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Time to make the franchisees

How Dunkin' Donuts trains its owners


Wendy Webb

A new study shows that training is a vital ingredient to a franchise's success. Here's how one system – Dunkin' Donuts – does it.

In this column a couple of months back, I talked about a new study that proves just how important training is to a franchise. If you're not familiar with the study, here's the nutshell version: Professor Steve Michael at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign looked into the causes of failure in franchised restaurants. Michael was intrigued by the fact that franchises have a higher rate of success than single restaurants because of the brand recognition, the buying power, the national advertising, the support from the franchisor and a whole host of other factors. Yet, despite all of this, some franchised restaurants do fail. Professor Michael wanted to find out why.

He studied 90 U.S.-based franchises and found that it's all about the length and robustness of franchisee training. The more training a franchisor gives a franchisee, the more likely that franchisee is to succeed. The less training, the more likely that franchisee is to fail. In his study, Michael cites two franchises with the best training programs out there in terms of ensuring franchisee success. One comes as no surprise – McDonald's. The Golden Arches has long been considered the gold standard in restaurant training. They've been profiled extensively and benchmarked by many other companies as the best of the best. The other franchise was more of a dark horse – Dunkin' Donuts.

I haven't seen Dunkin's training program profiled in many other publications, and it got me thinking. Just what is the company doing so right? Frank Servidio, Dunkin's director of field training said it's all about blending online learning, classroom sessions, in-store work and extensive follow up. The goals? Franchisee success, brand integrity and a great guest experience, every time.

Dunkin' Donuts 101

In the first part of the training, which they call Dunkin' Donuts University, new franchisees go through the franchise business course.

"This course brings new franchisees to Dunkin' Brands corporate headquarters to learn about the immediate linkage between groups and leaders within Dunkin' Donuts," Servidio explains. "Here they learn what support and services are provided from the franchisor side of this business relationship. Franchisees also have the opportunity to meet and build relationships with the officer corps, particularly chairman and CEO of Dunkin' Brands, Jon Luther, as well as other brand leaders."

With that under their belts, franchisees then proceed to Dunkin' Donuts brand training, much of which is done in-store. Making the donuts, in other words.

"This course provides franchisees with the core foundation on the Dunkin' Donuts brand and provides knowledge on how to teach crew members all of the aspects of making and serving products to guests," he explains.

Next up? Restaurant management systems training, an intensive, certification-type program that focuses on everything it takes to run a Dunkin' store – shift management, food safety and restaurant management.

Servidio explains that blended learning is an important component to all levels of Dunkin' Donuts training. Franchisees must complete 60 hours of online training in addition to onsite work and the 5 week instructor-led courses.

But whether franchisees are in front of a computer screen, onsite or in the classroom, the end goal is the same – simulation of real restaurant experiences in order to jump-start their on-the-job skills.

Think that's all? Think again. Now it's time for franchisees to move into their own restaurants, where a regional market trainer or operations manager from corporate helps out with staff training.

"Once the restaurant has opened, the market trainer continues to build a relationship with the franchise-designated network trainer in order to cascade new training programs," Servidio explains. There's also feedback and ongoing evaluation. Market and network trainers provide ongoing training and support. Corporate-based operations managers routinely evaluate all restaurants on their ability to deliver against the brand standards. Market trainers often use the results of these evaluations as opportunities for additional training, if a problem is spotted and identified. And on it goes.

That's as extensive a training program as I've ever seen. Why do they do it? Simply put, they want their franchisees to succeed. For Dunkin' Donuts, training is the investment they make to ensure franchisee success and brand integrity.

"We feel that through this system-wide commitment to training, we can all support the reputation, stability, and future growth of the Dunkin' Donuts brand," Servidio says. "This training gives franchisees the knowledge, skills and confidence to be successful. It them enables them to train their management staff and crew members to deliver and exceptional experience to all our guests."

Wendy Webb writes on human resources and training issues for the franchise industry.  Wendy can be reached at wkwebb@charter.net


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