Published in Spring 2023

In a franchised restaurant business, comprehensive, engaging and effective training is critical to success. At American Dairy Queen Corporation (ADQ), the curriculum team is responsible for training DQ® franchise owners’ employees who work at approximately 5,000 restaurants in the U.S. and Canada.

Recently, the ADQ curriculum team was tasked with developing and implementing more efficient and effective restaurant manager candidate training that met three goals:

    • Increase knowledge proficiency.
    • Build upon continuous improvement skills.
    • Apply knowledge and skills in restaurants to improve business outcomes.

The Methodology

The ADQ curriculum team used two distinct methodologies to reach desired outcomes: Norman Webb’s Depth of Knowledge and a flipped classroom delivery model.

Depth of Knowledge

During curriculum development, instructional designers wrote training objectives to align with external industry standards, including the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation. Each training objective was categorized to a specific level of rigor using Norman Webb’s Depth of Knowledge. Depth of Knowledge levels range from one through four, with one being the least rigorous and four being the most rigorous. For example, level one training objectives direct a learner to recall content while level four training objectives require a learner to apply knowledge and engage in critical thinking.

By incorporating the Depth of Knowledge framework, the program was built with the final goals for manager candidate performance in mind. Identifying the more rigorous content and skills allowed instructors to focus on those training objectives and allocate more time for manager candidates to reach knowledge and skill proficiency as well as apply both in-restaurant.

Flipped Classroom Delivery

In a standard classroom format, instructors teach content and assume application and understanding occur. Instructors then build upon knowledge, skills and abilities and further assume knowledge is retained.

By contrast, the flipped classroom delivery model enables more flexibility for practice and application, especially in a virtual training environment, and puts learning in the hands of manager candidates. Content review and application happen prior to meeting with manager candidates. Instructor-led time focuses on answering questions uncovered during content review and minimizing knowledge and skill gaps identified during the application stage. This empowers instructors to focus on discussing the content previously reviewed, refining learnings, analyzing and identifying areas for improvement in restaurants and applying knowledge and skills to pursue continuous improvement. Instructors then assess if more interventions or content reviews are needed and address them in real time.

The Support

Setting clear expectations, communicating frequently and providing ongoing support to manager candidates throughout the program proved critical to success.

Expectation Setting and Communication

Expectations were set and frequently communicated to manager candidates. Assignments were explained clearly to ensure manager candidates knew what was expected and when. Assignments were reiterated at the end of each instructor-led training and on a virtual discussion board. Manager candidates were expected to review content, apply weekly learning assignments and present analysis and best practices during the next virtual class.

Manager candidates were also expected to take ownership of a capstone project where they applied what they learned during weekly assignments to identify an opportunity in their restaurants and develop and implement a plan to improve their practices.

Manager candidates understood that they owned their learning journey.

Instructors and Coaches

In addition to instructors, in-restaurant coaches were assigned to manager candidates to increase learning throughout the program.

During virtual classroom sessions, instructors and coaches refined manager candidates’ learnings through activities and discussion. They asked manager candidates questions to empower learning, share best practices and analyze opportunities in restaurants.

To support the capstone project, instructors and coaches encouraged manager candidates to practice higher-level skills such as strategic thinking and problem-solving, identifying business opportunities in restaurants and developing and implementing plans to address them. This coaching included empowering manager candidates to identify business opportunities, develop action plans, execute action plans using training and communication, anticipate and remove obstacles, collect relevant data and analyze results to develop future plans. The intent behind the project was to build continuous improvement skills in manager candidates that could be replicated upon program completion.

The Results

At the outset, the program had three primary goals: increase knowledge proficiency, build upon continuous-improvement skills and apply knowledge and skills in restaurants to improve business outcomes. All three goals were met and many unintended benefits made the program even more compelling.

All manager candidates passed knowledge proficiency at 85% or higher and all shared that they were equipped to apply the continuous improvement skills they learned in DQ® restaurants where they worked. As a result of the capstone projects, all manager candidates felt confident in their abilities to improve their restaurants and reach business outcomes. The capstone projects completed during the program led to impressive business outcomes, including, but not limited to, a 2% decrease in food waste cost and a 28% increase in sales using more targeted suggestive-selling techniques.

In Conclusion

The ADQ curriculum team found success in using Depth of Knowledge and the flipped classroom model to deliver manager candidate training more successfully and to meet its three primary training goals. Additionally, ADQ instructors and manager candidates realized unintended benefits that made training more efficient and effective.

Based on the success of the program, the ADQ curriculum team will continue using Depth of Knowledge and the flipped classroom model in its manager candidate training programs to pursue knowledge proficiency, continuous improvement and in-restaurant applications that meet and exceed business outcomes.