When guests are seated at a table, do you know how long it should take for a server to approach? Is there a preferred way to greet them? Suggest craft beverages? Describe a sharing plate? For the most-successful restaurants, the answer is YES. They have a plan for all customer touch points, and a learning management system (LMS) is one way to make sure all team members are trained to address situations consistently and uphold the restaurant’s brand.
Never heard of an LMS? You’re not alone. An LMS is a system–think software–that helps deliver education courses or training. In short, it manages learning in a structured, consistent way. The best part is that you can evaluate and document completion of tasks. Instead of giving new hires verbal instructions or some paperwork to read before sending them out on the job, a web-based LMS is a technology-based way to make sure your message is delivered and understood.
An LMS also can be a real time-saver for your training team. But before jumping in, operators need to ask, “What kind of training is important?” and “What LMS format fits our needs?”
Many of today’s new hires have grown up with eLearning. An LMS takes the training restaurants already perform and customizes it into an online presentation that fits an operation’s needs. Learning modules are conducted online, using technology employees are comfortable with. They can watch videos and gain knowledge as a group or at their own pace. Employers are able to track an employee’s progress and measure their understanding by using quiz-like checkpoints and assessments that reinforce practices important to job skills, leadership and branding.
What does an LMS do?
The aim of any system is to educate, but the bigger payoff is added value for the operation. Better training reduces staff friction and frustration, helping to retain employees and improve the guest experience, both of which are directly related to a restaurant’s success and profitability.
Restaurant training needs are different everywhere. Think of an LMS as a career path organizer, says Jeff Kahler, President of Ready Training Online (RTO). “E-learning systems help employees master skills, progress in their careers and help the business by performing their jobs effectively.”
There are modules available for all aspects of the business. These include basic skills such as sandwich making, knife safety or dumpster training, and more advanced programs like menu training, alcohol service or point of sale data analysis.
The key, Kahler points out, is providing a user-friendly interface that combines with comprehensive tracking and metrics. This allows accurate progress reports that make the LMS a tool in reaching business goals.
Why do I need an LMS?
Every job requires training, says Dan Longton, President and CEO of TraitSet, a Florida-based workforce management service provider. There are many moving parts in the restaurant business, and he reminds operators that each one involves either customer interaction or matters of health and safety. “Everything employees do, whether it’s greeting customers, preparing food or cleaning tables, can affect a restaurant’s bottom line.”
Furthermore, knowing what’s expected on the job and how to do it well improves worker satisfaction, and that’s a big deal. Turnover costs add up quickly in the volatile restaurant employment scene. A study by Cornell University’s Center for Hospitality Research estimates that turnover in the hospitality industry could cost more than $5,800 per employee. The cost at your restaurant will vary, of course, but recruiting and productivity loss are expensive and time-consuming.
Because employees are a big investment for any restaurant, making them a big asset is smart. An LMS empowers a trainee by providing a structured learning path—one training topic, several courses or even a whole career.
Live training adds effectiveness
As with any training, it’s important to reinforce the learning. “Our experience is that watching 20 modules in a row isn’t as effective as a combination of online and live training,” Kahler notes. But blending the eLearning with peer-to-peer learning and do-it-yourself practice builds an employee’s self-confidence in a structured manner.
Many operators don’t have a formal trainer role, and LMS technology can close that gap with step-by-step lessons and infrastructure that’s already in place. The training provided can make it easier to turn new hires over to the veteran manager, cook or server who models the skills taught online.
Combining the high-tech component with on-the-job learning builds teamwork and trust between the trainee and co-workers. At the same time, Kahler says, it reinforces LMS lessons and can strengthen a restaurant’s brand.
Know the ways you’ll engage
If you’re an operator considering an LMS training program, here are some points to consider:
Your learning is validated. Assessments can be placed strategically throughout the learning path. It’s like a rest area on the educational journey. The trainee cannot continue until knowledge is demonstrated. At the end of the training, a certificate of completion can be awarded. This certificate proves certain qualifications have been met, increasing an employee’s value and the quality of the operation.
Your documentation is supported. In addition to certificates, LMS training can include third-party verification. This can be used as proof of regulatory compliance and can protect your business from litigation. It also tracks training completion records.
Your documents are secured electronically. Everything related to your training program—handbooks, manuals, guides, menus, recipe cards, resources, etc.—can be kept in one place for easy access and updates.
Your training can be customized. If your business is a food truck, you can use server training that matches your business needs instead of the needs of a full-service restaurant. The LMS you choose should provide structured learning paths and the ability for you to customize metrics and tracking.
Your employees are compensated. Paid training is up to operators, of course, but the completion of courses or certifications can be tied to bonuses or pay raises. This type of incentive encourages and rewards participation.
Your business may realize cost savings. Reduced instruction time and less travel to conduct training are quick wins. Trained employees also produce results more quickly. In addition, they are more confident and satisfied. Well-trained employees are less likely to leave, reducing turnover costs.
Things to look for in an LMS
Your training evolves continuously. What’s important to a business today will be different next month or next year. Choosing the right LMS depends meeting ever-changing operational goals. Here are some qualities important to any system:
- Trackable results per user and per course.
- Consistent messaging that supports your operation’s brand.
- Interactive, user-friendly interface for trainees and managers.
- Quizzes or exams that test a trainee’s ability to apply knowledge in the workplace.
- Automated reporting that allows an operator to easily show compliance on regulated training topics.
- 24/7 access to training.
- Top-quality, reliable technical support.
Above all, remember that even the best LMS is just a tool. It takes support to get the most out of any system. Having a dedicated person to oversee the LMS and think through what kind of activities are needed after an employee goes through a module is critical. Training is an ongoing process and an investment that pays off over time, Kahler notes. Choosing the appropriate LMS with the right delivery, reporting and support provides the best chances for long-term success.