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Training for Kitchen Staff: A Journey Through History

Daniil Klubov Founder & Ceo of spoon.tech
Nikita Radchenko
March 13, 2023
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Restaurant Customer Service Training

Looking back in the past, hospitality was considered a sacred duty in ancient Greek and Roman times, with taverns and inns serving as common places for travelers and regulars to visit. Hospitality skills were often taught through experience and apprenticeship, with emphasis on customer care and food service. These became the principles we know today for restaurant customer service training. Join us on a journey through time as we explore the evolution of training for kitchen staff, from ancient apprenticeships to modern-day culinary schools.

Early Traditions

Early traditions in the restaurant industry focused on the passing down of culinary skills through generations of family businesses. Apprenticeships and mentorship programs were also common, with experienced chefs taking on young apprentices and teaching them the ins and outs of the kitchen. While these methods did not involve formalized training, they emphasized the importance of hands-on experience and the development of close relationships within the industry. Despite the shift towards more formalized training in modern times, these early traditions continue to shape the way that many chefs and kitchen staff approach their work today.


Apprenticeships have been a traditional form of training for kitchen staff for centuries. In this traditional method, young aspiring chefs were taken under the wing of experienced culinary professionals and taught the skills necessary to succeed in the kitchen. Apprenticeships were often lengthy, with some lasting several years, and required a great deal of hard work and dedication from the apprentices. This form of training emphasized practical skills and hands-on experience, with a focus on developing a deep understanding of ingredients, techniques, and flavors. The apprenticeship system was an effective way to train new chefs and a means of passing down culinary traditions and knowledge from one generation to the next.


Mentorship programs were also a common method of training for kitchen staff throughout history. In this approach, experienced chefs took on younger or less experienced cooks and provided them with guidance and support. Unlike apprenticeships, which had a structured curriculum and required a long-term commitment, mentorships were often more informal and flexible. The mentorship relationship was built on trust and respect, with the mentor providing advice, feedback, and opportunities for the mentee to learn and grow. Mentorship programs were highly valued in the restaurant industry, as they allowed for the transfer of specialized knowledge and skills from seasoned professionals to those just starting out in their careers. Today, both apprenticeships and mentorships continue to play a significant role in the training and development of kitchen staff, alongside more modern forms of education and certification.

Modern Traditions

Apprenticeship and mentorships were great because the learning was hands-on, people could apply it easily in real scenarios, so it was highly effective. However, during the 20th century, things were becoming more advanced and commercialized, introducing specialized equipment, such as ovens and electric mixers, as well as demonstration kitchens (specific kitchens designed to teach culinary skills techniques to members of staff).

Restaurant chains were on the rise, establishments and workforces were getting larger, with multiple locations being present. The concept of assembly lines and division of labor were getting more popular. Resulting in early age “one-on-one" personal training no longer being as practical as it once was.

As a result, restaurants were coming up with new ways to train staff, such as training manuals, equipment teaching, and demonstration kitchens. While these methods were more efficient in training many people quickly, they lacked the personalized touch that apprenticeships and mentorships provided. However, these new training methods paved the way for the development of modern-day training programs that combine the best of both worlds - the efficiency of standardized processes and the effectiveness of hands-on learning and feedback.

Challenges of Today

Before, with shadowing, mentoring, and apprenticeships, things were more personal, and career growth felt more like a journey or an adventure. Employees felt that they were learning every day and were supported. As their mentors assigned them more responsibilities, they could feel they were improving their methodology and skills. They also felt that at the end of their apprenticeship or mentorship period, they get to move on to the next step – experiencing progression in their careers.  

While staff training manuals, equipment teachings, and demonstration kitchens are meant to educate kitchen staff, they can often feel like a daunting test of who can retain the most information. Unfortunately, despite having access to all this valuable training material, many workers fail to read it or take away anything useful, leaving this knowledge largely dormant.

There is another side effect of this, with teaching becoming more impersonal, and less devotion to team members was needed. The workers would end up feeling underappreciated and forgotten. This overwhelming feeling of being “stuck” in their position, and feeling that they have nothing new to learn, and fewer growth opportunities ahead. This is also a large contributing factor for the nature of high turnover rates in the restaurant industry.

So, what can be done about these issues?

