Operators give e-learning programs high marks

Operators give e-learning programs high marks

Sarah E. Lockyer

Foodservice operators, including executives from Dunkin’ Donuts, Monical’s Pizza and Coca-Cola, discussed the benefits of electronic training programs, or e-learning, during a session called “Developing Talent with Technology” at the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show in Chicago.

The panelists insisted that e-learning–like programs administered over the Internet–reduces training costs and improves operations, but they warned that developing the technological infrastructure is not an overnight process.

It took Monical’s Pizza, which operates 37 corporate units and has nearly 1,000 employees, more than a decade to implement a Web-based training program for its managers, but the company said it is pleased with the return on its investment.

“It took us a long time to put the pieces together, but it was worth it,” said Harry Bond, who is the president of Monical Pizza Corp., parent company of a 58-unit chain based in Bradley, Ill., that offers dine-in, carryout and delivery service.

The pilot from Monical’s incorporates nearly 10 training modules ranging from labor productivity to stress reduction. The Internet portion of the program is blended with study groups as a way to encourage peer interaction among managers, Bond explained.

“Learning has to be fun–not punishment,” he added.

In the first year of the program, Monical’s Pizza reduced labor hours by 1.2 percent, and that saved the company more than $130,000, according to Bond. He says the cost of developing and implementing the training was $24,000. He also said other benefits included improved customer service and cleaner restaurants.

Meanwhile, Dunkin” Donuts parent, Randolph, Mass.-based Allied Domecq QSR, which also owns Baskin-Robbins and Togo’s, recently created an online university that offers 48 courses, ranging from technical training for crew members to advanced management courses, according to Kevin H. McNamara, Allied Domecq’s vice president of global training. The system also can be used to prepare hourly employees for new-product rollouts, such as Dunkin’ Donuts” recent launch of a line of espresso drinks.

McNamara said Allied Domecq–whose brands boast more than 11,000 restaurants–spent nearly three years in developing its program with a mission of ensuring that it offered “returns for franchisees and also improved operations.”

The online university, which was launched in November 2003, has about 25 percent of the company’s stores, or 1,200 units, participating in the training with an additional 1,100 stores slated to join in June. Allied Domecq expects to have a full-scale rollout to all of its brands in about 12 months.

To date, Allied Domecq’s employees have completed more than 10,000 courses, which equates with a 65-percent completion rate. McNamara added that the company is not requiring that its franchisees use the system. “This program is so popular that it doesn’t require a mandate.” he insisted.

In order to participate, franchisees need high-speed Internet access, which typically costs about $30 to $100 each month and remains the biggest obstacle to faster rollout of the program. McNamara said.

Allied Domecq, after discovering previously that free training programs did not work. decided to charge operators $365 per store annually to enroll. “We found that franchisees need to have skin in the game, so to speak,” McNamara said. He also said the return on investment for operators most likely would range from 150 percent to 250 percent.

The online university is expect-ed collectively to save the system upward of $1 million each year.

During the panel discussion Coca-Cola offered details about the electronic training programs it has created for its customers via the Internet and telephone.

“Employees who feel that their organization really cares are more satisfied and motivated to do a job well,” and that leads to lower turnover, according to Celeste Bottorff, group director, full-service restaurant channel, foodservice & hospitality division. The Coca-Cola Co.

One of those programs, for example, recently helped a national chain augment crew training on a new promotion by having them call a toll-free number to participate in a telephone quiz.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Reproduced with permission of the copyright holder. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.

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