Krystal’s director of training explains how his team generated business results and buy-in using learning management and on-site event strategy.

Consistency is vital for a restaurant chain with hundreds of locations. Training plays a crucial role in ensuring brand standards across an organization. For this reason Krystal, a Southern quick-service hamburger brand that operates more than 360 locations, conducts annual refocus events to ensure that employees know how to make the perfect Krystal hamburger.

“The Krystal hamburger is in 80 percent of our orders after breakfast,” says Richard Fletcher, director of training for Krystal. “It’s the most important item we sell, and we want to make sure it’s made consistently, so our guests are satisfied every time they visit.”


This consistency is critical to the guest experience, regardless of location or the time of day. In the last year, however, Krystal’s customer service, speed, and overall satisfaction survey scores were dipping. Additionally, high industry-wide turnover made it difficult to guarantee that all employees received the same thorough training messages. The company’s president gave Fletcher and his team a directive to use training to boost the execution of making the Krystal hamburger across the brand, so they decided to try a new training model. In traditional training, or cascading training, the company president would tell the director of training what he wanted employees to know. Then the training team would disseminate that training to district managers, who would teach general managers. Then general managers would give those messages to 6,000 employees. “The traditional cascade model is a lot like the telephone game,” Fletcher says. “It dilutes the message each step of the way. Not only did we think that’s an old, long, fairly expensive, and maybe less effective approach to raising awareness of what we want everybody to know, it’s also boring, so we decided to make it an exciting event.” That’s when the team decided to take training on the road for a series of events called “The Perfect Krystal Tour,” which was set up to resemble a concert tour. Using the Krystal Cruiser—a vehicle that contains two fryers, five grills, and enough kitchen equipment for the brand to sell Krystals at events—the team drove 3,500 miles to visit 13 cities in four weeks to deliver hands-on training. Because the truck was on-site and fully equipped, Krystal could keep their stores’ doors open for business. The Krystal team also wanted to use this as an opportunity to raise awareness for the brand and give back to the community. Instead of selling burgers made during training or throwing them away, they were given to people outside charitable organizations, such as a Boys & Girls Club location and the Give Kids the World Village, where Make-A-Wish Families stay in Orlando before going to Disney World. Then, instead of using a traditional learning model or classroom-only learning, the team used “flipped learning,” in which general managers completed instructional content before the event via their LMS, Clarifi Talent Development from HotSchedules. They also completed a classroom component with regional managers. This allowed the event to focus on interactive hands-on training that was both educational and entertaining. During the event, general managers were trained on what makes Krystal burgers perfect and practiced making them.

“By flipping the model and having them review content before they do the event, the event is not really a presentation, and it’s not boring,” Fletcher says. “Instead, managers were practicing what we had them watch.” Additionally, there were competitions to see who could dress the most Krystal burgers perfectly in the shortest amount of time to make it more entertaining. Finally, district managers were required to visit each of the general managers at their stores after the event and determine whether they were making Krystal burgers correctly. They then checked off each manager using the Clarifi Talent Development system. Fletcher says this was the most important aspect of the training. “With traditional training, no one follows up, so nothing happens,” he says, “But the software has a terrific on-the-job training component, which is a checklist that we leveraged here in a big way last summer.” Flipping the learning strategy and following up with intentional training ensured that the message was taken back to stores where it could improve customer satisfaction. “Brands focused on developing and deploying a great training strategy in 2018 should be focused on making business impact; otherwise, why do it? ” Fletcher says. “We measured who was there and if they got their checklist done, and we also measured the business impact.” The result? In the 30 days following the training events, the leadership team saw improvement on their overall satisfaction scores from guest surveys. Krystal managers responded favorably as well, with higher than average satisfaction scores. In fact, manager turnover stabilized in the fourth quarter, only a quarter after the events were held. “I think by spending money on [general managers], we showed that we’re here for them and they’re important,” Fletcher says. Now, district managers are asking for the training in their districts. “They see what a fun, great training event looks like and see how the technology can help people drive accountability,” he says. Though the Perfect Krystal Tour is now over, Fletcher and his team are running a pilot to introduce the digital component of the training to store-level employees. Once the pilot is complete, the plan is to roll out the training chain-wide through the Clarifi Talent Development learning and performance management system from HotSchedules. “People generally hate learning management systems because there is a perception they aren’t effective, but HotSchedules is leading the industry to make them more usable and engaging,” Fletcher says. “I’m proud to say that my restaurant operators want to do the training again and that we made a difference to the business. I’m also proud that they’re asking for more training, because that’s the true measure of buy-in from stakeholders.”

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