H.E.B’s Central Market invests in its bakers
| Central Market sent employees to the CIA to develop new bread and pastry varieties for its seven in-store bakeries. |
To demonstrate its dedication to scratch baking and develop new bakery products, Central Market sends bakery employees to culinary school.
“The key component is the staff understanding the ins and outs of baking. With most of our items made from scratch, it is critical to achieve consistency in the final product,” says Edouard Damez, bakery/deli/cheese business development manager for Central Market.
Since the program was implemented in 2005, the company has sent three groups of employees for training at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, N.Y. Each group consisted of two employees from each location, and for one week they learned production techniques for 20 new products and performed some general baking coursework. Two of the training sessions covered bread, and the third focused on pastries. More such sessions are in the works.
Before sending the employees to CIA, Central Market management holds brainstorming sessions to generate the new products they want culinary school instructors to help them develop. Ideas come from customers, employees and current trends, such as the emphasis on whole grain and incorporating white wheat flour. After Central Market management selects the products, the employees are chosen. Bread and pastry require different skills, so the employees going to the training sessions vary, Damez says.
To be chosen, the employees have to be knowledgeable of the basics of baking, he adds, and they have to be able to train their fellow employees once they return. Time of employment is not a factor. Titles of those selected for the program range from production managers to bakery managers to lead bakers.
“We see it as a big reward to be selected to go. We value what they do, and it was a great opportunity for them. They were all excited,” he adds.
Once the employees return to the bakeries, they introduce the production methods for the 20 new items to their staffs. “When they got back to their bakeries, we gave them a period of time for in-house training before launching the products,” Damez says. “We don’t want to use customers as the training ground. All systems need to be in place before introducing the new product to customers.”
Items are not rolled out at all once. After a training session, the bakeries introduce about three items a week until all 20 products are phased in. The culinary school training allows Central Market to show its customers that it goes the extra mile to bring them new products, Damez adds.
One of the main benefits of the training is that it allows bakers from all the Central Market bakeries to meet and begin a team building process. It is much easier to ask for help from someone you have met than it is to call up a name on a piece of paper, he says.
“Everyone who has gone, can’t wait to go back,” Damez adds.
Wetzel’s sends service stars to Hollywood
| Three Wetzel’s customer service winners are awarded a trip to Hollywood. |
That’s why Wetzel’s Pretzels relocated from its original 2,000-sq.-ft. corporate headquarters to one that’s more than double that size, complete with fully operational 600-sq.-ft. training store. With more than 200 units and more to come, the Pasadena, Calif.-based company, which was founded by Rick Wetzel and Bill Phelps in 1994, includes a week of on-the-job training at the store as part of the curriculum for new franchisees at its Wetzel’s Pretzels University.
Once a month, the company issues faux money and credit cards to allow Pasadena area workers and residents to shop in the new trainee-staffed store, Phelps says.
“When the training store is open, we have lines so long they stretch out the door,” he says. “The costs involved in operating the training store come out of the local marketing budget.”
Franchisees also are required to spend a week working at the Wetzel’s store in Disneyland, where they are further immersed in the company’s Disney-inspired customer service training.
Finally, Wetzel’s field personnel visit each new franchise location to oversee and assist with in-store staff training. To encourage hourly employees to maintain exacting standards in their own stores, Wetzel’s corporate management team and franchise advisory group worked together to develop an innovative incentive program it calls “Catch A Star,” which Phelps likens to “Employee of the Month Meets American Idol.” Operators nominate employees based on a number of criteria, including customer service and overall personality. Then, field operations personnel visit locations to narrow down the field of candidates, he says.
At the end of the promotion period, a committee of franchisees selects three finalists who are awarded an all-expenses-paid “movie star” visit to Hollywood, including a studio screen test for a walk-on appearance in an upcoming major motion picture. The screen tests have been forwarded to the director of a feature film scheduled to be shot this coming fall, and the director will select one for the walk-on.
“We thought this would be a great way to shine the spotlight on our front and center people in the stores,” Phelps says of the contest, which made its debut this year. “They deserve the star treatment.”