Hotel / Catering

Catering for quality

by Wendy Shair

Pizza Hut - Staff training and development in pizza chain
Elsa So (left), training manager
Elaine Leung (middle), restaurant general manager, Tsim Sha Tsui store
Samuel Chung (right), restaurant general manager, Tung Chung store
Pizza Hut Hong Kong Management Limited
Photo: Nolly Leung

Global pizza chain stresses training and people skills in quest for service excellence

As Hong Kong restaurant culture evolves, eateries must stay ahead of their game to entice customers back with tasty food and outstanding service. Global chain Pizza Hut strives to do just this by offering top-quality pizzas using the freshest ingredients, says Elsa So, training manager, Pizza Hut Hong Kong Management Limited.

The company's training efforts play a key role to drive the success of the business. "We believe competent staff makes a valuable contribution. Ongoing training is crucial to sustaining our high service standards," she adds.

Pizza Hut offers transparent, well-structured development opportunities for employees on all levels, she says. "All our information about internal training can be accessed online through our e-learning platform. We have a systematic scoring system and team members have a clear understanding of the training processes they need to go through."

The company also offers frontline staff some basic training on topics such as restaurant hygiene, home-delivery service and safe driving. "We want to ensure that employees are always upgrading their skills," Ms So notes, adding that supervisors also have to undergo management skills training.

"Our restaurant general managers are not only required to meet sales targets, but are also responsible for coaching their subordinates. The catering profession is a people business and our customers are very important to us."

Rewards and incentives

"High-performing staff can move up the career ladder to become team leaders, assistant managers, managers and, ultimately, restaurant general managers, depending on performance," says Ms So. The chain recognises and rewards good work, and also runs competitions to motivate staff to excel.

Pizza Hut also encourages workers to continue their studies by sponsoring quality candidates to enroll in a part-time Higher Diploma in Business Administration course in collaboration with the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (IVE). "We support the setting of standard requirements for people in the catering business."

Last year, the company picked 30 managers to enroll in the higher diploma programme, paying for their tuition fees. "They attend classes every Tuesday on a day-release basis for three years," Ms So remarks. "We're impressed by our staff's commitment to study, regardless of their busy work-life schedules. To encourage life-long development, we are in discussions with the IVE about the possibility of sponsoring our staff to enroll for top-up degrees after the completion of the higher diploma."

The company uses a balanced scorecard management tool and an incentive scheme to keep track of staff performance, focusing on three major areas: customers, people and profit and loss. "This is to set targets to motivate our staff, to ensure that the people turnover rate stays as low as possible and that sales profits are achieved," Ms So points out. There is also an annual appraisal system, which aims to reward outstanding performance.

"The catering business involves a lot of hard work. Our core members are usually young people, so the turnover rate is relatively high. We therefore invest heavily in training to retain our existing talent," she says. In addition to classroom training, the company also organises a range of leisure activities such as barbecues, art events and makeup classes.

People focus

Elaine Leung, restaurant general manager at Pizza Hut's Tsim Sha Tsui store, has worked for the company for about 10 years and oversees 100 staff. "It's essential that we train our people to keep up our high service levels. I work hard to build up good relationships with team members and make an effort to celebrate occasions such as birthdays," she stresses.

Since the store is located in a tourist area, with customers from across the globe, staff must be able to speak good English and Mandarin, stresses Ms Leung, who adds that it is important to listen to others' opinions in the work environment.

Another supervisor with about a decade's experience at the pizza chain is Samuel Chung, restaurant general manager at the Tung Chung store. "It can sometimes be a challenge to manage people that are older than me," says Mr Chung, who leads a team of about 60.

He notes that communication techniques must be adapted when dealing with people of different ages and in different positions. "I understand that qualifications and work experience are both equally important and am grateful that the company gives us the chance to upgrade our knowledge."

Good people skills are vital when serving customers, Mr Chung stresses. "Staff must also have a good understanding of the company culture and fit into the working environment."

Development opportunities

  • Pizza chain believes training is crucial to sustaining high service standards
  • General managers need to meet business objectives and be willing to groom junior staff
  • Top performers are sponsored to enroll for part-time higher diploma studies
  • Incentive scheme and annual appraisal system are in place to recognise high achievers

Taken from Career Times 16 March 2012, B2

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