Trainers are incredible!  They have the power to see your vision into reality. Often they do the hard work to make the restaurant what it is with their own plans and ingenuity.  If you genuinely want to build a strong training culture at work, then first things first. Get your trainer program in order!


Have clear expectations

Start with the expectations you set on yourself. What kind of resources (time & money) will you set aside for your training program? How often will you evaluate the program and assess for success?

Do the hard work up front with your managers, supervisors, and trainers. Detail out your vision, everyone’s roles and goals, and how the team will hold each other responsible. It might sound like a lot of work but it will pay off!

How much responsibility will the trainers have?

There are several important questions to answer before embarking on creating a successful program for you and the trainer.  How do you envision their position? Will they need to take the lead or act in a supportive role? Do you want them to check out co-workers and have supervisory responsibilities? Your answer might be a hard no but the point is to think through all the questions so there is no confusion or frustration.

How about when it comes to the actual training?

Will the trainers have extra duties often, seasonally, or rarely throughout the year? Do you want trainers for every job code or master trainers that train across skillsets and job roles? Not every trainer is always great at every part of training. Somone can be profecient at a skill but unable to pass that particular skill on to a trainee. You should have candid conversations about who is the most aligned with training the computer system, the beverage program, steps of service, sales, etc.

What will the benefits be?

It is necessary to build a great training program that the motivates the trainers to want to train. Trainer burnout is a real problem in restaurants. My first manager told me that my benefit for becoming a trainer was having well trained co-workers 😉 and although that might be enough for some, we all are motivated differently, and one of your jobs as the leader is to meet your employees where they are at.


First pick on schedule or section

Higher hourly rate when training

A trainer rate at all times

A free meal when training

Yearly trainer thank you dinner

Send something fun to their home after a training session

A sincere thank you note | thoughtful gift

Invited to speak their mind to management regularly

Send to ongoing education opportunities


“Train the Trainer” looks drastically different during a new concept opening vs. an existing restaurant. It can be a few hours or a several day training event. This all depends on what you’re preparing the trainer to do and how much concept knowledge they already have. Either way, it’s an opportunity to go through training materials and set expectations with the trainer.

Be realistic with what the trainer covers from the written material. There is no way they are going to read every line to the trainees, so make sure your trainers know which parts you want them to stress. Set up the trainer to cover essential items each day that grow upon your core values, the concept’s PODs [point of difference], and basic SOPs [standard operating procedures].

Q&A / Feedback at Train the Trainer completion

Do you understand what your role is each day?

Can I go more into depth on anything?

Are there any additional resources or support I can provide?

Is there anything I need to know heading into this opening / this training session?

Ask for their support

They have more influence than you have. There will be staff frustrations that never make it all the way up the chain. Be careful here. You are asking for a partner, not a narc. Somebody that can help relay needs and frustrations from the staff in order to fix things quickly.

Provide tools & good materials

If you haven’t noticed, servers love pens, cooks love sharpies, and managers love notepads. Buy the supplies they want to show them they are important. A few bucks goes a long way. At restaurant openings I like giving my trainers a 3-ring binder, clipboard, mini mead notepad, pens, sharpies, highlighters, and lots and lots of candy.

Always make sure your training materials are up to date for your trainers. You are a team together. They have their eyes on the material more than you do but it should not be their responsibility to update. (unless you are paying them) If they see anything that needs to be updated they should make sure you are aware. It is demoralizing and confusing in when materials are incorrect. Once you are confirmed that training materials are 100% correct, (this usually happens AFTER the restaurant opening) consider making colored master copies that are easily accessible.

Don’t screw your trainer with your unrealistic goals!

We assume new employees know more than they do. Put yourself in their shoes and be reasonable with what they have just taken on. They are starting a new job, learning how to work with a whole new crew, getting inundated with new menu and beverage offerings, and then managers demand they know the 8 ingredients in the BBQ sauce.  Inside baseball information can be cool to know at some point, but in the begining keep it simple. Is is tomato, vinegar, or mustard based?

If it is a point of difference or will be a frequently asked question, then it is imperative they learn it.  But really think about what is important. I like looking at a menu and thinking through the questions the guest is naturally going to ask. For damn sure, they better be able to answer those.

Consider giving them a copy of the final at the beginning or quiz them daily with questions that lead up to the final. At the very least, provide details on what is takes to graduate training so they can focus on what is important. Filling their heads with EVERYTHING during training is overwhelming.

Create success by sharing your vision for continual training and where they can find the resources they will need to flourish!


You have established the parameters, drawn a clear vision of how the trainer should do their job, and what tools have been created to help them get there….Now it’s time to step back and refrain yourself from snooper vising.

Let them fly by giving them the courage to trust their own instinct. People become great when they start to listen to that little voice inside and not your voice over their shoulder. They need to have the freedom to adjust your program to fit their adult learners’ needs. As a leader, encourage and foster an environment where you challenge your people with big goals, but let them lead their own way.


After each training session, get input on what worked and what didn’t. Things move fast within a restaurant and the best time to review is when it is fresh in everyone’s minds. What worked and where do we need to tweak? What do you need from me to have an even more stellar training session next time?

It is counterintuitive but restaurants that have low turnover suffer from outdated training materials, fractured training programs, and subpar onboarding when hiring does occur. It can also be very difficult to bring the new staff member up to the level of the existing staff. High turnover forces restaurants to have some sort of plan, even if flawed, they are working it way too often to not have anything. You want to be somewhere in the middle. It is healthy to have a little turnover and will keep your training program fresh.

Your trainers need to perform at a high level for every new trainee. If they go to the dark side and become part of the problem, then you need to bench them as trainers.  Way too often the most entitled, hate spewing, negative, non-problem solving people end up as trainers and alphas of the restaurant. That will demoralize your staff and ruin your culture. If you have negative trainers, that is your fault, and you are the only one who can change it!

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