When I was first interviewed at Olive Garden, I was hesitant to mention that I had zero prior serving experience, and for a restaurant located in the middle of Times Square, I thought it would be a deal-breaker. Little did I know, it was exactly what they were looking for.
They generally prefer little to no experience to properly train you without having to break bad habits formed in prior service industry jobs. What I gained was the best and most intuitive training experience I’ve ever gone through.
I received 2 weeks of paid training in all aspects of food serving, from studying every food and cocktail ingredient to the positioning of the dishes on a tray. They have it all down to a science with video tutorials and booklets, and we even got to taste all the popular entrees and appetizers. The best part is that every training has a current server heading the session which provides someone with relatable knowledge of the restaurant and a colleague you can trust and answer any lingering questions. During training, they taught us how to properly greet guests (generally within a minute and with a bottle of wine on hand), how to describe our specials and offer add-ons to meet all guest needs, and to have a sense of attentiveness and urgency required for the job.
All in all, I learned so many important details I would’ve overlooked had I not had the proper training and experience, albeit short, to learn the ropes. Providing a base from which to train and guide your employees is necessary to a growing brand and for your customers to get the proper and utmost service. Suffice it to say that an operations role is nuanced but primary to a business’s success.
The key components to having an effective business operation changes depending on the industry, location, and growth stage of the company but let me provide you a rundown of the fundamentals.
Building an optimal business operation is all about the three P’s: People, Process, and Product.
People- Hiring the right people for the right roles is integral to a growing business. Creating a respectful environment that helps employees perform their best, whether it’s through training modules or open communication, ultimately increases attitude and overall revenue.
The hiring process at Olive Garden was extensive, first I was interviewed by the General Manager. Afterward, I was interviewed by several assistant managers and then paired up with the Server Trainer. He toured me around the restaurant showing me the seating arrangements and answered any questions I had. They took several steps and interview processes to make sure I was the right candidate for the job, 9 years later I’d say it was the right choice.
Process- The business process must be seamless and transparent allowing for an easy channel of communication and collaboration within all departments. This is key to receive feedback from all subdivisions of a business and provide cross-checks and audits to fix any present or future problems.
Every couple of months Olive Garden sets up a server training meeting to update each other on new policies, new promotions, adaptations to software, or any basic changes made within the company. This always helped the communication between such a large business flow stronger and get any problem areas recognized and solved quickly.
Product- To provide the best product or service you must evaluate market characteristics like social trends and the economy. Providing quality training, in regards to your product or service, is also a major key to a business.
While training for Olive Garden’s menu and cocktail test they put us to work in the kitchen helping run food to the corresponding tables. Not only did it give us the chance to learn the sections and table numbers but we got to see what the food looked like on the plates. As a visual learner, it helped me picture the ingredients of every menu item while studying. I love that they integrated the training process with actual hands-on work.
How this experience helped me understand Operations
While working for such a large company as Olive Garden, I learned the importance of having a fully functioning process set up to effectively train employees. Operation is an all-encompassing role in a business. It’s essential to have the right employees for the job, combined with a top-notch training experience to provide a prime product or service. Businesses undergo constant change but how they are willing to adapt and self-assess to stay ahead of the game is vital to that business’s success.