My first restaurant job

My very first day as a hostess, I was a nervous wreck.  Why wouldn’t I be…I was in my mom’s clothes from head to toe. I had been instructed to wear “business attire” and my wardrobe of x-large shirts, ripped dickeys, and bowling shoes was not going to cut it.  My mom dropped me off at the end of the strip mall so I could be as incognito as possible walking up to the big glass doors.  I had zero skills and no idea what the next few hours were going to be like. 

My manager was the first warm welcome on the other side of those doors.  He walked me back and showed me where I could put my things, how to punch in and out, gave me a quick tour focused on safety concerns, and then introduced me to my trainer. 

At the end of the shift, the manager came around once again to close the loop on my first shift.  He asked how I though the first day went and if I had any questions.  He shared a few highlights he noticed of my performance, thanked me for a great shift, and said that he looked forward to seeing me tomorrow for my next training shift. 

Small actions….big outcome

I left feeling connected and excited.  I was enthusiastic to learn more about the company and my role as the hostess. My comfort level heading into day 2 was suprisingly high.

I assumed this was how first days went at new jobs.  Sadly, each job going forward had little resemblance of that great first day. 

AHHHHH the onboarding horror 😲

  • Waited for hours in a booth by the office while the manager ignored me and sat within earshot gossiping
  • Thrown to the wolves without any training
  • Was provided 1 trainer for 5 of us to follow at once
  • Given an obligatory manual to review and then found out that was the training program
  • Told the training manager screwed up and I’d need to call him and schedule another time to come back and start

My first restaurant management job

I was running a busy front door and asked a new hostess to grab the broom from behind the line to sweep around a table so we could seat it.  It was busy, so I kept going with other tasks, assuming she was heading to the kitchen to get the broom.  A few minutes later I saw her standing behind me with the other hosts, but the table still needed to be detailed.  I asked her again, can you please go and get the broom from behind the line and sweep around table 60?  Again, I went back to getting other tables seated, hoping that it would be taken care of shortly.  Several minutes later she was back but with no broom.  Visually frustrated, I asked her if somebody else was taking care of it or what the story was. 

So what went wrong?

The young hostess’ answer made me question my onboarding methods seriously.  She said, I was searching around the restaurant for a line.  I looked everywhere but I couldn’t find one.  I thought, wow, I need to train people to ask for help and see tasks through before I focus on job related skills. She had trained with me for 2 days and we had covered the phones, the table numbers, the seating sequence and I was even feeling great about her intro menu knowledge. 

But I had not spent the invaluable time on our philosophy on hospitality and guest service. I needed to share my expectation was for her to ask questions quickly if she didn’t know the answer and that when it comes to the guest, we act fast.  I had this young lady running around a 4,000 square restaurant searching for a physical line drawn in the ground and she didn’t feel comfortable enough asking one of the 40 other front of house employees for help.

What I wish I knew then

The very first training conversation needs to be vision driven not skill driven. Yes, you had those conversations during the interview but that doesn’t count. That was theory conversation. This is instructional.

This is who we are➡ this is where we are going ➡this is how YOU fit in

We focus on skillsets too often and assume they understand the environment because they have worked in the industry. It is a huge mistake. There are many excellent employees versed in their craft who are poisonous to the business. Outline which core values make your business successful and include that in your training.

Consider teaching

Problem solving

Extreme ownership

Solution oriented speech

Own guest issues


There is no heirarchy in guest satisfaction

Focus on your culture with every aspect in onboarding and watch your employees connect to your vision & goals faster than you thought possible.

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