Rachael Nemeth, CEO of Opus, hosted an intimate chat with next-level leaders in the QSR restaurant space. They talked about what's working (and not) in the employee training space and how these learning & development leaders are innovating in the new era of restaurants. 

• John Isbell: VP Learning & Development, Portillo's
• Frank Palmieri: Senior People Operations, Fuku
• Kelly McCutcheon: VP People, Hopdoddy Burger

Where should we optimize for people and where should we leverage technology in training?

You can leverage technology in order to optimize the human experience, but it's never going to replace what is already happening with your key people. - Rachael Nemeth, CEO Opus

The truth is our, our industry and our frontline teams are not necessarily as tech savvy as those 20% of employees that are sitting at the desk all day. - Kelly McCutcheon Hopdoddy Burger Bar

What learning modalities work best for the frontline?

Sometimes we are naturally resistant to transformative change. But I'm now finding myself even more excited and anxious to package processes, make things more automated, and remove paper. I don't see employees lose their phone. So why don't we  present the content in a way they'll always have access to it? - Frank Palmieri, Fuku

I'm a big believer in giving people learning in the way that they can best consume it. We got to stop with the stigma of phones in a restaurant. We’ve got to start using phones. - John Isbell, Portillo’s

What parts of the employee training experience are we not leveraging enough? 

Studies are shown that if you watch somebody do something successfully - ring in an order, make a burger - and you can visualize that yourself, you can hit the ground running to be able to do that with a little bit of coaching. I think that technology and LMS can stand in for that. I think that's where we start. - Kelly McCutcheon

Don't set [employees] down in front of a computer. They're not used to that. They don't like that. Let them use their phone. We get information now in bits. Let's make it something that they can use. I do think the phone is a big deal. - John Isbell

What is engagement and what are our metrics for success in training?

Engagement is the interaction your team has with managers or other team members other than within the performance of their daily duties.  - John

How many people are promoted? Last year we had our first team member-to-general manager promotion. They went through all of the steps. That means that everybody can look at that person and say, “that's possible. I can do that at Hopdoddy”. - Kelly 

There's training where there's not enough feedback incorporated into it. That’s why we work with Opus, because there is that component. I think it's so important. - Frank

What do the next 10 years hold for employee training?

When I think about the future, it's about immersive training. That includes human touch. It also includes how can we engage with the things, the people, the environment around us, and actually leverage those things. We’re getting smarter, which is scary and amazing at the same time. - Rachael

I have a training philosophy that is a guest first, technology last. So wherever it evolves,  I think it has to be supportive of hospitality, which is what we all do. - Kelly

I think it’s about “choose your own adventure” and thinking about how you can set up this with AI and VR. I think that'd be so exciting and probably 10 years, it would just be the norm.  - Frank

I do think technology is going to evolve so much that it's going to make our lives so much easier to train. - John 

Watch the full conversation