Making the most of your seasonal staff

This week the Christmas party season gets well under way.  Even if you are not as busy as in previous years the chances are you’ll be taking on some extra staff.  But are they an asset or a liability?  If all you do is give them an order pad and tell them to get on with it, they could be doing more harm than good to your Christmas profits.

Teamwork is key. Introduce new staff to the whole team, defining everyone’s areas of responsibility to ensure no gaps and no duplication of effort.  Avoid the frictions that occur when someone hasn’t pulled their weight or others are seen to ‘interfere’ with your way of doing things.

Everyone needs to know what’s expected of them from day one. Clarify basic standards of dress, staff behaviour, time keeping, break allowance, staff meals, security, food safety, health and safety.  Don’t leave them floundering or too scared to ask for help. Establish a clear line of reporting, and who to go to for help and guidance when needed – ensuring, of course, that this person will be patient and supportive when asked.

First impressions count. Specify your establishment’s standards for welcoming and greeting customers, including the booking procedures if this is part of their role.

What is their role in up-selling, and what are the products you want them to promote, including any future events?  If your core team are incentivised, make sure you include seasonal staff in the scheme. People can’t sell something they don’t know exists. Ensure a thorough product knowledge – what does your establishment offer – times of service, complementary products, etc.  Let your staff taste the dishes, explain what accompanies each dish and what it should look like, what prices include and what’s extra (especially with fixed menus or party packages).

Run through the payment procedures, including any security procedures or checks needed. Establish protocol in dealing with difficult situations, customer complaints, and awkward customers.  Define the line between handling themselves and when to seek intervention from a manager or more experienced staff member.

Avoid being let down at the last minute – Provide out of hours contact numbers and establish procedures for sickness reporting.

Maintain your reputation as a good employer. Treat seasonal staff well, and they will be willing to come back next time you need an extra hand. Give them something to look forward to and keep them interested for the whole season.  Involve them in any after work social activities and maybe some incentive awarded at the end of the season.

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