As Training Modules Become Available Online, FEDA’s Learn Institute Can Raise Your Product IQ

By Michael Sherer
Contributing Writer

One of the core components of the FEDA Education Foundation’s Learn Institute is product education. Partner manufacturers have enthusiastically endorsed this initiative and have developed, or are in the process of developing, training modules.

But why is product education so important?

“Consumers are so well informed these days,” says Rachel Brueser, senior marketing specialist, Alto-Shaam, Menomonee Falls, Wis., “and they can look up practically anything online. But do they get the right information? We wanted to present information that dealer service reps (DSRs) can really use in their jobs to guide operators and be successful.”

While massive amounts of information exist online about foodservice equipment and where to find it, this doesn’t necessarily equate to knowledge. To succeed in a highly competitive industry, equipment dealers must provide value to customers. The greater the number of choices operators have when it comes to specifying and selecting equipment, the more valuable knowledge becomes. FEDA’s Learn Institute product education will soon serve as an easily accessible repository for that knowledge.

“Knowledge is power in everything we do,” says Mark Pumphret, CFSP, vice president of sales North America, Hatco Corp., Milwaukee. “The more information we have about any subject matter, the more informed decisions we, or a DSR, can make. Helping FEDA provide this knowledge base to the next generation of DSRs is a must.”

Online Library
A wealth of industry knowledge resides in the minds and memories of a generation of industry folk – dealers, manufacturers and reps, service agents, etc. – who are, alas, now retiring. The loss of all this knowledge and experience risks lessening the cumulative expertise of the industry unless it’s first passed on to the next generation.

“The industry is transforming,” Pumphret says. “We now finally have a great deal of youth entering into our industry. The downside is that they haven’t been exposed to how and why to specify an external booster heater, for example. Or what food warmer to choose when there are seemingly so many iterations of the same thing. Helping FEDA develop these courses on products we’re known for will help DSRs be successful.”

FEDA is building a library of courses online, making them easily accessible whenever it’s convenient for someone to dedicate time to learning.

“The younger generation now entering the industry learns and retains information differently than those before them,” Pumphret explains. “They’re quick to use their smart devices to find the information and move on. FEDA’s LMS [Learning Management System] will allow them to watch a presentation before visiting a customer to sell them a booster heater, food warmer, or drop-in hot/cold wells in our case.”

Available Now
Among the product education courses soon to be available on the Learn Institute website are those from Alto-Shaam, which include four courses on combi ovens. These courses are generic to the category, yet comprehensive enough to give DSRs the detail they need to answer any operator questions that might arise. A sample outline of the product education courses can be found on page 20.

The first course covers the basics on what a combi oven is and how it’s used, with testimonials from actual customers. “It’s really a back-to-basics lesson on how this equipment works,” Brueser says. “We wanted to avoid confusion over all the jargon in the industry and offer simple lessons like how humidity affects heat, the difference between gas and electric models, and so on.”

The second course then dives deeper into the science behind combi ovens and the specifics of how they work plus their many different uses. The third course, meanwhile, details the anatomy of a combi oven, how it’s constructed, what clearances are needed, what type of ventilation is required (determined by its use), the level of water quality needed to operate efficiently, and so forth. Finally, the fourth course explains how to install a combi oven and covers the questions DSRs should ask customers before purchase and installation.

Each 15- to 30-minute course combines text information on slides with interactive videos and demonstrations. Quizzes at the end of each session test participants’ knowledge retention and help reinforce key points.

Product education on booster heaters and food warmers follows a similar four-course structure. Developed by Hatco Corp., the content is modeled on education at Hatco University, the company’s in-house industry training school. The information is designed to educate participants on modern methods, applications, and technologies used in boosting water temperatures for warewashing applications, and serving, displaying, and holding hot foods. The courses cover products manufactured by a large, competitive set of companies, so DSRs can understand the selling points of different equipment.

In Development
The next wave of product-education courses is already under development and will include a  module on cook-and-hold ovens, also being produced by Alto-Shaam, as well as a comprehensive look at open storage and transport solutions in commercial kitchens, from Metro Foodservice.

Metro’s product-education modules will use a multimedia format with slide presentation, videos and download takeaways – they will look at everything to do with kitchen shelving and storage from how it has developed to where it’s going, and how to navigate the sea of different types of available products.

“With so many innovative products out there, and so many different applications, dealer reps and operators may experience an overwhelming paralysis by analysis,” says Glenn Lawless, national accounts dealer development manager, InterMetro Industries, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., “This kind of education will give them a solid leg to stand on.”

Product education in other equipment categories is also forthcoming. FEDA manufacturer partners are producing courses on ice machines and furniture accessories and more will follow as additional partners commit to developing this component of FEDA’s Learn Institute.

“At the end of the day, operators just want to provide a memorable guest experience,”Lawless says. “Having the right people and product or menu will help get them there. However, it’s the process, equipment, and tools that will help support delivering it at the ‘right time.’ Dealers and their reps will now have the knowledge to make that happen – and to become trusted partners.”