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NRA_Show_KevinHostetter_Auntie_Anne_s_Paul_Bradley_PlayerLync_Scott_Shotter_Back_Yard_Burgers_Micah_Hardt_CEC_2019May18.jpg Ron Ruggless
At the NRA Show panel on "Create a Consistent Brand With Modern, Mobile Technology," from left: Kevin Hostetter, director of training at Auntie Anne's, Paul Bradley, director of product management of PlayerLync, Scott Shotter, CEO of Back Yard Burgers, and Micah Hardt, director of CEC Entertainment Inc.

Digital training platforms can give expanding brands an edge

NRA Show panel discusses benefits in creating consistent brand experience

This is part of NRN’s special coverage of the 2019 NRA Show, being held in Chicago, May 18-21. Visit for the latest coverage from the show, plus follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Technology can help expanding restaurants maintain a consistent brand experience as their operations expand, panelists said in a presentation Saturday at the NRA Show in Chicago.

Effective technology-based training platforms can help restaurant general managers, especially in large and growing hospitality brands, keep the approach consistent, said Micah Hardt, director of training at Irving, Texas-based CEC Entertainment Inc., parent to the Chuck E. Cheese’s and Peter Piper Pizza concepts.

“Our general managers are the absolute hardest working people in the entire brand,” he said. “By simplify these processes, it makes the GMs’ jobs easier to do. When the GM has an easier job, they do better at it.”

Hardt said general managers are already wearing 300 hats.

“If I can take five hats away from them,” he said, “they are going to get better and they are going to get better wear out of those hats.”

On the panel titled "Create a Consistent Brand With Modern, Mobile Technology," Hardt joined Kevin Hostetter, director of training at Auntie Anne's, Scott Shotter, CEO of Back Yard Burgers, and Paul Bradley, director of product management of PlayerLync, a Denver, Colo.-based modern learning and performance management platform for deskless and mobile workers with easy-to-use search functions.

Communication also must extend to the franchise community, said Hostetter. Auntie Anne’s has 400 franchisees among its 1,200-plus units, so collaboration is a key part of the company’s mission.

Ten franchisee leaders serve on an advisory council meet quarterly with the corporate staff to discuss issues, Hostetter said, and conference calls twice a month. The company enhances communication with “state of the union” monthly addresses by the brand president that are pushed out to the system and on a weekly basis pushes out 10 to 15 new items posted on the training application.

The pad computer-based application in the restaurant provides all the latest information to the general managers, Hostetter said.

Shotter of Back Yard Burgers said the brand considers employees its No. 1 marketing tool, so learning and training software is funded through the marketing funds.

Hardt of CEC said that when the company was going through the process of digitizing training — going from the world of pen and paper to digital technology — it was a “weird purgatory.”

Taking the leap, he said, was helpful in the end.

“It forces you to re-evaluate how you do all your processes,” Hardt said. “When you are forced to adjust, you realize it might not have been right in the first place.”

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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