Food

How to Train Your Cooks, Servers, and Customers on New Menu Items

Chef/Restaurateur. Cookbook author. Five-time cancer survivor. Chopped champion. Eric LeVine has been known for a lot of things throughout his career as a chef, and we’re excited to announce him as our newest blogger. LeVine, a CIA graduate who trained in France, Italy, and Japan before running restaurants in New York and New Jersey, is the executive chef/partner of Mr. Crabby’s Craft Kitchen & Bar in Randolph, N.J. He will share his perspective on everything from opening a new restaurant, finding menu inspiration, the realities of food cost, stories from behind the line, and more. You can find more information about him at www.chefericlevine.com, and in his blog here at Plate.

All too often, training winds up being a last-minute thought. Sure, we train our kitchen staff. Sure, we review the menu items with the servers. But how deep do we go?

But a lack of training can be the kiss of death for the customer’s experience. When we lack training, we lack direction and continuity for the business.

I find that the details get missed when we aren’t focused on new menu rollouts. Being proactive about training is key to a successful rollout for the entire business, including our customers. Yes, our customers. 

Here are a few tips to better roll out your new menu to your cooks, servers, and customers.

In the Kitchen

Begin by reviewing new menu items with each cook for each station. Discuss your vision and how you expect them to execute the dish. Then, create the dish yourself, and get feedback from your cooks.

Next, create recipes for your cooks, based on bulk quantities. 

Take pictures of the dish so your cooks have a visual reference. Next, create station sheets with weights and measurements for each plate. Here is a sample.

Finally, have each cook execute the dish, so they feel comfortable with the setup and flow of the dish.

In the Front of the House

We start with menu descriptors two months out, and share the foundational details—the what and how—of each dish. Then we give cooking times, allergy information, wine, beer, and cocktail pairing suggestions. The more information we give, the better prepared the server will be for the customers. Here is a sample.

With Your Customers

Before you roll out a new menu, consider hosting a VIP tasting with eight to ten of your best customers. Make them feel special and reward them for their loyalty. The only thing you ask for is feedback on each dish.

In addition, run the new items as specials. This will help the customer see new and exciting items, and is helpful in setting them up for the seasonal menu change.