“It was very focused on craft beer and, of course, craft pizza, but really it was about taking the entire organization through the training and identifying the best and most knowledgeable in reach region,” Golden says. “Then we whittled it down and had one restaurant walk away as the winner.”
Weldon says the training is worth the investment on multiple levels. From the heart-of-the-house perspective, arming employees with this kind of knowledge fosters pride and encourages longevity. It also results in customer-employee interactions that position the brand as an expert in this space.
“We continue to focus on building what we call [employees’] beer swagger. And that all starts with having the knowledge,” Weldon says. “With the knowledge grows confidence. They practice those skills and it creates that swagger where they have confidence when they approach that table with guests or the bar and really engage about craft beer.”
“They're excited about talking about craft beer and craft pizza and how they pair together, and they’re excited to share that knowledge with guests,” he adds.
Uno created a video platform, which employees can watch through their mobile devices or tablets. There are quizzes. Employees advance past levels and are rewarded with badges, and also earn the opportunity to recognize people who can mentor them.
“People want to be the best at their job,” Golden says. “The more we can grow them and teach them and give them information, where they have that confidence to engage the table, of course that creates a feeling of success and they do retain. The passion starts to build.”
Golden says this process is evergreen. Uno didn’t debut it over a few months and file it away once the taps started flowing. That’s part of the reason why the chain built so many layers into the program. Uno wants the training to sustain and be adaptable for whatever might come next. And this realization was something Weldon says the team understood from day one, when a fork in the craft-beer road was reached: should Uno just expand its program with more taps, or should it anchor it with something more substantial?
“We realized quickly,” Weldon says. “To have credibility in the craft-beer business, to truly deliver a great craft beer and craft pizza experience, this training and the beer culture needed to be an important part of that, along with the idea that it’s not just how many taps you have; It’s also the ongoing rotation of what’s on those taps. Because the craft beer loyalist who is coming into our restaurants every day looks at the beer menu that they see and decides where we stand.”