How Black Bear Diner Trains and Retains its Team Members

The 147-store diner brand has a unique way of instilling camaraderie.


Black Bear Diner is one of the full-service brands that not only survived the pandemic, but has even grown since 2019. Still, the diner is dealing with many of the same challenges that face restaurants in 2022. Namely, it’s a challenge to find and retain employees who provide great service—and an excellent customer experience is something that the brand has always prided itself on.

“We definitely feel an added pressure to find qualified, really great people because of that,” says Camille Chavez, vice president of training and development at Black Bear Diner. “And with that, it means that when we do find really great people, we have to act quickly. We have to onboard and train them quickly enough so that they are feeling comfortable here, and we’re not losing those gold nuggets on the job market, if you will.”

One of the tools Black Bear Diner relies on to introduce new team members to the brand is their Wisetail learning management system (LMS) that Chavez also leveraged during her time with her previous employer. Chavez is such a huge fan of Wisetail that, in the early days of the pandemic, she insisted it was a tool that would help Black Bear Diner meet the moment.

“Launching this technology was a calculated risk,” Chavez recalls now. “But this is such a strong growth brand. We knew we were going to move very quickly back into growth mode as the pandemic subsided and we needed a communication portal at the ready, to serve as a place to keep everybody on the same page.”

The portal, designed and hosted by Wisetail, is known to Black Bear Diner team members and managers as “Bears in the Know.” It contains foundational resources that help newly hired employees acclimate to Black Bear Diner and what makes it a special place to work. For example, Chavez reports that Black Bear Diner takes great pride in its authentic origin story. (The short version: two friends decide to start a comfort food diner that exhibits the spirit of its hometown, Mount Shasta, California, in every possible way.) This, along with other foundational knowledge, is communicated via videos through the “Bears in the Know” portal, and shown to employees as they onboard.

“Wisetail is a remarkable platform with a ton of functionality,” Chavez says. “We use it for so much—job-based learning, new-hire orientation materials, and the ongoing storytelling of who the brand is and what we are doing here. It really resonates with our team members, they begin to understand what a special place Black Bear Diner is, and that makes us standout as not just another job.”

The portal is also where their team members can learn about the history of Black Bear Diner directly from the founders – something their managers and franchisees love, as it keeps the  culture alive and present as they grow.

Most of all, Chavez loves that Wisetail can evolve alongside the Black Bear Diner brand. Whenever the brand’s training needs change, the Wisetail team is there to help further customize the “Bears in the Know” portal. That type of customer service is what has led Chavez back to Wisetail for a second go-round—and it’s making Black Bear Diner a better organization as it grows, she says.

“I’ve been a Wisetail fan for a long time,” Chavez says. “Whenever anybody asks me about what LMS we use, I always brag about Wisetail. But one last thing I’d like to say to sum up, is that the platform is one thing—and it’s great, I love the features, and how customizable it is—but Wisetail as a company has such a focus on their customers. The level of service they offer is pretty phenomenal. Wisetail’s just a really, really good partner.”


Read the full article by QSR Magazine here >