Taco Mac, a 28-unit casual dining restaurant chain based in Alpharetta, Georgia, recently became one of the first restaurant chains to participate in the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s (NRAEF) Hospitality Sector Registered Apprenticeship (HSRA) program. The program, in partnership with the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), is designed to help employees who want to become managers develop their talents and skills while working—an earn while you learn program. As one of two restaurants in Georgia to participate in the program, Taco Mac is a pioneer for the restaurant industry, having secured 20 percent of the available restaurant apprenticeship spots and $50,000 in grants for the inaugural year.

“I am extremely passionate about the apprenticeship program, as it offers even more legitimacy to our industry and provides a clear pathway for what technical and soft skills are needed for the role of a restaurant manager,” says Mary Lowe, Vice President of Training & Development for Taco Mac.

To participate in the program, Taco Mac was required to meet at least 80 percent of the Restaurant Management competencies prescribed by the NRAEF. Taco Mac sourced one-third of their content for the program from DiscoverLink courses, helping them achieve an 89.5% match. To aid in the creation of their program, Taco Mac was granted $1,000 for every apprentice registered from the United States Department of Labor.

Several of the competencies include: Front of House Knowledge, Service Culture, Product Quality and Cost Control, Branding and Marketing, Food Safety and Sanitation, and Maintaining a Lawful, Safe, and Healthy Workplace. DiscoverLink’s Content Development team worked with Taco Mac to map 47 DiscoverLink courses to the Restaurant Management competencies including:

  • OSHA Compliance courses
  • Manager Development courses
  • AGM to GM courses
  • Supervisor micro-learning program

The remaining two-thirds of the content was sourced from a blend of printed materials, branded training videos, and classroom learning including ServSafe and Taco Mac-instructed courses led by Taco Mac’s Restaurant Support Center teams in Payroll, HR, and Finance.

“We think this program is a big win for Taco Mac’s employees, and it will help set a precedent for other restaurant companies to demonstrate the incredible career opportunities available in our industry,” said Josh Lowry, Vice President of Customer Success for DiscoverLink. “We were especially excited to see how well our Content Library maps to the NRAEF competencies.”

For 2018, Taco Mac has officially committed to 50 apprentices. Their first group of apprentices were all internally recruited from key team members. In the future, they plan to work with local Departments of Labor (DOLs) to increase candidate flow and expand the field of who Taco Mac is able to recruit.

Apprentices who complete the program have the opportunity to obtain the Certified Restaurant Manager (CRM) professional credential currently being piloted by the National Restaurant Association (NRA). Courses within the apprenticeship program prepare individuals to successfully pass the exam and gain the designation, which can be used to further their careers. In addition to the CRM, there are two other new credentials in the pilot stage: Certified Restaurant Professional (CRP), and Certified Restaurant Supervisor (CRS).

“The new CRM designation signals that individuals have met the industry defined standards in areas such as leadership, business acumen, and food safety management,” says Sara Anderson, Director for Workforce Development for the NRA. “The designation is important to apprentices because it shows employers that they have the skills and experience to do the job, which helps to impact business performance and advance that person’s career.”

In addition to the grants and the development of apprentices, Taco Mac’s Training Department also noticed some extra benefits the apprenticeship program has provided. The program has become a very effective recruiting tool that Taco Mac can leverage to compete for talent. They have received recruiting support from the Hospitality Education Foundation of Georgia and the Georgia Restaurant Association to recruit external hires into the apprenticeship program. In addition, the Taco Mac Training Department’s reputation has experienced a boost internally, with Operations Teams embracing their initiatives and exhibiting more respect toward the Training Department overall.

“The hospitality industry has provided me with so many amazing opportunities, so with the NRAEF’s Restaurant Management Apprenticeship Program, I’m happy to be able to give back to an industry that has enriched my life,” says Lowe.

Taco Mac must report quarterly to the NRAEF on competency achievements and wage incentives for employees in the program. They are using the Workbooks feature in DiscoverLink Talent to make it easy for restaurant mentors to track both the online and offline components of the program.

Casual Dining, Chain Restaurants, Industry News