Targeted Training to Instill Brand Culture and Improve Guest Experience at a Concept Restaurant

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About the Client

Chicken Salad Chick, America’s only southern inspired, fast casual chicken salad restaurant, was founded in 2008 in Auburn, Alabama, by Stacy and Kevin Brown. What started as a small takeout restaurant quickly grew through the Southeast. The founders believe in instilling a strong culture of hospitality across all team members and locations, and pride themselves on delivering southern style chicken salad served from the heart. Approximately 75% of Chicken Salad Chick locations are franchised, with the remaining 25% being company owned. The franchise owners are carefully selected, ensuring that the Chick culture is maintained to the highest degree.

Business Challenge

It all began in the year 2013 when Chicken Salad Chick started growing at a rapid pace. By July of 2013, it already had six locations, was still expanding its franchise sales and planned new openings. There was a need to quickly onboard team members, acclimate them into the brand culture and build their confidence. The training curriculum needed to satisfy these needs by providing newly hired team members with the knowledge and skills to be successful. The more confident they become, the more their personality shines through when interacting with other team members and guests and the better they are able to reflect the Chicken Salad Chick culture.

Initially, new restaurant training was conducted in person by the two founders, and later by a team of corporate trainers. But there was no training for team members on an ongoing basis. The original team members could execute brand standards in the restaurants because they had the knowledge and skill to do so; however, newly hired team members’ knowledge and skills in these existing restaurants varied greatly depending on who showed them what to do when they were hired.

How Harbinger helped?

Harbinger realized that the Chicken Salad Chick team needed a solution that would standardize training in every restaurant and removed the variability witnessed between the trainers in each of its restaurants. The Harbinger team in association with the Chicken Salad Chick team chose and implemented a blended learning approach in the form of a Team Member Development Program.

The overarching goals of this program were to:

  • Quickly build the newly hired team member’s confidence so they can deliver a superb service experience in a fun, simple, cost-effective manner

  • Maintain Brand standards in existing restaurants

  • Grow guest counts, sales and profits

The program featured:

  • Online courses targeted to specific audiences to present the required knowledge through video, interactive activities and other training methods

  • Hands on practice outlines used to develop associated skills through on-the-job practice and lead the trainer and newly hired team member through the practice session, standardizing the training experience for everyone

  • Online checklists to validate the necessary knowledge and skills have been learned

Course highlights

The target audience was analyzed to be enthusiastic and culturally diverse, young males and females, with no knowledge of Chicken Salad Chick (CSC) processes and procedures. Based on this analysis, Harbinger decided that short courses were to be created, ranging from 10-15 minutes, to engage young learners and specialized skills were to be complemented with hands-on training. Each course needed to have a learner-centric design and also needed to enable learners to connect the learning to the real world.

31 eLearning courses were decided to be designed grouped under the following categories:

  • Essential Skills which are skills needed by all team members

  • Expert Skills based on the role the team member fills in the restaurant which includes Prep, Sandwich Line and Service

To bring the organizational vibe and culture into the training, the Harbinger team used the following:

1. Relatable Caricatures
Caricatures of key employees were used as mentors in the courses. The caricatures ranged from the owner of the restaurant chain to representatives from each work delivery.

2. Real Voices and Pictures
We used real voices of the owner and the employees instead of voices by professional artists. Actual photographs of the restaurant, the menu, the staff and customers were also inserted at relevant places to create a familiar look and feel.

3. Real Processes
Real-time videos of various activities and processes performed in the restaurant were used. These included videos on cooking, cleaning, and even customers being served.

4. Identical Colors and Graphics
A very colorful user interface was developed for the courses and this was captured from the restaurant’s real look and feel. Relatable elements like the chick with the basket and the fluorescent green background; were used through most of the courses.

5. Gamified Design
Gamification elements were included in the relevant courses. Countdowns, timers and badges helped with this. Quick quizzes and knowledge checks were incorporated as assessments. This made the learning process fun and it also helped employees perform better by encouraging healthy competition.

Below are some screenshots from the program:

Business Benefits and Impact on Learners

There have been many measurable benefits from this program’s implementation. Chicken Salad Chick rolled out the team member development program on 4/25/2016. Since then about 400 students have already completely 4700+ courses. Chicken Salad Chick’s Learning Management System (LMS) allows users to provide three levels of feedback: comments, ratings on a 1 to 5-star system and likes.

The learners have been very positive about the training program and its courses. 46 ratings have been received within 6 months from the day the courses were launched. All of these ratings have been either 5/5 stars or 4/5 stars. They’ve have also had 201 ‘Likes’.

Among some learner comments received for the most viewed courses are:

  • Team Member Orientation…helpful information for new hires

  • Welcome to Chicken Salad Chick…Love it, gives a great feeling to what Chicken Salad Chick is about

  • Service Session 1: Menu Knowledge…I like the courses and how simple to understand they are. Sometimes seeing it before actual training will give them a better understanding of what we mean during training.

This feedback shows that the learners like the content, and feel it is helpful. The key trainers feel the courses are helping new team members learn more quickly than the previous program. New team members have shared that they think the courses are fun, simple and easy. The improved training also helped team members execute the brand standards at a higher level.

Capturing the Culture through Targeted Training

This case is a classic example of how targeted training can imbibe and impart the essence and the culture of an organization such that it reflects in each screen of every learning module developed. Such training, when implemented, also helps instill the same culture in all the learners who undertake it. We, at Harbinger, are proud to serve Chicken Salad Chick as their partner till date, and are also glad that we helped them achieve their goals and retain their Chick culture so beautifully.