Restaurants often have high employee turnover, complex systems to learn, and a strong need for reliable customer service. All of those hinge on employee training to run efficient and effective operations. Restaurants are turning to learning management systems (LMS) to streamline the training process and ensure consistency across staff members.

As businesses in the restaurant industry move away from traditional paper or live training methods, there's a shift toward blended learning with online and in-person components. This holistic approach to training allows for flexibility, personalization, and a more engaging learning experience for restaurant employees. 

Introducing a restaurant LMS doesn't happen overnight. Restaurants that spend time and effort preparing their training programs for a new technology see the most success. This article dives into everything you need to know as you prepare for implementation. 

What is a restaurant learning management system (LMS)?

A restaurant learning management system (LMS) is a software platform designed specifically for training and development within the restaurant industry. It serves as a centralized hub for creating, delivering, and managing training content for restaurant employees. When teams use a restaurant LMS strategically, they see huge benefits. 

Benefits of a restaurant LMS

Consistent delivery of the product and guest experience: Increased training completion results in greater consistency and increased customer retention. Teams that use Opus have an average of 98% completion. For example, Ford’s Garage saw employee adoption that was 4x higher than their previous LMS, when they switched to Opus. Plus, it takes the team 2 hours to create training courses, compared to the previous 3 months. 

Increased profitability: Your team will spend less time managing and training, and employee turnover will be less than the industry average of 75%. A restaurant LMS helps boost employee engagement and reduce ongoing labor costs. Opus training programs see a 60-70% reduction in training labor.

Improved compliance: A standardized training program helps you maintain regulatory compliance year-round. At Vanderbilt University, all employees are required to be trained in allergen safety. When the team partnered with Opus, 88% of employees passed the allergen training course within 30 days—that’s 3x faster than in-person training. Plus the pass rate increased by 10%. 

Reduced manager burden: With Opus, managers spend 40% less time on manager admin. At Just Salad, managers saved 4,000+ hours using the Opus training platform. Instead, that time is spent on customer service, driving revenue, and working with employees.

While those benefits sound great, it’s not enough to just buy a restaurant LMS and call it a day. You should be wary of common reasons that LMSs fail. 

Why a typical LMS fails for restaurant employees

  1. Training is hard for employees to access. Often it’s cumbersome to sign in, select the language preference, and choose the course format. For instance, simple things like logging in can be a blocker. Often an LMS requires an email address to log in, but restaurant employees aren’t given an email address. This small piece requires that IT gets involved in creating email addresses, and that can cause extra headaches for your team. With a diverse workforce combined with the day-to-day challenges of the restaurant industry, creating a training program that’s accessible anytime, anywhere is vital to training success.
  2. You haven’t standardized what needs to be trained yet. You haven’t updated your process documents, and you spend too much time documenting rather than using your LMS. Or you only use the LMS for a small percentage of your total training needs and most of your training is still done in person or on the fly. The result is not taking full advantage of your LMS. 
  3. Creating training courses takes too long. Training content creation and delivery needs to be fast to keep pace with rapid changes and the pace of restaurant operations. If it takes too much time, it will be harder to prioritize and you won’t take full advantage of consistent training. 
  4. Leadership (execs or the field) aren’t bought in. Getting your stakeholders on board should be a top priority. Without field leadership buy-in, you’ll struggle with adoption and therefore won’t see results. If executives don’t understand the value of an LMS, getting the budget for an LMS will be a challenge, or they may have outsizes expectations of what you can do. 

Opus also helps address other less common reasons that a restaurant LMS fails.

  • Lack of product and service standards yet
  • No skills mapping to each role/level
How Opus helps address common challenges. With Opus, you can create and deliver on-the-job training that builds skills quickly. Training is mobile-first, media-rich, and auto-translated into 100+ languages. You can build training content fast and make updates in real-time.

How to prepare for a smooth and successful implementation

Choosing an LMS isn’t an overnight choice. It requires gathering the right information and involving the appropriate people from the beginning to set the implementation up for success. To maximize the benefits of your LMS, here are some steps to prepare your training program for success: 

1. Identify internal resources for training

The success of your LMS implementation starts with identifying and allocating internal resources dedicated to training leadership at the corporate level. This role requires a comprehensive understanding of training methodologies, practical experience, and proficiency in IT systems, among other competencies. It's essential to designate a dedicated training leader to spearhead the training initiative effectively. Without one, you risk stalling the launch and effectiveness of the program.

