Say What?

T.J. Schier

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While on vacation with my family in New York City this summer, my kids asked why people from various parts of the country speak differently—we live in Texas and have relatives in the Northeast and friends from the Midwest that the kids interact with frequently. They find it quite amusing to hear someone say “R-ange” while “or-ange” is spoken at our house. They also like to hear people pronounce words that end in –er with an “a” sound as in “rollah skating. ”

Putting on my operations-and-training hat, it occurred to me that the way people learn to speak, and the accent they acquire, is similar to the way new employees are trained in restaurants. Essentially, we all are “trained” in the English language the same way. In restaurants, the training programs are all very similar as well.

However, the results people realize differ dramatically. In regards to speaking, although the training materials are the same, parents’ accents (similar to the environment people learn in) often transfer to the children. In a restaurant, the training materials and programs are the same, but as we all know, the results are a direct reflection of the environment and standards upheld by the manager. A great training program executed by an average manager results in an average employee at best.

I’ve often said there are four components to running a successful restaurant: who you hire, how they are trained, who trains them, and the environment they work in. Hiring, by far, is the most important. After all, polishing (training) a piece of junk simply results in a shiny piece of junk.

After that, however, lasting effective results are achieved not only by a great training program, but more importantly, a great environment. We’ve all undoubtedly worked in companies that didn’t have a great initial training program, but if the restaurant was run right, we learned how to be great employees.

Therefore, it’s not the training program that’s the problem, it’s the manager! I’m amazed how many times I speak to companies and hear the managers say things such as, “menu knowledge of our staff is terrible” and so on, yet they are waiting for a new training initiative to fix their issue. Demand greatness, hire for it, train it, and you’ll get it—you don’t need a new training program for it.

That translates into any language!

T. J. Schier is service professional, consultant and speaker with over 20 years experience in operations and training. Founder and president of Incentivize Solutions and podTraining, T. J. has helped numerous clients enhance their service and training programs and spoken to tens of thousands of managers, franchisees and operators in various fields. Visit for more info motivating today's employees, training today's generation and delivering outstanding guest service; or , a unique new system and the foundation of ‘i-learning’ - using the device of today's generation, the iPod - to train your workforce.


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