Published On: March 27, 2018By
PODCAST - How does franchise training adoption affect business performance? Learn from Hooters, as learning leader Trista Kimber joins LMS tech analyst John Leh on the Talented Learning Show!


To learn more about this podcast series or to see the full collection of episodes visit The Talented Learning Show main page.



How can a popular global restaurant franchise ensure that brand standards are applied consistently in every location, every day?  And how does training adoption help ensure a consistent customer experience?

Today I discuss these questions and more with Trista Kimber, Director of Training and Design at Hooters of America – a popular casual dining chain with more than 400 locations in 42 states and 29 countries.

Trista has contributed to Hooters’ success for more than 15 years, in multiple training and development roles, and as a talent acquisition manager.  For the past two years, she has been responsible for development and delivery of training content and programs for management and hourly employees, worldwide.



Training plays a vital role in franchise success.  But franchisees are independent organizations.  So how can franchisors encourage training adoption?  It starts with listening to franchisees, early and often.



These days, it’s rare to find someone with such depth of experience in a single company.  How do you apply that operational know-how to training?

Early in my career, I had some very bad training experiences.  That taught me to imagine what could go wrong for others and do what I can to prevent it.

Free on-demand webinar: Franchise performance and the modern LMS - with independent learning tech analyst John Leh, March 2018


For example, with new hires, I put myself in their position and consider how training can influence how they feel about the company and how it can help them succeed in their role.

For hourly service-oriented roles, that can apply to a Hooters girl, a cook, a hostess and others.  We also have four salaried management-level roles, and I’ve worked in each of those, so I understand what they are facing.

Plus, multi-unit leaders need to learn the company and the franchise concept, but they’re also trying to open a restaurant and run a region or division. It’s important to remember that they are juggling all of these demands.

What kind of content is most important?

1) Brand standards.  We’re over 30 years old as a brand, and the brand experience – Hooters hospitality – is world-famous.  So we embed this into all of our content.

2) Compliance.  Because we’re an international organization, different franchisees have different regulations and localization needs.  So we share best practices, but give them leeway in how they apply it.

Sounds like a very franchisee-friendly approach.  Does that extend to the concept of “joint employer” regulations?  Is that a concern?

Yes, this is definitely a concern for us.  We make a lot of training content and resources available to franchisees, but we never say they have to use any of our materials.  That’s why we focus on the brand.

As long as they uphold brand standards, and those standards aren’t at odds with their local culture or regulations, then their training content and programs are their responsibility.  We make all of our resources available but they must decide what to use and how to use it.

So how do you know if a franchisee is adhering to your brand standards?

We have standardized measurements and we conduct audits – but I don’t mean audit in a negative sense.  Our franchise business directors work directly with individual franchisees in a consulting capacity to help them establish and maintain brand standards and manage their business.

Tell me more about the mix of content you provide…

It’s a combination of many things.  For each store opening, we send experienced hourly staff as on-the-ground trainers.  We have an LMS, so online learning and videos are available, along with classroom and on-the-job training.

We also offer live and recorded webinars and virtual classes.  And we have flashcards, workbooks and other printed materials.  So training is available for every learning preference.

Is the LMS a central repository for all of this content?

For Hooters of America, the LMS is our learning hub.  Franchisees have several choices.  They can use our LMS by simply paying a licensing fee to the LMS provider.  Or they can use our company intranet – all of our training materials are accessible there.

Do you need to replace your LMS? Learning tech analyst John Leh explains how to calculate costs and benefits in this webinar replay


And although most franchisees prefer to use the systems and tools we’ve already created, several prefer to use their own SCORM-compliant LMS.  They are free to upload any of the courses we make available.

What about personalization by role?

Our LMS is fairly advanced in that it lets us customize the environment for each franchisee, including a look-and-feel that fits the specific location and relevant roles for each learner.

Do you offer off-the-shelf content to employees and franchisees, or is it mostly custom, or both?

Most is proprietary, but for franchisees who use our LMS, we can share off-the-shelf content that was created primarily for our organization.  For example, multi-unit management expert Jim Sullivan will be speaking at one of our conferences, and we’re offering that session at no charge to all of our franchisees who use our LMS.

I’m sure your franchisees appreciate access to that kind of valuable content.  So, how do you know if your training content is successful?

For us, an important measure of success is what our guests say and do – whether it’s making a comment on social media, or calling our guest hotline and sharing feedback, or demonstrating their satisfaction through repeat restaurant visits.  We do look at compliance elements like training completions and restaurant scorecards.

Training adoption matters.  But one of the best ways to see if you’re making an impact is by observing employee behavior to see if they’re actually using what they were taught in training.

Do you notice any difference in employee performance at corporate-owned restaurants versus franchisee locations?

Not necessarily.  Some franchisees have a serious passion for training.  For example, we may offer one week of training focused on brand standards, while a franchisee requires new hires to complete four weeks of onboarding.  So just because a franchisee’s program doesn’t align directly with ours, I can’t say their training isn’t top-notch.

That makes sense.  So what advice would you recommend to franchisors who want to improve training adoption and impact?

It’s important to listen to franchisees.  If they’re not using a training program, find out why, and ask what they want.  Maybe it’s not applicable in their area or it’s not feasible within their budget.

You won’t know unless you talk with them.  Have roundtables and generate ideas together.  They may have systems or processes in their franchise group that you’ll find valuable to offer at a corporate level.

If franchisees feel they’ve had a say in what you’re working on, they’re much more willing to support whatever you roll out – whether it’s a training program, a menu item, or some change to your brand.  They want and deserve to have a sense of ownership.






Franchise Performance and the Modern LMS

Free on-demand webinar: Franchise performance and the modern LMS - with independent learning tech analyst John Leh, March 2018


How can training innovation elevate franchise business performance?  Learn from real-world examples!

Training plays a central role in the world’s most successful franchise organizations.  But what does it take to deliver effective learning programs to a network of independent partners?

Join John Leh, CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning as he hosts a special panel discussion with franchise learning experts:

  • Trista Kimber, Director of Training & Design at Hooters of America
  • Christine Shanks, LMS Administrator at International Dairy Queen

In this dynamic one-hour session, you’ll get practical, proven advice about training best practices that lead to franchise business success. For example, you’ll learn how to:

  • Balance your organization’s learning objectives with those of franchisees
  • Leverage your LMS as a marketing and demand generation tool to recruit new partners
  • Engage learners in onboarding and ongoing experiences that ensure compliance
  • Streamline content development, delivery and other operational tasks
  • Identify key LMS features that drive franchise partner performance
  • Measure learning progress and tie metrics to business results



If you haven’t already subscribed to The Talented Learning Show, you can tune-in now with whatever method you prefer:

Thanks for listening!

About the Author: John Leh

John Leh is Founder, CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning and the Talented Learning Center. John is a fiercely independent consultant, blogger, podcaster, speaker and educator who helps organizations select and implement learning technology strategies, primarily for extended enterprise applications. His advice is based upon more than 25+years of learning-tech industry experience, serving as a trusted LMS selection and sales adviser to hundreds of learning organizations with a total technology spend of more than $100+ million and growing. John would love to connect with you on Twitter or on LinkedIn.
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