Knowledge bases are often used as part of training programs in the restaurant industry, but there is a common misconception among operations folks that simply providing information will lead to sufficient learning. In reality, effective training requires much more than just access to information. A proper training program ensures that restaurant staff absorb knowledge and apply it effectively in their roles.

Knowledge bases work best as supplements or tools within a broader training framework, not as standalone solutions. Consider a student's learning process: having a textbook is undoubtedly helpful, but the student will be much more successful if they attend classes, engage with teachers, participate in discussions, and complete assignments.

The same principle applies to restaurant employees. While a knowledge base can offer valuable resources and reference materials, restaurant employees will be far more successful if they participate in a comprehensive training program that includes interactive learning experiences, practical applications, and ongoing support.

In this article, we will explore the gaps in knowledge bases for restaurant training and emphasize the importance of integrating them into a well-rounded training strategy. 

Advantages of knowledge bases in restaurant training

While a comprehensive program is necessary, rather than leveraging knowledge bases on their own, knowledge bases offer several key benefits for restaurant training. 

Centralized access to information

Knowledge bases serve as central repositories of information from standard operating procedures to menu details. They ensure that all employees, regardless of their location, have instant access to the latest training materials and reference guides. 

Sets standards to train against

Knowledge bases provide standardized training materials that adhere to brand guidelines and service standards. From recipes to customer service protocols, employees are held to uniform training standards to create consistency within one location and across multi-unit restaurants. 

Readily available

They empower employees to engage in on-demand learning and access training materials whenever and wherever they need them. Whether it's refreshing their memory on plating techniques during a busy dinner rush or learning about a new seasonal dish before service, employees can quickly find the information they need to excel in their roles.

Common knowledge base software

Knowledge bases come in various forms, each offering unique features. Here are some commonly used knowledge base software:

  • Google Docs in Google Drive is a widely used tool for creating, storing, and sharing documents.
  • Basecamp is a project management and team collaboration tool that can also serve as a knowledge base.
  • Microsoft Teams offers file sharing, chat, and video conferencing and integrates with the Microsoft Office suite. 
  • Zendesk is primarily known for customer service, but its knowledge base feature can be leveraged for internal training.
  • Notion is a flexible workspace that combines notes, tasks, databases, and calendars in one platform.
  • Confluence, developed by Atlassian, is a powerful collaboration tool often used for creating and sharing knowledge bases.
  • Zoho offers a suite of applications, including a knowledge base module that can be used for training purposes.

Disadvantages of knowledge bases for restaurant training

Knowledge bases are made even more effective when they're coupled with a comprehensive training program. These areas of restaurant training are often missing in even the most effective knowledge bases, and are supplemented by a full training program. 

Lack of use

One of the main reasons that knowledge bases fail is that they go unused. It’s comparable to having a large library that no one reads books from or enters. If restaurant staff don’t engage, then it’s useless. 

Minimal interactivity and engagement

Knowledge bases often lack interactive and engagement features that facilitate active learning. This is where blended learning comes in, incorporating interactive elements such as quizzes, simulations, and gamified learning experiences. Training needs to be an immersive journey rather than a static resource.

Poor personalization and adaptability

Knowledge bases often fall short in catering to individualized needs. They offer generic training materials that may not fully resonate with employees. They also lack the flow and prioritization of what to learn and in what order. Training programs need to be customized to ensure that training remains relevant, impactful, and specific to each restaurant location.

Lack of real-world practice

There’s often a gap when it comes to applying this knowledge and practicing in real-world scenarios. This discrepancy between theoretical understanding and practical application can hinder the effectiveness of training programs.

Lack of reporting

With knowledge bases in isolation, managers don’t have any visibility into the completion rate of each person and for each course. Plus there’s no way to measure the outcomes to understand how well someone understands a concept. You aren’t able to tell if people are actually learning from the program. 

How training programs can build on knowledge bases

Training programs can leverage knowledge bases as foundational resources to build comprehensive and effective learning experiences for restaurant staff. By integrating knowledge bases into training initiatives, restaurants can ensure that employees have access to up-to-date information, best practices, and standardized procedures.

For instance, take PLANTA, a full-service restaurant chain with 15 locations. They increased the number of trainings and reached nearly 100% completion when they switched from a document repository to Opus. Previously they had various training PDFs and spreadsheets that weren't easy to customize, and each location did things differently. Now, they know they have consistent service across locations because they have a single source of truth for training.

Here's how training can build on knowledge bases: 

Customized learning paths: Training programs can draw from information in knowledge bases, so trainers can design personalized training programs for specific roles and locations.

Interactive learning experiences: Training programs can incorporate quizzes, simulations, and interactive exercises based on knowledge base content. This hands-on approach not only reinforces learning but also enhances engagement and retention among employees.

Real-world scenarios: Training programs can use knowledge bases to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and real-world application. Talking through practical examples, case studies, and scenarios from the knowledge base can help employees understand how to apply their learning in the context of their daily responsibilities.  

Lori Goldstrohm of Taim creates interactive learning experiences for her employees using Opus and encourages them to apply critical thinking and creativity in the training program. Rather than having a recipe card that everyone follows to make falafel, she created a training program that focuses on educating, getting stakeholder buy-in, and measuring adoption.

Integrating knowledge bases with dynamic training modules can result in a strong training program for restaurant employees. With Opus, teams can include topic-specific documents in training modules, so training and the knowledge base are integrated and work together. Employees can access training materials on mobile devices, whether they are at a workstation or on the go. 

The restaurant industry must embrace these opportunities for growth and evolution in training practices. This shift not only improves operational efficiency and customer satisfaction but also contributes to a more rewarding and supportive work environment for restaurant staff.