COMMENTARY

3 reasons why virtual reality is the future of training

June 7, 2017

By Tina Swanson, VP of customer experience, Restaurant Technologies

Nearly every brand grapples with training the staff they worked hard to recruit, which can be especially difficult without the appropriate resources in place.

In this safety-critical industry, much time and energy go into ensuring that both new and seasoned employees are properly trained. Workers need to be armed with the knowledge of how to operate high-tech equipment and deal with potential kitchen hazards such as slippery oil spills and dangerous grease fires.  

From educational videos and print materials to classroom-style processes, traditional teaching methods help workers imagine scenarios and dangerous accidents only in a theoretical context. However, what if employees were given the opportunity to actually immerse themselves in situations and practice responding to them? With virtual reality, this is what the future of restaurant training could look like.

VR is the use of computer-generated graphics to create lifelike sensory experiences and environments. Imagine using VR to simulate real back-of-house and front-of-house environments for training restaurant workers. In addition to positioning your restaurant at the forefront of innovation, VR training offers three main benefits:  

1. Absolute learning

According to the VAK Learning Styles Model, there are three types of learners: visual (65 percent), auditory (30 percent) and kinesthetic (5 percent). The use of VR as a training tool combines these distinct learning styles into one experience, offering the most effective learning process possible for all trainees.

No matter their learning style, most people find it easier to retain information if the learning experience is enjoyable. Many VR users report they find the immersive 3D simulation fun and engaging, making the information they consume during the experience especially easy to recall later. This is good news for the QSR industry. Better-trained staff results in a more efficient restaurant and more satisfied customers.

2. Mitigate risk

While QSRs must train employees effectively, they don't have to incur additional risk to do so. One of the most significant benefits of VR training is its ability to simulate dangerous or risky scenarios within a controlled environment. VR is currently being used to conduct medical and combat training, as well as to simulate architectural walkthroughs – areas where mistakes can have serious repercussions. While mistakes can be made during simulations without anyone suffering real-world consequences, human errors are encouraged for learning purposes.

How would you traditionally train a BOH worker to perform tasks involving fire hazards such as handling and filtering hot cooking oil? Would you simply explain the time- and labor-intensive procedure? That won't stick. Set a grease fire in a mock kitchen? That's dangerous and expensive. With VR, you can virtually guide BOH workers through the process and even simulate a fryer fire so workers can learn proper protocols. This training enables restaurant managers to ensure their staff have hands-on experience dealing with one of the most common hazards in the food service industry while keeping risks and costs to a minimum.

3.Gain resources

It would be reasonable for such innovative training methods to come with a hefty price tag, but the cost of VR equipment is starting to stabilize as more providers enter the market. VR programs are a one-time expense that can prove cost-effective in the long run. Users can take part in as many training modules as required, tracking performance over a range of sessions to give visual and statistical feedback during ongoing assessments. This flexibility and convenience mean operators don't have to spend money on materials and resources used for repeat training and practice. Instead, trainees can engage with lifelike scenarios as often as necessary without additional costs to their employers.

VR now presents a viable opportunity for the food service industry to train personnel, particularly in the BOH. Day in and day out, these employees encounter kitchen hazards and operational hurdles, such as awkward spaces and open-kitchen concepts where customers have full visibility. Using VR technology, staff with various learning styles can undergo hazard response training within a controlled setting, which reduces risk.

While VR might never fully replace traditional training, it can supplement your current efforts and help alleviate labor challenges, making the entire training process faster, less expensive and more fun.


Topics: Hiring and Retention, Human Resources


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