Learning Management System Technology can help crew members learn and managers track progress
Training systems have evolved. Instead of expecting new hires to read employee handbooks or sit at a desktop and watch a series of video modules, pizzeria owners are turning to learning management systems, or LMS. As the workforce changes, so do crew members’ preferences for how they want to learn. Pizzeria owners are adapting with software training that leverages data, AI, gamification and more.
“It’s no longer, ‘I will put all of my content on the internet and employees can check it when they want to,’” says Rachael Nemeth, CEO and co-founder of Opus Training. “Employees demand content on the fly.” That means watching training videos and taking quizzes on their smartphones, not on a desktop.
Accessibility is important for all ages, and for people of different backgrounds. Learning platforms must be able to train workers in languages other than English, Nemeth says, as many foodservice workers do not speak English as a first language.
Data is another crucial component. Managers need to know whether employees completed their coursework, which areas need attention, and if crew leaders are improving their skills so they can train new hires.
In life, and on the job, learning never ends. Workers must keep up with menu changes and new policies, which requires frequent updates. For that, there is artificial intelligence, but not the creepy AI that is capturing much media attention. “The AI that we are building and machine learning models are not the kind that will ask you to marry it,” Nemeth says. “These are tools that help solve the content problem.”
The content problem is that pizzeria owners don’t have time to continually input instructions for new menu items and limited time offers. A training platform that uses AI can develop visual materials, write content and produce interactive training videos. AI can also communicate the changes to employees. Instead of sending out an e-mail that no one reads, Nemeth says, managers can use a content builder to generate a course that the team could take and get assessed on.
Improved metrics in LMS can enable managers to track employees’ progress, and help develop talent. “In the beginning, LMS quizzes and exams were a good way to validate learning,” says John Poulos, vice president of customer success for Crunchtime. “We needed to go beyond that.” The system can identify skills gaps, nominate high potential candidates for promotion and automate a schedule of courses and reminders. Crunchtime also has a survey component, so that course-takers can offer feedback about the system.
“It used to be side-by-side training, where you watch someone and then hopefully through osmosis you learn how to do it,” Poulos says. “You have the issue with standards, somebody learned from someone who is not doing it right.” He adds that blended learning, or taking courses through an LMS and then performing tasks, is most effective. For example, a kitchen worker would have to prepare three different pizzas, or a general manager would have to develop a local store marketing plan.
Poulos recommends using an LMS that is made for the restaurant industry and has foodservice-specific content. Ease of use is important, not just for new hires but for current workers who want to move to a different position within the restaurant. It’s important to have access to a large library of content that includes food safety training, harassment prevention, diversity and other topics.
Automation is another must. “Instructors should be able to set up automations, and let their platform do the rest: assign and remove courses, set expiration dates, arrange course sequencing and more,” says Natalie Petsali, director of customer success at Epignosis, the parent company of TalentLMS. “Automations help instructors update their content with ease to match the fast pace of their industry and because business needs and compliance standards are always changing.”
To start training right away, Petsali says, restaurants rely on LMS that offer ready-made courses that cover food and beverage industry topics such as compliance essentials and workplace safety, and soft skills and workplace topics. To engage the learner, the courses should be presented in short and interactive videos.
Gamification, or tracking progress through points and badges, can make learning more fun and rewarding. A system can challenge staff’s knowledge with questions such as naming the top three ingredients in today’s special. That can drive friendly competition through a leaderboard, and is useful for managers too.
“Interactive content is key to increasing engagement, retention and application of a restaurant’s training program,” says Brooke Hluza, vice president of sales for Restaurant365. “It’s also a great way for managers to gain insight into how confident an employee feels about performing their role and what else they need to excel.”
LMS pricing depends on factors such as number of employees, locations, courses and tech support. The billing could be a monthly subscription, or purchased as a bundle of courses. The pizzeria operator should also consider the hours needed for training, as workers would be paid wages while they take the courses.
“For the independent operator I would recommend thinking about what they are trying to accomplish,” says Poulos, from Crunchtime. “Looking at someone that has content that helps them get to where they need a lot quicker, from a compliance perspective, will be important when they think about learning development.”
Gen Z and Alpha Learners
Young adults really are starting at their screens. According to a 2021 Ipsos poll, 63 percent of Gen Z (age 16 to 24) are more likely to watch TV, streaming and videos alone on their smartphones. They prefer the small screen even if a big screen is available, according to the survey, because the small screen helps them focus.
For pizzeria owners, that offers insight into how to engage with Gen Z, and soon, Alpha, the generation born 2010 and later. “This is how they consume all forms of content,” says Rachael Nemeth, CEO and co-founder of Opus Training. “Whether it’s TikTok or a text from your mom or a text from your manager, none of this is on a desktop.”
It helps to make the information succinct, engaging, and interactive. Gamification can help: according to the Entertainment Software Association, 62 percent of adults age 18 and older, and 76 percent of kids under 18, play video games.
NORA CALEY is a freelance writer who covers small business, finance and lifestyle topics.