Fazoli’s Propells Training the Fast Casual Italian Concept in the Restaurant Industry
By Brandon May


Fazoli’s® is an Italian fast casual restaurant that began in 1988 in Lexington, Kentucky, as a multi-brand restaurant group. The original concept of the restaurant was sold to Seed Restaurant Group (SRG), Inc., two years later and has since been acquired by Sentinel Capital Partners in July 2015. Currently, the corporation has 123 company units and 89 franchise units. Vanessa Naso, director of training at Fazoli’s, discusses the company’s franchise training program and how it has grown during her 3 years on staff.



Fazoli’s Training Process
In order for a franchise to be successful, new hire training is essential. Naso explains that the process involved with training new hires is the same process for both company restaurants and franchises. According to Fazoli’s training model, much of the training new franchises receive is exactly the same as what is delivered to new hires to help them get up to speed with the company and its key messages.

Implementing set procedures related to running a company is integral for expressing the brand’s uniform image and functionality across the board. Naso believes franchises following Fazoli’s procedures is what makes their location successful. Naso stated, "Procedures — that’s part of the package a franchisee is buying when they open a Fazoli’s location. They’re buying our way of doing business and what differentiates us in the marketplace. We really focus our training on our procedures."

Naso adds, “Franchises need to know how to make products, they need to know how to run a shift, and they need to know how to suggest a menu item at the registers.” On the importance of learning, Fazoli’s believes education and training is important for developing, growing, and improving the restaurant. “Your people are your most valuable asset.” Naso commented, “Invest in your people and their learning and you're investing in your business.”

Fazoli’s offers an online learning management system that provides franchises the training curriculum they need for every role in the restaurant, as well as promotions or other key initiatives. Online training provides core, role-based training and is available 24/7 through their internal system. This learning management system also provides a tracking system to make sure everyone is on track with training. This allows a franchise to monitor and evaluate their training efforts with a variety of reports, including cross-training, trained in 30 days and "pass/no pass" reports that track who has or has not completed specific training, like a promotion. To ensure the courses themselves are successful, Fazoli's has a group of franchise managers and key operators who help identify content and test new training to ensure courses are relevant to their business.

Each franchise owns the responsibility of getting their new hires the training they need rather than relying on corporate for initiating the training process. “After the initial opening, we don’t actually train new hires ourselves; we provide franchises the materials, the process, and the tools,” Naso said. “Just like in a company store, the general manager or key operator is still responsible for executing training on a daily basis.

For franchise training, everyone is trained regardless of the position. As there is training for every position, the training curriculum and design varies person to person. Shift manager training, for example, lasts longer than training a new cashier. In addition to formal in-restaurant training, Fazoli’s offers short training videos and workshops that franchises can use to supplement core role training, as well as weekly tips and coaching points restaurants can use with their teams. Fazoli's also hosts franchise meetings twice a year where they’re able to gather franchises together and discuss key aspects of building their business.

To encourage training, Fazoli’s occasionally offers rewards for employees. “In the past, to encourage taking a new course we developed, we've offered a drawing for a gift card. So, we would give away $10 gift cards to anyone who completed it by a certain date, and we would track that.” For many employees, however, additional training is often seen as a sign that you are investing in them, and that's the kind of "reward" that keeps your team invested in the business.

About Fazoli's
The Fazoli’s® brand was created in 1988 by Jerrico, Inc, a multi-brand restaurant group based in Lexington, KY, and then parent company of Long John Silver’s® restaurants. Two years and five founding restaurants later, the original Italian fast food concept was sold to Seed Restaurant Group, Inc. (SRG), also based in Lexington. SRG continued to evolve the concept, adding exciting new classic Italian dishes, baked pastas, Submarinos® sandwiches, pizza, entree salads and desserts – along with our unlimited signature garlic breadsticks!

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