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Switching Channels

Forget the training class as we know it. Damon's franchisees use big-screen TVs to train their employees.

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The cost of training is one of the most pressing concerns of many prospective franchisees. To minimize the cost, and to ensure all employees receive the same training, Shannon Foust, president and CEO of barbecue franchise Damon's, has created a program that allows franchisees to utilize the big-screen televisions and point-of-sale terminals in their restaurants to train franchisees.

Through the training program, which is currently in the testing stage, Damon's streams videos to the big screens at each of its locations, covering topics typically addressed in training manuals, like food preparation and company procedures. Each Damon's location has four big screen TVs along with tabletop speakers, allowing franchisees to simultaneously train different employee groups, such as servers and cooks.

The point-of-sale terminals also act as a training tool. When employees clock in, they're shown a 60- to 90-second video updating them on new promotions or refreshing them on topics like up-selling.

The innovative format "is more conducive to how younger people learn today," Foust explains.

Because the videos are produced at Damon's recently constructed learning center, the company can quickly update materials to reflect new items, promotions and policies, something that's harder to do with print manuals.

Foust hopes this program will not only improve restaurant operations, but also help its franchisees retain employees. "Ultimately we hope it reduces our turnover, because people are better prepared to do their job," he says.

But Foust's goals extend beyond molding more competent employees-he believes the program can help his employees become better people. "Since we have the infrastructure in place to do this, why not teach them about other important things that relate to their life outside of Damon's?" he reasons. "These are young people. At that age, I didn't know how to secure a mortgage and I didn't know the difference between leasing and buying a car."

Once the training program launches later this year, Foust sees education becoming a part of the average Damon's day, whether employees are learning how to make a new drink or finding out how to buy a car. "We want to create a culture of learning," he says. "Learning is an ongoing process, and I want employees to say, 'Gosh, I can't wait to see what they're going to teach us next month."