Quick-service restaurants are facing two major, intertwined challenges: training and labor costs. U.S. unemployment is at a 49-year low, and competition over a diminishing pool of workers has forced companies to lower requirements to entry-level, which in turn means they spend more time and dollars training newcomers to the industry. “For chain restaurants trying to win their share of the stomach battle, this situation is not ideal,” reads TDn2K’s People Report Workforce Index. “Poor retention makes it more challenging for operators to provide guests a superior experience that keeps them coming back.”
Fun fact: the average cost of turnover for hourly employees is $1,800, which is especially alarming considering the foodservice industry has a staggering turnover rate of 75 percent.
Training, recruiting, and other labor costs are often among the largest expenses of quick-serves, which means finding better ways to control this variable cost and reduce impact on bottom-line margin is a top priority. One of the major arenas with room for growth is training. Undertrained employees perform worse and express higher rates of dissatisfaction, which in turn negatively affects rates of customer satisfaction and turnover.
In other words, quick-service restaurants are on the hunt for scalable training that is tailored and consistent; they need a way to build competence, confidence, and skills in frontline workforces in order to yield better performance on the job and reduce labor costs. That’s where VR comes in.
VR and quick-serves
“In the midst of high turnover, cook shortages and rising minimum wages, VR training companies have positioned the technology as a potential remedy for many of the issues the industry faces today,” explains Chef Jenny Jorsey on tastingtable.com. “More accessible and in-depth training, improved employee retention, targeted advancement of high-performing employees, and, through that, better margins and long-term sustainability.”
VR training applies to quick-service restaurants in three major areas: task, soft skills, and safety. By targeting these areas, brands can benefit from reduced training times of up to 50 percent and a 76 percent boost in learning effectiveness. Let’s take a closer look at how each might look:
VR is adept at training employees in many things, down to the most basic: how do I do the job? With VR, companies can guarantee consistent training in process, procedures, and workflow for every single new hire. In the past, employees had to piece together a skillset from uninteresting printed manuals and online video that failed to engage them, as well as pick up wisdom from a rotating cast training managers (each with different advice) and attempt to learn from their own mistakes on the job. Just imagine if every new hire could learn by job shadowing your best employee and/or manager every single time. VR allows you to provide that consistent engaging training experience to each new hire. “We feel people will retain information much better if they’re able to engage and interact in a meaningful way,” Jen Denis, chief brand officer of Honeygrow said regarding the company’s VR onboarding program. “This generation has grown up with video, gaming, and technology. More and more, we learn by doing rather than reading.”
As automation continues to penetrate quick-serves, one of the major factors that separates one restaurant from the next is the quality of customer service. VR is an ideal medium to train employees in soft skills regarding communication and conflict management by allowing trainees to have realistic, human-centered interactions in a consequence-free environment. With engaging, immersive VR experiences, trainees can learn from the best and practice customer service strategies as many times as necessary without fear of embarrassment or judgment.
Safety and Resources
When VR came on the scene as a learning tool, one of the first identified benefits was that it allowed trainees to gain impactful practice that would normally put them in the face of danger and consume company resources: imagine the reduction of cost and potential catastrophe an airline saves by training pilots in flight simulators, for example. Quick-service restaurant workers are able to benefit from this same safety, whether they’re in a kitchen, stockroom, or warehouse setting, by gaining meaningful practice without the potential of hurting themselves, damaging company equipment, or wasting company resources during training (including pulling existing employees away from their regular duties).
In addition to providing quality training that improves how well employees can do their jobs, VR is cost-effective and scalable, which is critical to creating a training program that actually aids a business’s bottom line. Here are some of the major benefits of introducing VR into a quick-srvice training program:
- VR readies employees and affords trainees the opportunity to gain impactful practice before starting the job, which can be a logistical nightmare without the help of VR
- VR reduces the need for a (paid) training manager to be present during much of training
- VR increases preparedness before employees are on the floor, increasing competence, reducing mistakes, and building in representing the brand and engaging with customers
- VR helps employees feel more prepared, confident, and capable on the job, which reduces costly turnover rates
- VR training can help reduce onboarding time by accelerating learning and avoiding delays due to scheduling difficulties
- VR cuts training costs for large organizations by establishing a centralized, effective basis for training regardless of the employee’s location, when they join the team, or the quality of their local training manager
Rachel Lanham is the chief operating officer of Pixvana, where she oversees day-to-day operations and focuses on building relationships with innovative companies that are looking to unlock the power of XR. She is an accomplished leader with decades of experience delivering transformation and growth in startup and Fortune 500 settings. She previously served as an executive and client partner at Avenue A, which became aQuantive before being sold for $6.3 billion to Microsoft. At Pixvana, she works closely with innovative companies to help them solve critical business challenges using immersive technologies. She dreams of a world were all companies leverage XR storytelling to engage their employees, prospects and fans.