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Calgary restaurateur uses compassion and technology to address staffing challenges

Calgary restaurateur uses compassion and technology to solve serious staffing problems
WATCH: On average, a restaurant loses $150,000 a year because of ineffective training and high turnover. A Calgary entrepreneur developed a high-tech way of saving employers money, while also breaking down barriers for vulnerable communities. Jill Croteau reports.

A Calgary restaurant owner has launched a powerful hiring model that has allowed him to not only retain employees; but be inclusive.

Jose Azares opened up the popular burger and milkshake chain REGRUB about five years ago. Over the years, he faced challenges with employee retention.

“I trained in the range of 400 to 600 people for the front and back of house and management,” Azares said.

On average, a restaurant loses $150,000 a year because of ineffective training and high turnover.

Azares introduced an innovative way to support and guide his new hires while keeping them engaged. He launched NIDUM, which means “nest” in Latin.

He’s developed a virtual reality module to teach his employees and make them comfortable before their first shift.

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Chelsea Roddick with the VR.
Chelsea Roddick with the VR. Bruce Aalhus/Global News

“It’s augmenting and improving the experience, it’s extending training and giving people a chance to train at their own rhythm,” Azares said. “When training in store, you have the pressure, but you extend training experience to VR headset you can do it at your own time. Retention on learning is a lot higher.”

Employees like Chelsea Roddick get a 360-degree perspective. It allowed her to navigate through the different modules as often as she wanted.

“It was awesome. It showed me what the layout was going to be and what every point in this whole place would be like,” Roddick said.

“It helps me have the confidence I didn’t think I had.”

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Roddick is a student of Mount Royal University’s Transitional Vocational Program. It supports adults with developmental challenges. Jordan Moore works in the program and finds the VR technology was a successful training compliment for her students.

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“To be able to see students flourish and joyful and content in their job and be in a place where they’re treated and have value, it’s so rewarding,” Moore said. “Everyone can use a chance to show what their gifts and strengths are.”

“We are creating tools for employers to support all staff regardless of where they come from,” Azares said. “We are democratizing employment opportunities. Anyone should have access to training information and tools to get better for them to get a job.”

Front entrance at REGRUB.
Front entrance at REGRUB. Jill Croteau/Global News

Jason Goebel, 34, has worked at REGRUB for many years. He’s a loyal part of the team and is grateful to have the opportunity to work at an inclusive workplace and be trained on the VR.

“Confidence goes a long way. It feels like you’re strong; not worthless,” Goebel said.

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Jason Goebel interacting with customers.
Jason Goebel interacting with customers. Jill Croteau/Global News

Azares said his philosophy for both companies is about inclusion.

“That’s the reason why you see engagement and commitment so high in this community, because they are never given a chance,” Azares said.

He hopes can offer the technology to all restaurants so they can develop a customized program for individual places.