by Egi Gaisie

It is common practice to find hotel food service personnel being hired without any prior professional training.  I do acknowledge the lack of recognized training institutions for such careers in this industry in Ghana. The burden of training therefore shifts to our hotels to carry out unhurried and thorough orientation for these personnel, a practice most hotels are not able to fully commit themselves to.

A top notch boutique hotel was having its monthly dinner event with a Ghanaian High Life band under the starry skies of Accra and on its well manicured lawn. Its management’s desire to promote team work found all hands participating in the cocktail service prior to the dinner. This included George, the gardener, who was now all decked up as a professional banquet staff. George had been ‘schooled’ on the finger foods he was going to be passing around and had practiced how to hold the tray and maneuver through the crowd of standing guests in formal wear.

However, once George found himself on the service floor with real guests, his trembling hands could not hold the service tray as required, resulting in the foods spilling on the floor.

Attempt poking waiters a little about a menu or even a food item they present to you at a cocktail. The feedback can be embarrassing (for them). Food service personnel have no business serving food items they cannot confidently talk about, yet they do.

Frankie, a newly employed food service personnel recount’s one of his five-day orientationbelow. Compare this with the above attitudes commonly experienced by our newly employed hotel food service personnel(casual, part-time or full time) in this country.

A day’s Orientation Experience:

Going through a five day orientation, I again revised in my head instructions on what to say and do as I stepped out to deliver ‘room service.’

‘Don’t be so serious,’ said Steve,my supervisor, as I awkwardly maneuvered the room-service cart down the hall. ‘Feel out the guests and try to match their mood,’ he continued.

I knocked on the door of Room 103 and swallowed: ‘Good evening, In-room dining.’ A lady opened the door and I pushed, rather than pulled, the cart over the threshold, nearly tipping over the bottle of San Pellegrino in the process. When she learned from my supervisor that I was in training, she tried to put me at ease with some conversation but I was too focused on the tasks expected of me.

‘Would you like me to open the water for you?’ I asked.
‘Oh, sure, if you’d like to,’ the lady replied.

Then I stood there with my hands behind my back, surveying the cart and trying to recall what my checklist said to do next. The lady stood there looking at me expectantly. Steve stood there looking at me quizzically. Ah, I know! I must explain what I’ve brought for the guest.

‘You have a Caesar salad and a grilled beef burger with cheese, medium rare,’ I said, lifting up the warming cover. ‘And I brought some extra mustard and ketchup, in case you need it,’ I concluded.

Steve, having finally despaired of my ever opening the San Pellegrino, deftly stepped forward and did it himself.

‘Please don’t hesitate to call us if you need anything else,’ I said, as we prepared to leave. The lady smiled. I forgot to offer to open the Heineken.

As Steve and I stepped into the hallway, he closed the door behind us and said: ‘We have a few things to talk about on the way downstairs.’

We hardly provide such opportunities to our personnel yet we expect so much from them. A lot needs to go into our orientation programs.Consider the following general outline:

Day 1

·         Welcome newly employed (create a warm environment assuring them of how much you value them).
·         Involve hotel executives in presenting various aspects of the hotel to them (focus on the rich traditions and philosophy of the hotel) Note that presentations must be engaging.
·         Repeat hotel values and establish a common understanding of what these mean to the hotel, guests and personnel.

Day 2
Establish the Expected Language of Service

  • Deal with uniforms and grooming standards
  •  Explain linkages between various departments in the hotel
  • Focus on food and beverage briefings (hotel events, particular guests’ likes and dislikes, and any other concerns).
  •  Review standards (from communication among personnel to anticipating guests needs)
  • Explain policies, procedures and ‘language use’ in handling guest complaints
  • Establish hotel’s employee empowerment practices (use typical case studies fortrainees to apply and role play service standards taught, making effective decisionsand making alternative choices to resolve/respond to problems).

Day 3
Go over Basics and attach trainee to coach/supervisor.

Day 4

Assign trivial tasks to be done alone (but trainee needs to be checked)
Trainee also works on major tasks with coach/supervisor.
Day 5
Trainee to take the lead on a number of simple orders (particularly if business is slow).
Day 6
Go Solo (but trainee must be accompanied by coach).
“Day 21”
This is a follow-up session. It typically takes place about three weeks after the initial orientation. The aim is to review the hotel’s standards after new employees have had a chance to put them into practice. The newly employed are asked about their experiences on the job-an opportunity to reflect on their experiences. There is also a reinforcement from orientation.

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