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Companies look to training as antidote to economic downturn

Looking to improve sales despite the poor economy, many restaurant companies are overhauling their training and development programs in a bid to boost employee productivity.

From unveiling new Web-based and intranet programs to rolling out new training centers, operators across all segments are laboring to make employees as efficient as possible.

“We need our employees to sell more and waste less, and they can only do that with confidence if they are taught how,” said Kat Cole, vice president of human resources for Hooters of America, the Atlanta-based casual-dining chain with more than 470 units.

Hooters is making its employee testing available through its point-of-sale system so that it is more easily accessible, Cole said.

Carpinteria, Calif.-based CKE Restaurants Inc., the parent of the 1,185-unit Carl’s Jr. and 1,912-unit Hardee’s restaurant chains, announced Wednesday that it is creating Star Academy training centers for managers at its restaurants and rolling out a Web-based learning management system for unit-level employees. The company also will provide its domestic and international franchisees access to the training programs.

The Star Academy will take an MBA-like approach by providing extensive management-level classroom instruction and training for both quick-service brands.

Effective and assessable training is essential as Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s continue to expand, said Andrew Puzder, CKE’s chief executive.

Which Wich?, a Dallas-based fast-casual sandwich chain, is building an online library of training programs for both hourly employees and franchisees, said T.J. Schier, the chain’s director of operations. Which Wich has more than 50 units.

Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp., the San Diego-based parent of the Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes restaurant brands, is transferring all of its paper-based testing to the company’s intranet. The company also plans eventually to begin offering its Garden Fresh University courses online, said Natalie Greenwald, senior development specialist for Garden Fresh.

Meanwhile, Maggiano’s Little Italy will roll out a new Web-based certification program for its front-of-the-house managers and chefs and sous chefs, said Kirstie Johnson, senior manager of training for the 42-unit division of Brinker International in Dallas.


Contact Dina Berta at [email protected].

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