How Chopt Closed The Loop On Blended Learning

Making a connection between online training and real world skills.

New Yorkers won’t wait for anything — especially during their lunch break. Tony Shure and Colin McCabe knew that speed was the key to success when they launched Chopt Creative Salad Company in NYC.

They set the restaurant up like an assembly line. Employees — called Choppers — were tasked with chopping and creating Chopt’s signature healthy, clean salads fast enough to satisfy the city’s famously impatient and busy residents.

The cornerstone of this process was the mezzaluna, a scimitar-like curved knife with handles on either end. Choppers rock the blade across the lettuce and salad ingredients with speed and skill that can startle people unfamiliar with the process.

“There’s a theater in our employee’s performance and a lot of it is at that chopping station,” said Georgette Vlangos, Chopt’s head of training and development.

The importance of maintaining that standard of speed and performance has grown along with the number of Chop’t locations. Training on the mezzaluna can be hard. Vlangos said it’s rare when a trainee has prior experience with the Italian knife.

“If you ever want a good laugh definitely go to the first day of a new restaurant opening in a new market where nobody’s used a mezzaluna before in their life,” Vlangos said.

Wisetail LMS Observation Checklists

Employee chopping time that first day isn’t truly important. What is important is that the trainees improve over time. And the real trick to training is creating a company-wide standard for measuring that improvement. Testing and timing are straightforward enough to handle in person for a handful of locations, but to maintain a high level of performance across a lot of restaurants, Chopt needed to solve the disconnect between online and real-world training. Vlangos and her colleagues pushed Wisetail to close that loop with its LMS.

Wisetail did so with Observation Checklists. The Observation Checklists allow trainers to see in person whether the trainee has mastered a given skill. Their performance is logged and noted by the trainer and that information gets stored in the employee’s personal profile; easily accessible to other managers and supervisors.

A mezzaluna at chopt restaurant

“For us, it’s super important to be fast and to engage the customer. We need to be able to measure that,” Vlangos said. “And that’s where the observation checklists come in for us. We can measure this day in and day out and have the documentation in the student’s profile.”

Choppers make salads on an assembly line in front of customers
Chopt uses Observation Checklists to assess their “choppers” on speed and efficiency.

Closing The Loop On Blended Learning

Objectively measuring chopping skills without demoralizing the trainee is key to Chopt’s training. Most of its new hires have never used a mezzaluna and most are competitive. They want to improve every day and pass the final test — making five salads in six minutes. Sometimes they’re frustrated that they can only be timed once a day, Vlangos said.

“We can log times. We can give a grade. It not only says this person timed this but how they can improve overall,” Vlangos said. “If you’re fast but not friendly and personable, your score isn’t going to be high.

The ability to track skills and show improvement over time is a powerful tool in helping Chopt management identify high achieving employees as well as helping others who may need additional help. And tracking skills over the lifetime of an employee can allow management to gain valuable insight into their training methods.

“Observation checklists fit in everywhere for us,” Vlangos said. “It’s like closing the circle with training because you teach someone online and hope they understand it. But when they can actually go do it? That’s the difference maker.”