Creating a smart, successful industry workforce—one program at a time

Creating a smart, successful industry workforce—one program at a time

By Heather Donahoe, managing editor

Insufficient training is easier to conceal in some industries than in others. But poor preparedness within the restaurant industry is nearly impossible to hide. The ability of a restaurateur to assemble and maintain a well-trained staff is vital to the restaurant’s survival. While an operation may be able to eke by for a few years without a solid commitment to an educated staff, the bottom line will eventually bear the consequences.

As the WRA president and CEO explained in his column this month (page 9), investing in industry training and education has never been more critical than it is now. In this tumultuous climate of regulatory changes and steep increases to the cost of doing business, ensuring a workforce that is ready for success is one variable that can be controlled in an environment where strict terms of operation are being dictated to business owners.

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The WRA Education Foundation (WRAEF) serves is a partner in those efforts, as the leading resource for training, education and career development for Washington state’s hospitality community. Selecting staff and training programs can be daunting for any restaurant operator. That’s why the WRAEF facilitates a robust lineup of training and educational programs.

Most WRA members are likely familiar with the aims of the WRAEF, but they bear reiterating. The Foundation exists to:

Propel talented individuals into successful hospitality careers.

Partner with members, agencies and the community to promote food safety through ongoing training and certification.

Promote the exchange of information among the WRA’s diverse member base.

Provide timely industry-specific resource materials to WRA members.

So, what does all this really mean? What benefit does the WRAEF offer to the average Washington state restaurant operation?

Have a look!

Workplace Safety Guide customize training solutions

New this year, the WRAEF is partnering with the WRA Membership team to offer a tailor-made safety and training program. The Hospitality Industry Workplace Safety Orientation & Training Guide was created in conjunction with guidance from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries and restaurant operators, and covers all aspects of restaurant workplace safety.

The online guide and training videos are designed to bring new hires up to speed and to ensure that long-term employees stay sharp on the latest safety regulations. This guide saves time by circumventing the need for operators to spend hours researching expensive materials. The guide is free, which is a money saver in itself; but the accident prevention plan within it can help businesses to lower their workers’ compensation premiums. The guide also helps keep businesses compliant with the latest workplace safety rules, while ensuring that their staffs know what a safe workplace looks and feels like.

Restaurant operators interesting in putting the The Hospitality Industry Workplace Safety Orientation & Training Guide to work in their operation should contact Amy Koetje, WRAEF programs manager, at

ProStart provides students and restaurants an edge

Perhaps the single most useful thing restaurant operators can do to ensure a future pool of qualified and well-prepared job applicants, is to support the ProStart program. ProStart is facilitated by the WRAEF and taught in dozens of high schools throughout Washington state. ProStart is a two-year classroom-to-career training program designed to educate teens on culinary techniques and restaurant management skills. ProStart was developed by the National Restaurant Association, is taught in schools across the U.S. and provides students with real-world training advantages that will ultimately give them an edge in the restaurant industry.

So, how can restaurants invest in ProStart? There are several simple ways, actually.

Operators can serve as mentors to any ProStart classroom in their community. These mentors are encouraged to offer tours of their operation, invite students to work or intern and to provide basic hands-on training of commonplace restaurant processes and tasks.

Other options for ProStart involvement include financial contributions or participation in the annual Boyd’s Coffee ProStart Invitational—a culinary and restaurant management competition, where students vie for thousands of scholarships dollars and the opportunity to compete nationally.

Think you might like to invest in a strong workforce for the future of your restaurant? Want to hire a ProStart student? Email for call 877.695.9733, ext. 127 for more information.

ServSafe Manager gives operators flexibility

Without stringent safety measures and training protocol in place, a restaurant is gambling with its future. The WRAEF regularly schedules ServSafe training classes for restaurateurs throughout the state. These classes give operations the ability to maintain an in-house trainer who is qualified to keep the entire team up to speed on food safety standards.

The ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification is nationally recognized, accredited and taught in a variety of languages. ServSafe, created by the National Restaurant Association, combines current best practices in advanced food safety, as well as current best practices for instruction. Students stay engaged in current state health code regulations and learn how to demonstrate knowledge of foodborne disease prevention, application of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) principles and the requirements of the Washington State Food Code to the regulatory authority. ServSafe helps managers find the knowledge and tools to understand food safety and how to share their food safety knowledge with their employees.

ServSafe Alcohol raises a glass to responsible service

ServSafe Alcohol is designed to ensure restaurant workers know how to safely and responsibly serve alcohol. Washington is among 47 states that accept this practical and current training program, developed by the National Restaurant Association, with the same approach as ServSafe, the industry’s most recognized food safety and training certification. ServSafe Alcohol is approved by the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

Those who complete the Washington version of the ServSafe Alcohol course and exam will not only receive their ServSafe Alcohol certification, but their Washington state required mixologist (Class 12 or Class 13) permit. By providing practical knowledge, and best-in-class resources, ServSafe Alcohol helps servers give knowledge a practical edge.

Spot Check helps you protect your customers

At any given Washington state eatery, chances are good that some of the nation’s more than 45 million food allergy sufferers are dining regularly. In this scenario, restaurants that cater to customers with food allergies and sensitivity will have an edge over those who don’t. While many operators assume that allergy-friendly prep requires a complete kitchen overhaul, Spot Check Allergy Safe Certification puts that fear to rest. A little more than two years ago, the WRAEF recognized the need for a training program that would prepare kitchen staff’s to address the needs and concerns of increasingly food-sensitive consumers.

The Spot Check curriculum trains establishments how to adapt their kitchens as is, with minor expense and disturbance to the operation.

The Allergy Safe Certification training helps foodservice professionals eliminate the risk their restaurant may pose to food allergy sufferers. Also important, the curriculum is structured to help workers understand the allergy and sensitivity issues many of their customers struggle to manage.

Want to know more about any of the WRAEF’s programs? Visit, or call 877.695.9733.

(Source: Washington Restaurant Magazine, March 2014)