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Training Strategies to Boost Your Franchise

Focusing on who you train, where and how − with a little creativity − can create a winning recipe.

The word “training” often conjures up images of classrooms, thick manuals and sitting at a desk for hours. Luckily, in many industries such as foodservice, hands-on training is often far more valuable than anything you could read in a manual. But no matter how it’s implemented, training is a critical step to take before, during and even after your franchise opens to ensure continued success.

Choose Attendees Wisely

At Burger 21, which has the support of our management company, Front Burner Brands and its more than 25 years of franchising and restaurant experience, we make it mandatory that at least three members of the franchise ownership and/or management for a particular restaurant attend our initial six-week training program.

This strategy works because after management and ownership attend training, they fully understand the standards to which they should hold their team. Some concepts don’t require or urge franchisees to participate in an extensive training program, but we feel strongly − especially in our business model − that franchisees can’t be as successful with passive ownership. Each Burger 21 location has a three-person management team and, typically, franchisees can often assume one of these roles depending on their background, experience and management plan.

 Training Location Matters

Where you conduct your training program matters. Company-owned stores are often the best because then you can better ensure franchisees and/or managers are being properly trained on all standards. Some franchisors, like Smoothie King, may host training at their corporate headquarters before moving to an actual store.

Even within a restaurant, where you train carries weight. For many restaurants, that’s in the kitchen. Much of a guest’s experience is going to be based on whether or not the food was made correctly and tasted great. But for others, the focus may shift to the front of the house, as service and hospitality are critical components of the concept’s success.

You Only Get One Opening Day

First impressions count. You only get once chance to open a restaurant or any franchise concept for that matter. Guests will form their impressions based on that opening day, week and month, especially if you’re a younger brand new to a market.

To ensure each restaurant has the best opening possible, we put together a team of “Road Warriors,” comprised of the best individuals in a variety of positions from across our system, from both company-owned and franchise-owned restaurants. It’s an honor to be selected as a team member as that person gets to travel and represent the brand, providing approximately two weeks of continuous support in the restaurant before, during and after opening. This is a critical time that can be very overwhelming, so the Road Warriors’ sole duty is to help management tackle training to ensure a smooth opening. The program lets team members use their knowledge and expertise to train others in Front Burner Brands’ standards, setting these team members up for growth by putting them in more of a leadership role.

There’s More Than One Way to Learn

You’ve heard the phrase “I’m a visual learner” or “I don’t test well.” Well, it’s true. Not all of your restaurant management or employees retain information the same way. Our management company uses a blended learning approach so not all of our training is conducted in the same manner. From videos and fill-in-the-blank documents to an extensive online library and hands-on training, our training program uses different strategies we’ve found effective for adult learning to increase our likelihood of having a more successful training program. Injecting variety speaks to multiple learning levels and keeps training participants more engaged throughout the process.

Keep It Going

Training doesn’t stop after an opening. Brands like Smoothie King and Massage Envy provide ongoing support through in-store evaluations, business-training classes, seminars and workshops. Both franchise businesses also host annual franchisee conferences that give operators an opportunity to learn best practices, details of new products and upcoming promotions, professional skill development and more.

Get Creative

For a training program to work, employees must stay engaged. At Jiffy Lube, demonstrating what you learn in training could earn you $10,000. The franchisor hosts an annual, companywide competition in which service center teams from across the United States vie for the chance to earn the title of J-Team All Stars and the grand prize. In addition to being judged on technical knowledge, operational execution and their ability to perform the company’s signature oil change, J-Teams are assessed on their ability to deliver outstanding customer service on all levels and work together as a team. This year’s championship between three teams took place in Miami and each of the two runners-up also received cash prizes.

Massage Envy is always looking for new ways to make training engaging and one way it does that is to put learners in a virtual Massage Envy Spa, where they control the action, and the choices they make have real consequences. To complete the course, they have to use the information presented to demonstrate the behaviors Massage Envy wants to see in real life. And to keep it authentic and interesting, Massage Envy uses actual franchisees as characters in the interactions.

Dan Stone is vice president of franchise development at Front Burner Brands, a restaurant management company affiliated with The Melting Pot Restaurants, Inc., Burger 21 and GrillSmith, headquartered in Tampa. Burger 21 currently has seven locations open in Tampa, Orlando and Voorhees, N.J. He can be contacted at dstone@frontburnerbrands.com.

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