Digital technology in the food world isn’t just about putting tablets on tables and giving smartphone users new ordering and payment options. It’s also about digital employee training programs that teach proper procedures, provide insights for human resource departments, boost sales and give employees a way to fit classes into their schedules without disrupting business.
“The biggest thing technology has brought is standardization,” said author and consultant Allan Barmak, whose firm creates custom training programs for businesses including restaurants. Typically, a new hire will train under an experienced employee, who will be working a shift while also trying to teach the trainee how the job is done, Barmak said. “The challenge is that the company has to trust that the person is teaching the right things and the company-approved message.”
Online courses that new employees take before they start give each new hire the same introduction to the job and the way the company wants things done, and with video-based training and webinars, the company controls the training session from beginning to end, he said.
Technology also plays a role in following up on how well employees are learning the lessons, especially when it comes to sales techniques. Point-of-sale tools track each server’s sales at each table, for example, and because they also keep a record of average sales for each table, they can help managers determine whether servers need more training.
“Then it’s the responsibility of management to analyze those numbers and help their staff not only be accountable but also optimize sales,” Barmak said.
The digital world also lends itself well to ongoing training because it’s up to each employee to set aside time, rather than having to close the restaurant or store to hold an in-person class for everyone at the same time, said Brad Forrister, vice president of the TrainingToday division at BLR, which has done online training since about 2009 and launched a library just for the hospitality and foodservice industries about a year ago.
“Doing it in a self-paced way, means you can make sure everybody is trained without disrupting regular operations or requiring people to come in for training at a time when they’re not on shift,” Forrister said. “It’s good for when you have people on multiple shifts or in multiple locations.”
BLR’s foodservice and hospitality courses are sold in libraries and geared for companies with 50 employees or more. They’re web-based, so employees can even log on from mobile devices during breaks at work.
“One of the biggest technological changes in the last year and a half or so has been the emergence of tablets as devices on which companies are trying to do their training,” Forrister said. As more eateries add tablets at the point of sale, the gadgets are also doing double duty as virtual classrooms.
Food safety training is an area where digital technology works particularly well because it gives companies an easy way to ensure that all employees have had the required training, a feature that comes in handy from a compliance standpoint.
“If there’s a food safety issue and an employer is sued, they have a record that their employees completed the required training,” Forrister said.
Digital training technology also gives managers and human resource departments new tools to use in identifying employees with the potential to move up in the company and tracking their progress, said Barmak.
“With all these tech tools, and with how easy it is to share best practices, we can get to the finish line quicker. We will know the ideal profile for an employee and incorporate that into the manager track.”
- The National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe courses are served up online.
- The Food Marketing Institute offers online courses for retail food workers through its Safemark program.
- The federal Office of Personnel Management offers a primer on Leveraging New Technologies for Employee Development Programs.
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