Moving forward, the restaurant staff training must combine the best of both worlds. It should be effective and practical, and provide their employees with consistent growth and learning, while also being scalable for multiple locations and large workforces.  

Moving on to the Future

How can we confront the issues of modern training and help create a better, and more sustainable future for everyone involved?

As the restaurant industry continues to evolve, new training methods and technologies are emerging. Some current trends in culinary education include gamification, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence.


Gamification is an innovative approach to training that can improve employee engagement and motivation by turning training into a game. Some restaurants have even created training programs that resemble popular mobile games, complete with leaderboards and rewards. The success of gamification in training has been impressive, with only 3% of individuals remaining unproductive during such training (eLearning Industry), suggesting that it can be an incredibly effective way to engage employees and improve their performance. Furthermore, research studies have shown that gamification can be a powerful tool to motivate employees, with 72% of employees reporting that it inspires them to work harder (Review42).

Virtual and Augmented Reality

As the restaurant industry continues to seek new ways of training and educating employees, innovative technologies like Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are emerging as effective tools.  

VR offers a highly immersive and realistic training environment that allows employees to practice and refine their skills in a simulated setting. This can be especially valuable for tasks that are potentially dangerous or require specialized equipment, as it allows employees to learn without any real risk. While there is an initial cost associated with VR technology, it can save time and reduce recurring costs by enabling independent learning and providing a highly engaging training experience.

On the other hand, AR takes a different approach by adding a layer of digital information on top of the real-world environment. AR can be used in several ways in restaurant operations, such as projecting real-time information onto employee's glasses, allowing them to be informed about maintenance – how they should handle machinery, everyday operations – how much sauce a burger requires, as well as training and onboarding. This is all real and current, the real-world example of this already exists – NSF EyeSucceed.  

As VR and AR technology continues to evolve, the possibilities for creative and practical applications in the restaurant industry are truly endless.

Artificial Intelligence

AI (Artificial Intelligence) is a huge buzzword this year and for a good reason – it has the potential to change our lives and work as we know it, creating new opportunities for growth and innovation. As such, AI is positioned to become a major force in shaping the future. There are a few notable programs or options of AI today.

First, we have AI-controlled kiosks, they are becoming an increasingly popular choice for restaurants looking to streamline their operations and provide a better customer experience. With AI-powered kiosks, customers can place their orders quickly and easily without the need for a cashier, reducing wait times and increasing the speed of service. For example, fast-food giant McDonald's has implemented AI-powered self-ordering kiosks in many of its locations, allowing customers to place orders with minimal wait times. These kiosks also use natural language processing to understand customer requests and provide personalized recommendations based on their order history and preferences.

The second notable example is IBM’s Chef Watson. Chef Watson is designed to help chefs and food enthusiasts produce new and exciting recipes by suggesting flavor and ingredient combinations that they may not have thought of otherwise. By inputting specific ingredients or flavor profiles, Chef Watson can provide a list of potential recipe options that users can choose from or modify to their liking.

Finally, we have ChatGPT, a large language model developed by OpenAI that is designed to generate human-like responses to natural language inputs. It is a very advanced computer program that can understand and respond to human language in a way that is like talking to a real person. ChatGPT’s application on the restaurant industry is vast, for example it can be used for new recipe generation, customer service advancements, and of course staff training.

In conclusion, if you want to keep up with the times, and not be left behind in the past, we recommend leveraging the use of gamification, virtual and augmented reality and artificial intelligence in your restaurant business.

If you're looking to take your restaurant business to the next level with AI tools and other advanced features, spoon.tech can help. To get in touch with us, you can: fill out our contact form, alternatively, you can call us via phone at (+43 670 655 56 82) Or email us at hello@spoon.tech.

Daniil Klubov Founder & Ceo of spoon.tech
Nikita Radchenko

Hi, I am Nikita, a Vienna-based chef who has been successfully leading and teaching restaurant teams for the past several years. I am passionate about both cooking and people development and love to write on both topics. Get connected with me on Linkedin, and I will be happy to chat!

Nikita Radchenko

Hi, I am Nikita, a Vienna-based chef who has been successfully leading and teaching restaurant teams for the past several years. I am passionate about both cooking and people development and love to write on both topics. Get connected with me on Linkedin, and I will be happy to chat!

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