A closer look at how multiple internal teams joined forces to reimagine training while working closely with 25 locations across the country
Many knew the existing restaurant training system was overly complicated, difficult to use, and a mismatch for the unique needs of its restaurant training teams. Store leadership complained that the existing tool actually made things more difficult. Leaders needed the ability to quickly and reliably find training and procedural information at a moment’s notice, yet doing so was both time consuming and incredibly frustrating because of a few, critical missteps.
Many knew the existing restaurant training system was overly complicated, difficult to use, and a mismatch for the unique needs of its restaurant training teams. Leaders complained that the existing tool actually made things more difficult. Leaders needed the ability to quickly find training and procedural information at a moment’s notice, yet doing so was next to impossible because of a few, critical missteps.
Most critically, back-end information architecture wasn’t structured properly, which made browsing or searching for specific information incredibly difficult. If a question or need popped up in the middle of a shift, for example, accurate information was hard to come by. Turning to existing tools didn’t provide much help either, as relevant instructional, procedural, or training information took too long to find, trapped behind hidden menus and a faulty search experience.
In theory, the existing tools made sense, enabling leaders and team members to quickly grab helpful, bite-sized content at a moment’s notice. In practice, however, the execution fell short. In fact, left with no other alternative, restaurant leaders often decided to print the procedures and tape them to the wall rather than using the broken search and browse features.
This is a quick-serve brand that has largely become a poster child for positive guest experience; they invest a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money into training their team members to ensure a consistent guest experience. In order to achieve this kind of consistency, they rely heavily on “home grown” talent. It’s incredibly common (and preferred, actually) to have hourly team members advance into restaurant and/or organizational leadership positions over the course of their careers. Thus, there’s always a need to find more engaging, effective ways to upskill team members at scale, providing valuable skills training and career opportunities that feed directly into the continued growth of both individual team members and the business.
For all involved, the challenge was difficult: How do we design an entirely new, restaurant training tool when: (1) the majority of the restaurant team members aren’t allowed to use their own mobile devices on the job, (2) there are only a few, shared training devices for each restaurant, and (3) Leaders across the country reported a mostly positive experience with printable materials?
Our client’s business typically grows at a rate somewhere between 15-25% each year, so designing a system that can scale at such an incredible rate is seriously difficult. Most restaurant leaders are running 24-hour operations just to take orders and keep up with demand. As one individual put it, “As we keep growing, there’s just no more time to waste simply trying to find things … it just has to be there.”
Restaurant training and operations are directly attached at the hip; in fact, a typical restaurant uses somewhere between 5-10 different systems or apps to power its back-of-house (BoH) operations. Not surprisingly then, in our field research (countless restaurant visits and interviews with leaders across the country), it became evident that adding yet another system to an already cluttered digital environment could cause more confusion.
Constraints are a reality in any enterprise environment, so bumping into a few wasn’t necessarily a surprise. Still, no matter how many times we were directed to “think big picture” or “imagine constraints aren’t an issue,” we quickly ran up against a few that simply couldn’t be removed. Namely, technical system constraints that couldn’t be removed given previous platform and investment decisions that were out of our control.
While internal teams had made impressive strides pushing forward with an agile-first operating mentality, much of the organization hadn’t yet adopted agile as a day-to-day operating structure. Thus, there was extra “leg work” that had to be done—both at headquarters and in the field—in order to set correct expectations, working agreements, and clearly define core artifacts, ceremonies, minimum viable product requirements.
Timeline: 4-6 Weeks
Timeline: 6 Months
Together, we designed a single platform to power both restaurant training and operations, starting with a digital task management system as MVP. The end result was a dynamic, centralized digital platform that made it much easier for restaurant leaders and team members to manage their day-to-day- BoH operations, including the ability to create and assign task lists, quickly view critical training content, and access quick tooltips needed in order to run a high-performing restaurant each day.
We first designed and built the MVP infrastructure needed to allow restaurant team members to create and assign personalized training checklists. These checklists gave training leads the ability to create and assign tasks or mandatory training to their team members in real-time, giving all team members a clear, accurate, and up-to-date view of exactly which tasks needed to be completed in order to keep the restaurant running efficiently throughout the day. Most importantly, it made the assignment and completion of those tasks much simpler, effectively creating an activity trail which was both documented and trackable at the restaurant level.
The task-based MVP also gave team members the ability to quickly access critical training content in a way that matched the realities of the fast-paced restaurant environment (quick search, FAQs, etc). No more fumbling for loose sheets of paper or flipping through pages in a three-ring binder to find important information. Doing so created significant time savings for both leaders and team members while providing more autonomy and relief for most team members. The introduction of these features laid the groundwork for other feature enhancements (SSO, Accounts, Ops Checklists, Training Plans, Training Reports, etc , almost all of which came as direct asks from Operators and TDs themselves.
Additionally, in designing a new system architecture from the ground up, we created a more flexible, “free-standing” platform, untethering the existing tools from the dependencies and limitations of other existing systems. Doing so made it possible for other, critical operational and training systems to connect to this new tool (and vice versa) in a more useful and secure fashion. This flexible architecture paved the way for a more significant exploration — the idea that our MVP would become the single platform to power all BoH operations for all restaurants across the country, replacing a number of legacy systems and as many as 15 existing, disparate applications.
Many Leaders and Training Leads who participated in the pilot actually began to use the newly-built MVP to manage day-to-day training in their restaurants, all but abandoning the existing tools in favor of a solution that was more uniquely suited to their individual needs.
Created an MVP that was instantly scalable for the restaurant (up to 100,000 users)
More than 500 active pilot participants from 25-30 restaurant locations
150 monthly active users among Operators and Training Directors