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September 12, 2019 Ask the Experts: What is Mobile Learning and is it Right for My Restaurant?

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The world has gone mobile…so why hasn’t restaurant training?

That’s the question Bob Duprey set out to answer when founding Restaurant Playbooks. With over 40 years of experience in both the hospitality and online learning industries, Bob merged his two areas of expertise with a mission of transforming restaurant training as we know it.

Through Restaurant Playbooks, Bob and his team provide training the way many of today’s employees want to learn: on their smartphones. After all, as of June 2019, 94% of Americans ages 18-49 own a smartphone.

While mobile training for restaurants is just one service offered by Restaurant Playbooks, we asked Bob to explain how it all works.

Here’s what he had to say…

Buzztime) Let’s start with the basics: what exactly is mobile learning for restaurants?

Bob) Mobile learning is a form of digital learning (also known as eLearning) that happens through the aid of a mobile device.

It could be a bartender watching a YouTube mixology tutorial on their tablet. Or, mobile learning for restaurants could involve a manager listening to a podcast through her smartphone on her way to work. It may be taking a college course on any of these 5 online learning platforms.

Here at Restaurant Playbooks, we offer training courses that both managers and employees can complete on their mobile devices.

I want to mention here that mobile learning is distinct from online and digital learning in that it considers the size of the device.

You can’t just squeeze a desktop or laptop online learning experience into a 5-inch screen! For example, online learning components like long paragraphs, training questions that require lengthy typed responses, or videos with too much detail all won’t work on a mobile device.

It’s similar to today’s websites: you’ll notice that most are “responsive” and automatically adjust to fit onto smaller screens. With mobile learning for restaurants, there’s no automatic adjustment – the instructional content must be intentionally built for a mobile audience.

When we create Restaurant Playbooks mobile learning courses, our instructional designers structure the content so that it is easily digestible on a small screen. The courses feature animations with minimal details and straightforward text, and are built for mobile interactions – like scrolls, swipes, and clicks. Even the timing of each module is intentional to prevent “cognitive overload.” Every course is then beta-tested with real managers and employees.

If you’re interested in exploring online or mobile learning for your restaurant, it’s so important that you do your homework. Not all eLearning programs are created equal.  

We created a guide and checklist for evaluating eLearning content providers. The checklist includes the tough questions that some eLearning vendors will hope you don’t ask. Please feel free to contact me for a copy.

Buzztime) Why do you think there has been a rise in mobile learning for restaurants? We’ve noticed it’s becoming very popular.

Bob) We are all device dependent, and we expect to access the information we need, wherever we are within seconds.

I believe that managers can leverage that device dependency to their advantage – and give their employees a better training experience.  

Traditional, offline-only training is linear. It only happens in one place, at one time. But what if an employee wants to refer back to what they learned? Or, challenge themselves to practice their skills? That’s where mobile learning for restaurants comes in…because it’s available on-demand 24/7. Mobile learning and training seamlessly fit into our smartphone-based society.

One caveat. You have to determine a mobile access policy that works for you. For example, you might only allow managers to access training on their personal phones, but provide several iPads for the rest of the team to access training during a pre-scheduled time allotment. The policy should ensure guests don’t get the impression the team are playing on their phones instead of ‘taking care of business’.

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Buzztime) Is mobile learning for restaurants meant to replace traditional training?

Bob) Not at all, it’s a way to enhance and increase the effectiveness of in-person training.

Here’s an example: after training waitstaff on product knowledge, you could provide them with access to a mobile learning tutorial they can access on a tablet. They can complete the tutorial during their scheduled training time.

Most importantly, this is how digital natives and millennials want to learn! We all have shorter attention spans, and do not want to be lectured at. With mobile learning for restaurants, your digital natives will feel empowered and in control of their training. You’re delivering information in a way that they are used to consuming it. Just think how you use YouTube or Google to get instant answers in your personal life.

Buzztime) From a manager’s perspective, why would they want to offer online and mobile learning for restaurants? What are the key benefits?

Bob) Here are3 key benefits…

  1. Time and cost savings: In general, online and mobile learning for restaurants can compress training times by about 50%. Primarily, that’s because training materials are self-paced and with the right eLearning company, they know how to optimize every second an employee spends with a training module. As for costs, you could save tens of thousands of dollars from not having to hire an in-person trainer.
  2. Consistency of content: We all know that consistency is key in the restaurant world! With mobile learning for restaurants, you’ll ensure every employee is getting the exact same information – so you can deliver a more consistent experience for guests. You’ll also benefit from the consistency of the mobile training itself. We like to say in the eLearning world that “there’s no bad day.” You don’t need to worry that a trainer is having an “off” day and isn’t doing his or her best job in training your team!
  3. Track and record progress: Digital learning allows you to check in with employees and monitor their progress. Again, this isn’t meant to replace in-person interactions. After all, a Gen HQ study found that 60% of your younger employees want in-person feedback from their managers a few times a week.

Buzztime) How could a restaurant adapt to online and mobile learning if they’ve only done in-person training so far?

Bob) Great question. Here at Restaurant Playbooks, we’re all about adaptability. Some of our clients prefer to print off the PDFs in our playbooks – and that’s ok.

You need to find a way to incorporate mobile learning for restaurants into your own operation. Here’s an example…

A well-known chain restaurant was one of the first to use eLearning for their employees. This was years ago, when computers were big and bulky. They didn’t know where to put the computer, so they turned a storage closet into an eLearning lab!

Employees could go into the “lab” and complete their self-guided eLearning courses. The pay off was remarkable. The average employee’s time to productivity was 3 days, as opposed to a week of traditional training. Turnover was reduced from 200+% to -70%.

We will work with our clients to help find a way to integrate online and mobile learning into their business. Sometimes, it’s as simple as setting up a mounted tablet near the POS station. Or, paying employees for their time spent engaged in mobile learning when they’re not at the restaurant.

Buzztime) If a manager or owner thinks mobile learning for restaurants would work within their business…how can they start off on the right foot?

Bob) First, you want to have buy in from your managers.

Explain that you’re considering adding mobile and online learning to your current training program – and touch on all the benefits for them (convenience, they can learn on their time, etc.). The next step is to identify outcomes you expect by adding this type of training. It’s also critical that you do a test run of the mobile and online learning platform before you officially open it up to your staff.

Here at Restaurant Playbooks are happy to answer any questions a manager or owner has about online and mobile learning for restaurants. Please feel free to contact me directly, here.

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