Exploring the World of E-Learning in Restaurant Training

Posted on November 3, 2014 by Michelle Locke

You hire a new employee at your restaurant. You give them an employee handbook. You schedule them for training days. You hope by the end of training they retain all the policies and procedures they need to and that they know what they are supposed to do from the start of their shift to the end.

You also know your handbook is out of date. You know that in the next four or five days of training, your restaurant is going to be slammed with customers. You’re not sure where your new employee falls in, but you hope he or she will be quick on his or her feet.

Unfortunately, you’re setting yourself up to fail. (Maybe you know that too.) Your new employee will be overwhelmed; your other employees will be frustrated by a new person that doesn’t know what they’re doing during insanely busy shifts; and your new employee will either learn everything incorrectly or quit before he or she gets any farther.

Working in the service industry, we’ve all been on both sides of this problem: we’ve been the nervous new employee thrown into a new environment with limited training; and we’ve been the owner, manager, or supervisor rushing to get the new guy trained while also trying to manage a restaurant.

In recent years, e-learning systems have emerged as a potential solution to the problems experienced by restaurant owners and operators. E-learning systems are digital environments that offer a variety of learning and training; e-learning systems can be anything from online classes (like those used by colleges and universities around the world) to online training for a new job.

By offering training materials in a digital environment, it’s suggested that owners and operators can cut costs, train better employees, and reduce turnover. But does e-learning deliver on all its promises?

The Benefits of E-Learning

A recent Trends in Hospital Training Survey, conducted by CHART (Council of Hotel & Restaurant Trainers) and TDn2K (Transforming Data into Knowledge), found that about 80% of limited-service restaurants surveyed and 48% of full-service restaurants surveyed used e-learning training tools. As well, 73% hotels and lodging establishments surveyed used e-learning training tools. Those are big numbers!

Why e-learning? Several years ago, using an e-learning platform for training would have been unheard of – especially in full-service restaurants, which often have older employees. However, a lot has changed in technology in recent years; a vast majority of active Facebook users are between 35 and 60. There is no longer the argument that older employees would struggle with the technology.

As well, around 25% of new hires are 21 and younger, which means that are also adept at using technology, as well as smartphones and tablets. They are also more used to using smartphones and other technology for information gathering and learning.

So what are the other benefits of e-learning? Let’s take a look:
  • Employees can train anytime, anywhere at their own pace on smartphones, computers, or tablets. They can review policies and procedures on the spot.
  • Continuous training. Add new policies and procedures? Update your rules for serving alcohol to customers? Receive news of new government policies that affect your employees? You can quickly and easily retrain employees.
  • Easily receive acknowledgement on important policies and procedures. No more waiting for paperwork to return signed and no more printing documents over and over again. This also ensures compliance with all policies and procedures -- and a paper trail if any problems arise.
  • Use review questions to ensure your employees absorb training. E-learning systems often include review question options with allow you to immediately test your employees knowledge.
  • Analysis and reporting allow you to know immediately where employees need help and where they are excelling. What better way to show how well your training is going than an easy-to-read report?
  • Better training means reduced turnover and better service.

Does E-Learning Really Mean Lower Costs?

The CHART and TDn2K survey found that more thorough orientation and training can decrease turnover. The survey also found that companies that offered four hours or more of training reduced turnover by 20% and we all know that turnover is costly.

In the CHART and TDn2K survey, about 43% of restaurant respondents indicated they have recently increased their training spending. The survey also found that the vast majority of training focuses on rudimentary skills -- such as customer service and basic job skills -- with a small amount of time being spent on food safety and workplace safety.

One thing we know for sure is that for restaurants to succeed, they need good training. There is no point to trying to make a profit if your employees aren’t doing their jobs! Take, for example, the Cheesecake Factory, one of the most successful restaurant chains in the U.S. They spend about $2,000 per employee for training each year -- and then they reap in sales of about $1,000 per square foot of each of their restaurants. That’s impressive. Better training means more revenue and it means reduced turnover.

A recent survey by Docebo says that e-learning “allows organizations to keep training budgets under tighter control, develop and retain existing employees, and reduce the costs related to external human resources recruitment, selection and on-boarding.”

For larger restaurant chains, e-learning can ensure consistent training at each location -- without the need for a trainer to travel to each location or to provide the same printed (and costly) materials to each location.

For most restaurants, e-learning cuts costs in ways that are more subtle than slashing a training budget. With e-learning tools, companies can provide more training with less effort and time. New employees can train independently with interactive videos and review questions. This means that training can be extended for new employees without using the time of a designated training or manager.

E-learning does two things: it creates better employees, which means increased revenue for your restaurant; and it reduces training costs.

Does E-Training Deliver?

With an e-learning system, when you hire that new employee, you can immediately start them training, and have them sign policies and procedures and fill out new hire forms, all in one place. When you schedule them for training days, you know he or she is already up to speed with how the restaurant runs, various tasks he or she can perform to help his or her coworkers, and can adapt to your busy restaurant. Has e-learning delivered on its promises of better training, reduced costs, and lower turnover?

In short: yes. E-learning delivers on all its promises and benefits -- but only if it is correctly implemented.

Much of the work of e-learning systems lies on implementation -- that means training managers and administrators within the restaurant how to use all of the available tools and functions, and making sure each new employee is promptly added to the system and started on training. E-learning has many benefits, but the right system will help walk you through the system and implementing it in your restaurant so that it -- and your restaurant! -- succeeds.

E-learning systems are rapidly gaining traction. As more and more restaurant adopts e-learning systems, training in restaurants will improve -- which means that any restaurants that are hesitant in adopting such technology might be left behind.