If you’re going to survive the Covid-19 challenge, start with training (part 1)
By Dan Bignold
Oct 27th, 2020
Covid survival training for hospitality, part 1: Work out your SOPs, write a staff handbook, make it digital.

The impact of Covid-19 on hospitality has been severe and, in many markets, operating conditions remain uncertain. 

But the industry is responding to the challenge. Operators are drawing up new business strategies and putting in place the changes or adaptations that will mean survival.

Whatever that strategy is – food and drink deliveries, changing opening hours, switching up your product – successful execution depends on your most important operational asset: your people. And if your service teams are going to get your business through the next six months, you need to remember four key training objectives:

  1. Make sure staff understand your new strategy and product, and how they fit the new market opportunity.
  2. Make sure staff know how to sell and upsell, to maximise that opportunity.
  3. Keep staff motivated to train, so they stay really focused on points 1 and 2 above.
  4. Give new hires the training they need to arrive at points 1-3 as fast as possible.

Life is tough, sure, but being transparent with your staff and communicating properly will give them a clear idea of the specific challenges you’re asking them to overcome (no1). 

Clarity about your business will also make them understand why making money is more important than ever (no2) – just in case they weren’t aware of that particular detail of being in business! 

And by explaining the challenges one by one, it’s much more likely your team stays positive. No one likes to be in the dark.

With all that in mind, we've created a three-part battleplan for staff training to help bars restaurants and hotels business survive the Covid-19 challenge. 

Warning: it still requires some effort, but a little short-term investment is going to reap big rewards in the medium and longer terms. 

1. Write a staff handbook 

Staff handbook, training manual, company SOPs – whatever you call it, it’s the most crucial training document you’ll ever produce. 

Even if you set aside 30 minutes, even 15 minutes, per week for the next couple of months, just start writing. It will explain to all staff what they do, why they do it, and how to do it. It will breed consistency and eliminate confusion.

It will also help new staff ask fewer of the same old questions that you shouldn’t waste time having to answer individually every time. At the same time, it will encourage experienced staff to offer meaningful feedback from the frontline, possibly with details that you haven’t previously thought about.

You could even ask your most trusted team members to contribute. It will give everyone a sense of purpose and value.

If you’ve never written one before, here's a more in-depth article to writing a staff training manual, plus a guide to how Small Batch Learning can get you started quickly – by using our own editable "About Us & Internal SOPs" course template, available to all managers on the Small Batch Learning platform.

2. Make it digital

If you’ve already got a training manual, make sure it’s digital. In all likelihood, your business has gone through huge changes this year, and will again. 

The staff handbook needs to be easily edited and updated as your business adjusts (or as you add to it – working on it one hour per week). It will then need to be re-shared to make sure all staff (old and new) understand your new strategies and products. Re-printing costs time and money.

3. Put it on a professional online learning platform

Next, ask yourself whether an emailed pdf really cuts it. You’ve invested the time, now you need to make sure staff both read it and live by its contents – not, maybe download it; and, probably forget it. 

Much better to upload it to a training platform online, where you can break it up into bite-size lessons, test staff on your SOPs using quizzes, and track who has and hasn’t understood what, and where the team is regularly falling down.

4. Track your team's learning record to make sure they've completed the training

Finally, it’s not a legal document, but if anything ever goes wrong with a staff member breaking your SOPs, those tricky management conversations are going to be much easier if you can show them a training record which proves they previously understood the rules.

"Yikes. This sounds a lot of work. And time that I just don't have right now."

Remember – don’t sweat it. Starting with something is better than continuing with nothing. It’s totally fine for you to start your company handbook with whatever you can achieve, then slowly flesh it out over the following months. 

Read Survival Training Part 2 here, on training staff to maximise revenue.
Read Survival Training Part 3 here, on keeping training accessible and relevant.