Allocating a budget specifically for training technology and content development is equally crucial. Recent trends show a marked increase in L&D spending, with 63% of hospitality leaders indicating a rise in their training investments over the past few years, according to the Hospitality Training 360 Report. However, only 65% say they expect a slight increase in training spending, suggesting a need to catch up following the pandemic.

Key questions to ask yourself at this step:

  • Who will serve as the primary point of contact for training initiatives within the organization?
  • What other stakeholders or departments will be involved in the training process?
  • Who will be responsible for creating and updating training content, both initially and on an ongoing basis?
  • Have you allocated a budget for content creation, such as video production, to enhance the training experience?

Whether you’re working with an internal or cross-functional team, everyone needs to take ownership and responsibility for training.

Tip: Have a clear training owner, someone whose primary goal is success across all locations.

2. Assess training needs and define objectives

The next step involves assessing existing training gaps and challenges. This may involve evaluating the effectiveness of existing training methods, identifying areas where employees struggle or require additional support, and assessing feedback from both staff and customers. By conducting a thorough analysis, you can identify specific areas for improvement and set clear goals for the LMS implementation.

Once you've identified the gaps, define specific training objectives and goals for the LMS implementation. These objectives should be SMART—specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

For example, Lori Goldstrohm, VP of Training & People Development at taïm Mediterranean Kitchen set measurable objectives such as achieving a 95% completion rate for courses using Opus, receiving zero relevant guest complaints as reported by Tattle, and showcasing the best video of balling falafel through internal content.

Additionally, conduct a comprehensive training needs analysis to understand the skills and knowledge required for different roles within your restaurant. This should include job responsibilities, required competencies, and regulatory or compliance standards relevant to your industry.

Key questions to ask yourself at this step:

  • How is the workforce currently trained, and what are the strengths and limitations of existing training methods?
  • Have you established clear, measurable goals for the LMS implementation, and are they aligned with your restaurant's objectives?
  • Are your goals realistic given the resources available and the current state of your workforce?

By understanding the specific needs of your workforce and setting SMART goals, you can ensure that your LMS implementation addresses critical areas for improvement and drives tangible results while fostering a culture of continuous learning and development.

Tip: Tie your training objectives to specific business outcomes or key performance indicators (KPIs) to demonstrate the impact of training on operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.

3. Engage key advocates

It's essential to engage key advocates within your organization who can champion the initiative. These advocates typically include the frontline team, subject matter experts, and management.

Invite these key players from the outset of the implementation process, including them in the evaluation phase to assess LMS readiness. You can get valuable perspectives on the specific needs and challenges of each group to make sure that the LMS meets their requirements.

As you build content for the LMS, continue to leverage the expertise of frontline employees, subject matter experts, and management in developing training materials. Incorporating their knowledge and experiences into the content will not only enhance its relevance and effectiveness but also foster a sense of ownership and buy-in among stakeholders.

Key questions to ask yourself at this step:

  • What pain points does each team face in their current training processes, and how can a more robust training solution address these challenges?
  • What barriers are preventing teams from achieving their goals, and how can an LMS help overcome these obstacles?
  • How does the adoption of training software align with the current priorities and strategic objectives of the company?
  • How is the effectiveness of the training program evaluated currently, and what metrics or indicators are used to measure success?
  • What specific outcomes or improvements would the executive team expect to see as a result of implementing the LMS?

Involving frontline teams, subject matter experts, and management from the outset will ultimately improve the effectiveness and relevance of your training program. 

Tip: Make the training program and LMS implementation a team effort and give stakeholders a sense of ownership. 

4. Choose an LMS that truly delivers results

During the selection process, consider factors such as user-friendliness, scalability, and integration capabilities. An LMS that is intuitive and easy to navigate will make it seamless for staff to use, while scalability ensures that the system can accommodate your restaurant as it grows. Integration capabilities are also crucial for seamless interaction with other systems and tools used in your restaurant operations.

But don't just stop at the features. It's important to note why LMSs typically fail: they may lack accessibility, fail to complement on-the-job training, or lack the ability for fast iteration. By understanding these common pitfalls, you can prioritize these aspects during your evaluation process and select an LMS that addresses these challenges effectively.

Ultimately, choose an LMS that aligns with the specific needs and requirements of your restaurant training program. Whether you prioritize interactive training modules, mobile accessibility, or robust reporting features, ensure that the LMS you select is tailored to meet your unique objectives and delivers tangible results for your organization.

