For the past two years, Training Magazine has included Penn Station in its Training Top 125 List, a ranking of regional, national and some international companies with the best employer-sponsored training and development systems. Walmart, Jiffy Lube, MasterCard, Nationwide, Best Buy and PayCor are just some of these organizations with which Penn Station has competed and beaten in the ranking process.
That recognition has come as no small feat for the sandwich franchising concept, which has long prioritized operational training to ensure the health of Penn Station restaurants, and in turn, the franchisee system at large.
“We have an exceptionally strong operational system. Our philosophy has always been that the closer our franchisees follow that system, the stronger our brand will be,” said Lance Vaught, Penn Station’s vice president of operations in an interview with 1851 Franchise about the ranking. “Operational compliance is the name of the game, and the best way to ensure operational compliance is through proper training. Effective training then is one of the most important components of our business. We see our franchisees applying the proprietary Operations Manual in detail, and then finding the support they need. We see retention and test scores improving across the system, and we hear our franchisees telling us that the ease and effectiveness of our training tools have increased. We know it’s working, but of course it’s reassuring to have that third-party validation as well.”
Heading up Penn Station’s training efforts is Matt Hoffman, Training Manager. We talked to Hoffman to learn how he’s helped the franchisor execute its commitment to operations training.
How did you get involved with operations training?
Hoffman: I didn’t really pursue a career in training; training found me. I graduated with a marketing degree from Ohio University in 2010, and I spent a short time after that selling ad space for a digital and print publishing company in Cleveland. Eventually I found an opportunity as a management trainee at Penn Station’s corporate training location, which led to a general manager position. That led to a position in the corporate training team, where I started supporting franchisees and assisting in training crews and helping to open new locations. Today, I oversee the department, managing both the training program for all incoming franchisees as well as our goals and direction as a department.
Why do you think training was a natural fit for you?
Hoffman: Looking back, I think the biggest thing that drew me to training was the ability to lead while also being led. I also have a passion for coaching and competition, which I think fits in with training. A huge aspect of our training program is the idea of incremental improvements over time. We want everyone on our team to be developing themselves and the people around them, so there is always a challenge to meet.
What are the training team’s main goals?
Hoffman: We are continually aligning our department goals with the overall goals of the franchise, which are always centered on growing top-line sales and controlling costs for franchisees. We sell return on investment, and our primary focus is developing training initiatives that ensure all of our franchisees and all of their employees run their restaurants stores in accordance with our Operations Manual and brand standards. Following the system doesn’t guarantee success. However, with over 30 years of proven success by our franchisees, we strongly believe there is a direction correlation between following the model and the success rate of our franchisees.
We’re huge on prioritizing people and making sure they know their importance to the organization. Great people make great companies, and Penn Station attracts great people. The training team helps franchisees recruit great people and use them effectively.
Why does Penn Station place so much emphasis on training?
Hoffman: We are 33 years young, and we owe all of our success in that time to individual, store-level success. I think the fact that Penn Station only has one corporate-owned unit in our entire system shows how focused we are on franchisee success. Training is essential to the health of franchisees, so it’s essential to Penn Station. For us, training means focusing on whatever a franchisee needs to remain competitive in their space by attracting, developing and retaining top industry talent.