Helen Clarkson
New Zealand
Nov 14, 2018

How to Effectively Train Young People in Your Food Business

How to Effectively Train Young People in Your Food Business

Finding the time to train staff isn’t easy for many food businesses. But those that tend to hire young people, particularly businesses in the hospitality industry, seem to have a tougher job than most.

Training young people


For example, a high school student might wash dishes in a kitchen on weekends so they can save up for that cool new Xbox game. A university student might work as a part-time waitress to pay for their studies. A recently-graduated student might take on more hours at their casual hospo job until they land a job that’s more in line with their career aspirations. Someone on their OE might temporarily put a pause on their travels to get a job as a barista and earn some more cash to fund the rest of their adventure. And you’ll have encountered these kinds of people in your food business too, no doubt.

Many young people who get jobs in food businesses don’t intend to stick around for long (some for as little as just a few months). Their motivation isn’t often to gain a long-term role; a job in a food business can be viewed as the means to do what they really want to do: pay for things they want, get them by until they find a ‘real job’, or help fund their travels.

This lack of motivation understandably makes businesses baulk at the cost of staff training for people who aren’t really invested.


Let’s Be Honest: Staff Training Isn’t Easy

The food industry is typified by part-time roles so it’s hard to get everyone in the same room at the same time, and many staff members don’t stick around for long. People who are in the role or industry short-term probably won’t take training as seriously as someone who is in it for the long haul.

Work hours don’t make it easy either. Bakeries, for example, might start heating up their ovens at 3am but serving staff might not start until 9am - when it’s almost time for the bakers to go home for the day - while restaurants might operate 11am-1am, seven days a week.

Cost is a massive factor for businesses to consider when it comes to staff training. In order to get everyone in the same room at the same time, your business might have to close up shop for the day. Don’t forget that you’ll have to pay all your staff to come to work though, so you’re potentially looking at a double hit.


Making Staff Training Easier for Everyone

Fortunately, not everyone in the business needs to be a master at everything. You don’t need your full roster to have food hygiene qualifications, but everyone who handles or serves food should know the basics about food safety like not leaving food uncovered, not storing food on the floor and not storing meat with vegetables in the chiller.

One way to reduce cost and disruption to the business is to select only a few people - senior staff and those who are likely to be around for a few years - for staff training. Giving these people the chance to up skill and attain qualifications will encourage them to be more engaged in the business too.

Another way to make staff training easier is to share the load. While the responsibility sits with the business owner or manager, equipping senior staff members and supervisors with the skills and resources they need to train newbies about the quirks of the job and your business will lessen the stress while empowering your more committed staff. Don’t just buddy a newbie up with a more experienced staff member and leave them to it; supply a series of checklists and staff guides to help direct the training in a correct and compliant way.

Pre-empting staff training needs to be conducted right at the beginning of the induction process, as this is a good way to help business owners plan ahead. Discovering a prospective employee’s motivation before you hire them will help you plan for the future. You don’t want to steer away from hiring young people with the attitude and experience just because their plan is go on their OE in 12 months, but you probably don’t want to invest too much in their training either. Training your staff should be a priority, not only does it increase productivity, it also increases profit. 

Staff Training
Frame Staff Training Differently

Training is important, but sometimes it’s really boring. Framing it in a way that shows how useful it’ll be in the future even if they don’t stick around for long, and having a bit of fun with it along the way, is more likely to encourage young employees to a) want to do it, and b) be enthusiastic about it.

For example, knowing how to make cocktails or coffee, or understanding how a big kitchen works are indispensable skills that will always be in demand. For young people who want to go travelling, these are skills that could help them travel for longer. For others whose goal is to go on a totally different career path, sell it to them as learning skills that will ensure they’ll always have food in their bellies if things don’t pan out.

Making training fun is essential too. If you’re running a workshop on making cocktails, let your staff taste them. If you’re releasing a new menu, let them try it for themselves and encourage them to ask the chef questions. They’ll be able to better understand the approach from a first-hand perspective and be able to make personal recommendations to customers.


Food Control Plans & Staff Training

Every food business knows that they need to have a documented food control plan (FCP) and keep four years’ worth of records in relation to it. But that doesn’t mean it should be up to the owner or manager to do the actual recording.

Train a staff member who is right in the thick of it all (for example, your head chef or production line manager) to record fridge temperatures and monitor dos and don’ts relevant to your industry.

One way to make FCP recording easier is to ditch the paperwork and go digital instead. Cloud-based monitoring software like Safe Food Pro will help you easily record and see at a glance if daily tasks have been completed and who is responsible to complete them. Train the appropriate staff to complete their piece of the puzzle so you stay on top of compliance.


Staff Training is a Good Thing

Stopping what you’re doing, getting everyone together and making sure that everyone is on the same page is a good thing - that’s what makes staff training a great idea. Need a hand managing your FCP but not sure how you’re tracking? Take our free food safety IQ test to see what you’re doing great at and what might need some work. 

About the author

Helen Clarkson

Head of Implementation

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