Training Best Practices/Training with Competition/Whataburger WhataGames Case Study
Whataburger's WhataGames: Hitting the Reset Button through Training
Using competition to encourage a wide-spread workforce to focus on basic training.
Whataburger has 650 quick service restaurants with 20,000+ employees. Whataburger's corporate teams carefully develop the processes and procedures that should be followed by all locations to serve the products for which we are known. The Training & Development Department is aligned with Marketing in the Brand Development Department, following the theory that Marketing makes a promise to our customers, and Training delivers upon it. In a fast-paced environment, it is common for employees to look for workarounds and shortcuts to the standard procedures. Beginning in 1996, Whataburger began holding a "corporate Olympics", known as WhataGames, with the stated purpose of refocusing every restaurant on using effective training to "hit the reset button" and get the employees to relearn their jobs and use proper procedures. The event uses a high level of excitement and major awards to encourage training on the skills and knowledge that define the brand.
The program is designed around measurement; no new training tools are provided. The goal is to reinforce the use of the existing training tools. During the initial competition, all units are Mystery Shopped 10 times per month for two months. Additionally, a live Call Center is used to call every unit 6 times per month for two months. During this call, the person who answers must complete a 5 question quiz on proper standards.
Based upon these scores, a number of units are named as Semi-finalists, each of which is inspected "curb to kitchen" for quality, service, friendliness and cleanliness.
These scores are used to name 16 Finalist Restaurants who will compete at the WhataGames Finals held in conjunction with the Whataburger National Convention.
After a store is chosen for the finals the store will choose 10 employees for the competition. This is done by the area manager sitting all the employee's interesting in going down and testing them on store and cleaning procedures. This is done so that the most knowledgeable employee's are selected and all employee's have a fair chance in going. The team has to consist of one General Manager, one Manager, two Team Leaders and 6 Team Members. For the next two months before the competition the team will practice in and outside of work.
At the Finals, each Unit will run an actual restaurant while judges simulate a busy half-hour. They are judged on every aspect of the operation. This portion of the competition is worth the most points. Additionally, 5 members of the team participate in a game show to test their knowledge of company standards, procedures and history. The team has to include in the games show: The General Manager, The manager, 1 Team Leader of choice and 2 Team members of choice. Last but not least is the flash card game. In this game their are to card sets one on product time and the other on portioning. In the game 5 members of the team compete and one time to match all the cards and the last one done is the final time. After both cards sets have been played the two times are added together. Each top three wins in any event means points for that team. The team with the most points places.
The Gold Medal winners take home $5000, Silver Medal winners take home $2500 and Bronze Medal winners take home $1000. Also for the stores hard work all the employees that were not on the finals team that went get money too. The Gold Medal store employee's receive $500, Silver Medal winners store employee's receive $250 and the Bronze Medal store employee's receive $100 which is a tremendous motivator for people who earn fairly low wages. The total prize pool for the event exceeds $100,000.
This event has grown to be an important part of the Whataburger Culture, reflecting the attitude our owners have towards their "family members." We have seen a consistent rise in mystery shops scores, same store sales increases and reductions in turnover.
Mustangs are also supposedly awarded. The cars, not the cows. The Ford Mustangs are awarded to a General Manager for winning the General Manager of the year award. Many other awards are given such as store with most sales for the years.
In 2005, Store 698 from San Antonio, TX took 1st Place. Store 698 had to overcome odds such as a team member being in a bad accident a month before the competition. The team had to replace him quickly. Also the day before the competition the pregnant manager of the team was hospitalized for three days after becoming very sick. That night before the competition the store was allowed to drive another team member from the store to the competition. No store has ever competited without a manager let alone win. For all the manager's hard work Tom Dobson (president/CEO) himself awarded her the prize of $5000 along with the rest of the team.
Also in 2005, store 839 from San Antonio, TX took 3rd place
In 2007, Store 790 from San Antonio, TX took 1st place
In 2007, store 698 from San Antonio, TX took 2nd place barely losing to store rivals 790. This is the first time in competition history that a team has one a medal twice. Putting a question on the store will they medal again in 2009.
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