All About Cross Training in Restaurants

Posted on September 12, 2017 by Michelle Locke

When it comes to cross-training for restaurants, it can feel a little bit like a waste of time. You need your server to be a good server, not a good bartender or host, right? But the truth is, in restaurants, cross-training can be extremely valuable to the success of your restaurant.

Why? We think RestaurantOwner.com explains it best:

“The goal is to build a staff that can pinch-hit in a variety of functions when called upon. Ideally, it allows your business to function with a lean staff, without constant fear of being caught understaffed. You don't need a great deal of imagination to appreciate when cross-training might come in handy. You just need one Saturday night…”

A staff that can be shuffled on busy nights when an employee calls out is extremely valuable. It saves you stress, most importantly, and as we’ve written before, reducing your stress is important for the success of your restaurant.

( Click here to read all about training rules that are stressing you out.)

What is Cross-Training?


Cross-training is exactly what it sounds like: it’s training all your employees to know the fundamentals of every position in your restaurant. That means, in a pinch, your server can step into the role of host or bartender, your kitchen manager can step into the role of food runner or server, and your host can step into the role of busser or expo, all with minimal difficulty.

As well, cross-training allows all your employees to understand the role of others in the restaurant. It can be easy for a server to think that hosts and bussers have easy jobs—and we know that’s just not true! They’re an integral part of the restaurant and important to success. When all your employees have the same training, they understand the part they play—and they take it a little more seriously.

It can sound like a headache, we’re sure. Training all these different people on all these different things. How can you streamline it?

( Click here to read why training doesn’t have to take up all your time.)

How to Simplify Cross-Training


When it comes to making training work in your restaurant, we know it’s not one-size-fits-all. For some restaurants, a straightforward approach will work best: dedicating one day of training to each job, as well as the normal training period for their job title. However, for other restaurants, that just won’t be enough time. Here are a few tips for finding a way that works for you:

  • Delegate tasks as needing. As we’ve written before, assigning your best employees from each position to train new employees is easier than you doing it yourself. Having a new busser shadow your kitchen manager, your best server, your best bartender, etc., will be more beneficial in the long run because they’ll see how each position actually works.

  • Include text training. If you have separate manuals for each position, all employees should be responsible for working their way through position-specific training. If you have Waitrainer+, this is even easier!

  • Implement check-ins. In pre-shift meetings, check in with all your employees on cross-training: how it’s going, if they have any feedback, or if there are additional pieces of training they’d like to receive. Don’t forget to talk to your best employees about how new hires are doing with cross-training, even outside their specific role.

( Want to turn your employees into experts? Learn more here.)

A Cross-Training Schedule That Works


For the sake of simplicity, we want to share how you should schedule training to include cross training

  • 1 day of new hire training: filling out paperwork, doing introductory training, food safety training, and learning about your restaurant
  • 5-10 days of training for new hire’s primary role; these days also include any paper or software training, as well as quizzes
  • 1 day of shadowing per position, plus paper training

( Click here to learn how to train your employees to have an eye for details.)