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A proven staff training system for bars and restaurants

Last updated July 07, 2023 · By Dylan Blake

Last week we talked with staff training expert Beth Hussey about what most bar/restaurant staff training looks like and why it doesn't work. This week we're talking about what does work.

And just to establish her bonafides: Beth's opened 17 full service restaurants in her career and has trained up the staff at each of them, meaning she's trained thousands—yes, thousands—of servers and bartenders. She even created a staff training app called Shifty. So she knows how to train staff.

Here's Beth's time-tested system for training a server/bartender:

  • Do 5 training shifts: 3 training/shadowing shifts where they follow around a server/bartender and 2 shifts where they're in the kitchen/learning the food (if applicable).
  • For each shift, provide very detailed rules and guidelines that lay out every single thing the new staff member will be wondering about: exactly what they'll be doing in the shift, what time to show up, who to report to, what to wear, what to bring, etc.
  • But most importantly, make a checklist of what they're expected to learn during that shift.
  • The server being shadowed takes that checklist and moves through it with the new server—they give them a tour of the building, show them where the ketchup is, etc. What goes into each shift is unique to your restaurant.
  • At the end of the shift, give the new server their instruction sheet for the next training shift plus a homework assignment: make flashcards about the things they learned during their first shift.
  • The flashcards come from a list you provide, where you tell them exactly what to write on each side. Do 10-20 flashcards per shift. The goal is as few words as possible—Beth says "the perfect flashcard is one word on one side and 3 words max on the other." It's ok to do a little more than that, but if you need to write too much, then split the concept up into multiple flashcards.
  • What's on the flashcards? Everything you need them to know to successfully operate on the floor: policies, culture-related tuff, technical menu info, etc. Again, this is unique to your restaurant.
  • Assign these flashcard-making homework assignments after each training shift.
  • At the end of the 5-shift training period have a face-to-face meeting with the new server where you quiz them on their flashcards. Do what you can to make sure it's not stressful, but quiz them on the flashcards just like you would in school: put the ones they got right in one pile and the ones they got wrong in another.
  • After that, you'll be able to ascertain if they're ready. If they are, great! If not, you know exactly where they're struggling—that pile of flashcards they got wrong—so you can continue training them with a focus on those items.

Beth wants everyone to implement a rigorous, repeatable staff training process like this because it helps with every aspect of the bar/restaurant, from guest experience to staff retention to sales.

But, of course, creating a system from scratch is a lot of work, and that's why Beth created Shifty, an app-based bar and restaurant staff training platform that already has this process built out inside of it. You can customize to your bar/restaurant, but the vast majority of the the work is already done, so all you need to do is get your team onboarded and let the training begin.

Check out the interview below to learn about the college-level psychology behind Beth's staff training system and how Shifty came about during the pandemic.

And if you're interested in Shifty, head over to the the website or send Beth and email at