How honeygrow Uses Virtual Reality to Train New Employees

January 29, 2018 //

I’m sitting in the middle of the dining area at the Temple University Main Campus location of honeygrow—the health-forward, fast-casual, customizable salad and stir-fry restaurant—strapped into a Google Daydream VR headset. In reality, I’m swiveling wildly and waving my arms like a lunatic. In virtual reality, I’m moving ingredients around—a cartoon chicken, an oinking pig, and a cheese wheel—to various shelves inside a walk-in refrigerator. It’s fun. I’m also learning quite a bit about food safety regulations.

This is one of the scenes in the VR experience honeygrow uses to onboard new employees. Created in collaboration with the Philadelphia-based experiential art shop Klip Collective, it’s the latest tech-savvy move from the company founded by CEO Justin Rosenberg, MBA ’09. When Rosenberg developed the business plan for honeygrow while studying at the Fox School, tech was an essential component, namely the automated kiosks that simplify the ordering process while creating a uniquely interactive experience for customers.

Honeygrow opened in 2012 and now has 23 locations in nine cities, including New York, Chicago, and Boston. Since honeygrow is constantly onboarding new employees, it wanted to develop an innovative, efficient way to teach newbies the ropes. Kyle Brown, honeygrow’s director of operations, estimates that about 100 people will take the VR training each year. He claims turnover has already dropped and employees are earning required training certifications at a significantly higher rate.

“Technology is not a silver bullet to stand out, but rather an  operational enhancement to better streamline the experience for both guests and team members.” – Justin Rosenberg, founder and CEO of honeygrow

The first thing I see once jacked into the VR experience is Rosenberg welcoming me to honeygrow. Next I observe employees as they prepare menu items on the salad and noodle line. Then I’m thrown into the interactive walk-in exercise. I learn all about how raw pork and raw beef should not be stored together. I also witness an employee providing fantastic service to customers in a virtually crowded honeygrow dining room.

Virtual reality is a buzzing topic in the news, so using this technology in an inventive way has earned honeygrow attention from publications like Wired, The Washington Post, and Entrepreneur. In addition to optimizing new employee training and relations, it elevates the honeygrow brand by showing how much they value experimenting with new technology. And honeygrow’s success in virtual reality is raising the real bar—months after announcing its VR strategy, major companies like Kentucky Fried Chicken have jumped onboard to do the same.

“Technology is not a silver bullet to stand out, but rather an operational enhancement to better streamline the experience for both guests and team members,” explains Rosenberg. “It’s critical to be constantly searching for ways to thoughtfully and purposefully be better than our competition. And we love to figure out ways to be better than we were yesterday.”

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