Key questions to ask yourself at this step:

  • What are the top features of the LMS that align with our training goals and objectives?
  • Which LMS options are within our training budget parameters?
  • How does each LMS address the challenges of accessibility, on-the-job training complementation, and fast iteration?

Every team has different requirements for technology, so make sure the LMS you choose is suited for your restaurant and addresses the common pitfalls. 

Tip: Look beyond features and prioritize alignment with your training objectives.

5. Develop the curriculum

This step involves creating a comprehensive training plan that takes into account various factors such as the size of the initiative, the level of change, the audience, content format, and relevant learning techniques. Just as important is making sure that you have the right training program formats and structure, for instance ADDIE vs SAM models. 

Review and organize existing materials, including training manuals, videos, and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Determine which materials are still relevant and effective and which may need updating or revision.

In addition to reviewing existing materials, you'll also need to develop new training content tailored to the specific needs of your restaurant staff. This may include creating interactive modules, instructional videos, quizzes, and other engaging learning resources.

Organize the content into modules or courses within the LMS platform to make it easy for staff to navigate. Break down the content into manageable chunks to facilitate learning and retention.

Key questions to ask yourself at this step:

  • How are our current product, service, and processes documented?
  • Are these documents easily accessible to our staff?

Designing the curriculum requires a comprehensive understanding of which materials are most useful in the training process, and focusing on the right formats and program for training apprehension. 

Tip: Organizing content systematically within the LMS platform and breaking it down into manageable chunks can improve learning adoption and outcomes.

6. Test, learn, and iterate

During the rollout phase, a test, learn, and iterate approach will help you identify any challenges early on and address them as you go. First, you need to create a timeline for rollout across restaurant locations. The key is to start small, with a handful of employees before doing a mass launch. Avoid overwhelming them with a large training program at the start and instead gradually introduce them to the LMS. 

Provide comprehensive training on how to use the LMS effectively to administrators, managers, and frontline employees and how it will benefit them. Clearly communicate the reasons for implementing the LMS and demonstrate how it aligns with the organization's goals and objectives. When they understand its impact, they'll be more likely to adopt it. 

Overcome challenges early

Anticipate and address common challenges and obstacles encountered during implementation and adoption. Proactively identify solutions to mitigate potential issues and ensure a smooth transition.

Offer continuous support and resources to staff to ensure successful utilization of the LMS. Address any technical issues or training gaps promptly and provide additional training as needed.

Key questions to ask yourself at this step:

  • How is new training prioritized, developed, and rolled out to your teams?
  • What is your plan for implementing the new training solution?
  • Are your training materials short and digestible to prevent overwhelming staff?
  • What factors might be hindering employee adoption of the LMS?
  • How can you encourage more employees to complete courses once they've started?

Starting small, providing comprehensive training, and offering continuous support will help you improve training effectiveness and iterate as you build your training program. 

Tip: Prioritize clear communication, ongoing support, and manageable training materials to encourage course completion.

7. Monitor and evaluate

Monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of your restaurant training program is essential for ongoing improvement and success. Tracking and reporting, such as employee progress, time spent on training, and course completion rates, can give you valuable insights into the learning process. 

Additionally, feedback coupled with data from the LMS will help you refine and improve your restaurant training program. Staff feedback about their experience with the LMS and training content will highlight the strengths and weaknesses so you can make any necessary adjustments. Trends and patterns from the LMS can indicate if you're hitting your training goals. 

Key questions to ask yourself at this step:

  • How are employees using the LMS? Are they engaging with the training content regularly, or are there areas of low participation?
  • How are you tracking against your target goals for training completion and performance improvement?
  • What feedback have you received from staff regarding their experience with the LMS and training content? How can this feedback inform future improvements to the program?

Assessing key training metrics can help ensure our training efforts align with company objectives. 

Tip: Encourage open communication from staff to help improve the training program. 

Additional resources

Here are some additional resources that can help with preparing your training program for an LMS:

From identifying internal resources and assessing training needs to engaging key advocates and selecting the right LMS, each step is essential for success. By leveraging technology, such as an LMS, restaurant owners and managers can enhance training effectiveness and efficiency, ultimately driving business success. Embracing technology in training is not just a modernization effort but a strategic move towards staying competitive and meeting the needs of your restaurant workforce.