By Lance Vaught
Most often, the biggest expenditure on profit-and-loss reports for restaurants is labor. Employees are a restaurant’s greatest asset, and the key to having successful employees is excellent training. Unfortunately, many brands make quick hiring decisions, and then train new employees by putting them directly on the line, in front of the customer, without any formal training at all. Formalizing the training program and taking it to the next level leads to a higher return on investment (ROI). Training videos are most common with large restaurant chains, but smaller chains can utilize the method, as well.
It is possible for smaller chains to produce training videos in house, which not only protects the content of the videos but also saves money. For example, Cory Osburne, training coordinator at Penn Station East Coast Subs, did all of the acting, voiceover, and editing for our training videos. We kept it simple so we didn’t have to hire actors or even take other employees away from their day-to-day duties.
Determine if someone on staff enjoys making videos. This person then can edit the videos and oversee the project. If you don’t have the manpower or skills to do it in house, it’s easy to find a company that specializes in video production for small businesses, even if it is more costly. Cory had the skills to take the bulleted directions for each station from our written manual and turn them into videos so we didn’t have to find and hire an outside company. Using the knowledge of an existing employee protects training processes and saves money.
Keep It Simple
We started the project by segregating our production process into separate stations.Make one video for each task or workstation. For example, we now have a training video for making bread and another one dedicated specifically to making our signature Philly Cheesesteak Sub sandwich. Base the content of the video on the written operations manual and add a voiceover to explain the step-by-step process for that task or station.
Keep the videos around six to seven minutes long. This makes the information easier to retain, especially since attention spans seem to be shorter these days. Over the last 26 years, we have learned that everyone has a different learning style. The written manual alone isn’t enough anymore. Anyone between ages 18 and 25 is more comfortable with their smartphone than a book, so it’s time to update training processes. Keep a written manual around for people who prefer it, but videos are a great way to improve efficiency for restaurant staff and consumers. Embracing technology gives employees who are visual learners a greater chance to succeed. Training videos also ensure each location uses the same process because we control the content at the corporate level. This creates more uniformity and consistency for the entire brand.
Training videos alone aren’t enough to improve employee productivity. Tests also can be made into visual, interactive experiences that more effectively and accurately show if an employee is ready to handle a particular station. Have each employee watch the video before they start a shift on a new station. When a general manager assesses an employee is ready to run a station alone, have the employee complete the visual test on the computer. If an employee fails the test, record it in the system. Then, have the employee discuss it with the manager and retake the test.
Streamline the Process
We have distributed our training videos by utilizing the technology of our internally developed and proprietary Point-of-Sale (POS) system. Because we have a custom-designed POS system, we can control the videos and how they are distributed without having to worry about them being released outside of Penn Station restaurants. A systemwide POS system is an excellent way to disseminate the training videos, as well as other tools and information from corporate.
Load the training videos and employee station tests directly onto the POS system to make them easy for franchisees and general managers to access. Utilizing the POS system allows corporate to send the information efficiently and accurately. Plan for quarterly releases to keep material up to date and allow you to phase in new training videos. Using a POS system to distribute training videos allows a company to make changes and updates to the training process and then quickly streamline it. With 225 locations and 10 to 15 employees at each restaurant, Penn Station has thousands of employees to train. Using a video through our POS system allows us to update all of those employees at once when something changes.
By utilizing technology in training, restaurants are able to reach the younger generation of employees in a way that makes sense to them. It may be a tough transition at first, but it is worth it in the end. It took Cory more than a year to convince our executive team to make the change, but the videos debuted at the national franchisee convention in February to much fanfare. Improving training leads to better, more efficient employees and operations and has a direct effect on ROI. Our goal at Penn Station is to make every franchisee’s ROI the highest it can be on a daily basis, and excellent training is the first step.
Lance Vaught is director of operations for Milford, OH-based Penn Station East Coast Subs. Penn Station serves a variety of hot and cold subs, as well as fresh, hand-cut French fries, hand-squeezed lemonade, and chocolate chunk cookies baked fresh in the restaurant. Penn Station has more than 225 restaurants in 12 states and all but two locations are franchised. Projections call for the opening of 25 restaurants in 2011, increasing to 35 in 2012 and 40 in 2013, with 325 restaurants systemwide by the end of 2013. Contact Vaught at 513.474.5957 or via e-mail at email@example.com.