Why restaurant execs ditching old-school training for video-based methods

April 4, 2017

By Tim Tang, director of enterprise solutions, Hughes Network Systems

Employee training was one of the most talked about topics at the Restaurant Franchising & Innovation Summit 2017 in Dallas. The most important thing I heard, repeatedly by several restaurant executives was, "We are moving from training with manuals to video-based employee training because this is how employees want to learn."

Video-based training makes perfect sense. It is not only more convenient but is also more effective. If a picture is worth a thousand words, videos are priceless. When employees can “see” what they are expected to do, training becomes a simpler matter of mimicry.

The problem in the restaurant industry is when you mix these two important learnings from RFIS 2017 together you end with a mess.  In a world where YouTube and Netflix are the norm for video entertainment, we often forget that, at home, many of us enjoy 10-20+ Mbps of Internet access for our own private use.

Restaurants have a small fraction of that capacity shared by an order of magnitude more people doing an order of magnitude more things. While employees contend with each other trying to complete their video-based training, customers are trying to use the Guest Wi-Fi to earn/redeem loyalty rewards and the managers are trying to leverage numerous cloud-based, back office applications.  Worst of all, the cashiers are trying to run POS transactions that are suddenly taking too long because there's too much network congestion. It is a recipe for an unsatisfactory experience for everyone.   

"The restaurant is a terrible place to learn. It's so distracting," Bo Davis, COO of the Arby's franchise, US Beef Corporation, said during a session about how to best incorporate technology into a restaurant's operations. "There is all of this kitchen noise, ovens are beeping, timers are dinging and not to mention we must still meet the needs of our guests and other team members… If your training doesn't start immediately, nobody is going to sit around waiting for the buffering to stop. You must understand your network requirements."

 Bo Davis, COO US Beef

Congested networks are also why tens of thousands of iPads sit quietly unused in thousands of restaurants and stores. One QSR failed in its initial effort to deploy a multi-media based training solution to thousands of restaurants because the HR and IT teams were not working closely together.  A network designed for credit card transactions and overnight polling was simply unable to support streaming video at scale. When applications are too slow, customers and employees quickly lose interest in using them. In an age where so many restaurants are turning to interactive kiosks to reduce restaurant labor, application responsiveness is a critical ingredient to a positive customer experience.

Getting it right

The key to successful video-based employee training is proper design and preparation. You don't always have control over how much Internet bandwidth is available and affordable at your restaurant, but you can always control how you use it. While there are many technologies to choose from, such as SD-WAN or local media servers, businesses must carefully consider all of these solutions under severe network congestion. Not all technologies are created equal.

For example, some SD-WAN solutions only know how to shift traffic from one circuit to another, while others proactively monitor network congestion and shape traffic in real-time so that no data is lost, even when there is only one circuit available. Some media servers only provide the simple ability to locally cache videos, while other media servers also provide a full-blown learning management systems (LMS) that include employee curriculum/content management and support multiple forms of employee engagement (e.g. POS, mobile, TV, etc.)

It's not enough to design a solution that works when the network is lightly utilized. The real test and the real business impact is, “What happens when the network is fully congested?”  

These peak busy hours are also the highest revenue generating opportunities. When everything in the restaurant is fully loaded, everything in the kitchen must work, especially the network. If you are interested in video-based training or are looking to improve delivery of your current employee training program, talk with a managed network service provider. By engaging with your IT and HR teams, a managed network service provider can help design and optimize a solution that can address these complex and overlapping issues to ensure your training program delivers.

Register here for the Restaurant Franchising & Innovation Summit, July 18-20 in London. The 2018 RFIS will be in April in Louisville. Registration with early-bird pricing is now open.

Cover photo:istock

Topics: Customer Service / Experience, Equipment & Supplies, In-Store Media, Operations Management, POS, Systems / Technology

Companies: Hughes Network Systems, LLC (HUGHES), Hughes

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