The group believes training allows it to set “consistent” company standards for staff service which it passes on to guests.
Susan said workers expect to be trained and developed, which keeps them motivated and results in low staff turnover rates.
Ultimately this has a knock-on effect, which enhances the experience of guests and is invaluable for the company’s brands, said Susan.
Training is mapped out in staff job descriptions and set standards must be achieved before promotions are considered.
Training is “top priority” for Buzzworks Holdings and managers believe it’s a reason for their success.
Susan added: “Each of our venues vary in size but on average, we spend 0.01% of our gross annual turnover on training, competitions, incentives and events for our staff which equates to about £300 per staff member per year.
“Our staff also get paid for attending training which is another benefit for them.”