DALLAS -- The Triarc Restaurant Group is preparing to launch a pilot project involving a series of training modules designed to bring equipment education to the store level.
Officials of the quick-service restaurant company developed the program in conjunction with the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers, Chicago, and made the announcement during the NAFEM's biennial convention here.
"This project provides a platform for NAFEM, equipment manufacturers, service-agency representatives and for us in the Triarc Restaurant Group to work together to provide some quality information and educational tools for the end user," said Lynne Weisenfels, director of training and development for the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based TRG.
The first module, dedicated to sandwich preparation, will be sent to managers at units of Triarc's Arby's chain later this fall. Other tasks to be covered include fry stations, ventilation/fire suppression, counter service/dispensing and food receiving and storage. According to Weisenfels, applicable equipment used in each of the functions will be covered. For example, under sandwich preparation, the list of fixtures discussed includes microwave and convection ovens, and slicers. In all, 10 pieces of equipment used throughout Arby's restaurants will be discussed in the various modules, she said.
Ultimately, generic formats of the pilot project will be available through the NAFEM. Triarc officials said these programs will not only allow operators to enjoy immediate benefits, like longer-lasting, better functioning equipment, but improved worker morale, better-quality food and greater customer satisfaction.
"Most chains are going to spend somewhere from 1% to 3% of their [profit and loss] in the repair and maintenance area, so that's a significant amount of money," said Steven Jones, Triarc's director of operations. "Without proper training, and without proper understanding of the care, cleaning and maintenance on a piece of equipment, you get into a nasty thing we all have to deal with, and that's a service call."
A typical service call can be very expensive, ranging upwards of $200 per visit, said Jones. That cost is compounded by lost profits since a broken piece of equipment cannot make products. Additionally, employees are more likely to quit if the equipment is troublesome.
"They will leave if they're faced with consistent problems where they don't have a piece of equipment that is working properly or a piece that is not doing what it's supposed to do, because it's very frustrating to them and makes them feel like they cannot do their job properly," he said.
Poorly functioning equipment does have an effect on worker safety and morale. Jones cited statistics from the National Restaurant Association/Coca-Cola "Industry of Choice" study, which found a direct correlation between working conditions and the rate of employee retention. Industry figures indicate that each departing worker costs an employer $1,700, and orienting a new hire costs as much as $2,500. The bottom line is more wasted money, said Jones.
Equipment doesn't even have to be out of service to lose money. Malfunctioning devices create inferior food, and affect customer satisfaction. This is yet another component that the pilot project seeks to remedy through employee education.
After gathering information on best practices and care for the specific equipment from nearly 130 NAFEM manufacturer members, Triarc officials developed a two-tiered training process, and materials for store-level managers.
Weisenfels stressed that the modules are not meant to take the place of a manufacturer's "use and care manual," but are designed to augment operation and facilitate employee training.
"This is not intended to be a repair program," she said. "It is an equipment-optimization program."
The initial module on sandwich preparation is divided into four sections: Overview/Components, Best Practices, Troubleshooting, and Preventative Maintenance. Future subjects will follow the same format, said Weisenfels.
In the case of microwave ovens -- one of the devices used to make Arby's sandwiches -- the overview includes a list of the major components of the device; recommendations for installation and placement ("Ensure the power source is a three-prong, grounded outlet"); and basic operation. Under a fourth heading called repairs, readers are advised to call an authorized service representative who uses manufacturer-approved parts.
The best practices page divides its subject into four subsets, each with recommended steps for prevention, and objectives: Worker Safety, Food Safety, Food Quality and Equipment Function/Reliability. For example, under Worker Safety, the recommended step is "use safety oven mitts to remove product from oven;" followed by the objective, to "prevent burns when removing product from the oven."
Likewise, under Food Quality, obeying the recommended step, "completely temper or slack [defrost] food," will "prevent partially frozen food."
Part three, troubleshooting, lists a number of common symptoms, such as "inconsistent/increased cooking times," and provides a possible cause and solution, respectively.
The final part of the microwave component of the module provides a suggested list of daily and weekly cleaning tasks, and suggestions that contribute to improved equipment performance.