The education process isn’t finished when an employee completes the e-course. Training continues during pre-shift huddles and general managers are tasked with quizzing employees about different topics, from new menu items to bourbon lists. Calhoun admits Firebirds, which was just named to Forbes' America’s Best Mid-Size Employers List, isn’t the easiest restaurant to learn, but the ongoing training sets employees up for success if they invest the time.
With the new program, the dynamics of the manager/employee relationship also shifted. Instead of a barrier between tiers of staff, it allows them to build a relationship, which isn’t always a priority in the industry. Employees, in turn, feel more empowered, and can go to managers with complaints or issues without fear of being singled out.
The first round of courses is just the beginning as well, Calhoun says. New will continue to roll out throughout the year. Surprisingly, Calhoun says, employees expressed interest in learning more about the hostess stand. This makes sense, she added, since it’s the first guest touchpoint. Additional courses covering back of house and other areas of the restaurant are in development, too.
“Creating extraordinary experiences through hospitality is our mission, and it's our No. 1 objective for this year,” Calhoun says. “Everything that we do is going to start off with that. So if you're back of house you'll take the exact same course as servers because there's no reason why they can't show you where the restrooms are … or a host can't walk by and fill in somebody's napkin.”
As Firebirds grows, it wants to ensure each location evolves, just as the system does. Training is a major part of this growth. Customer engagement on Firebirds’ digital channels is as well.
The company recently took an in-depth look at how customers interact with the brand digitally and came up with some new options to provide real-time feedback.
Firebirds’ marketing team is using a social media management tool to engage with more customers in a timely manner and give staff feedback on what they’re hearing and seeing online.
It is also helping with brand awareness in existing and new markets. Christine Lorusso, Firebirds’ digital marketing manager, says the brand is tracking customer engagement.
As the brand grows and adds new social pages for each location, the time and detail Firebirds spends managing social accounts, along with review sites, like Yelp and OpenTable, can be overwhelming. Now it’s all in one place and they can interact with customers quickly and efficiently across 49 different restaurants.
“This is just something that's really helped us go to the next level,” Lorusso says. “Also in the event of something positive or negative happening it can tell us the reach, how far it's going and how we can either put a stop to it or use it to our advantage, depending on what the topic is.”