Thursday, April 24, 2008


McDonald's had sundaes and softserve cones in their menu but we didn't have anything to match these until we launched Jolly Twirls. These were Vanilla and Chocolate flavored softserve product which could be served as sundaes topped with a choice of choco fudge,strawberry and rainbow sprinkles. They could also be served on cones.

Giving birth to the Jolly Twirls was difficult. For starters, the local distributor of the softserve machine,the Taylor 8756, did not have more than 100 units we needed for a systemwide launch. They informed us that these still had to be manufactured by Taylor USA which meant we had to wait about 3 months before we could finalize our product launch.

Our supplier had only one Taylor Machine available but it had to be housed at the R&D Office at the Commissary because our R&D specialists needed it for their product development studies.

This presented me with a big problem and a challenge.

The operations of the Taylor machine were complicated so my Training department had to train about 800 store managers and crews before they could use it. Problem was we had only that one machine for our use and we didn't have full control over its use!

I met with our R&D head and we agreed on a schedule when they would use it for their tests and when the unit would be available for training. That done, I and my team wrestled with how to train our target population of 800 or so managers and crew.

We decided that the effective batch size to train was a maximum of 10 people at a time.For one,the room where the softserve was located was cramped.We also needed to keep group size manageable so our participants would have "hands on" training on how to assemble, disassemble and operate the machine.

In all, we needed about 80 training sessions to be done in a total of 45 days. So how to do this?

We figured that if we could increase the number of trainers then we could complete the training within the short time frame allowed us.So, I trained my staff first and required them to be able to do all machine operations. Next, we trained the Area Managers whom we would tap to help us train their own store teams.

We planned on conducting three sessions every day. The first class would start at around 7AM and run to about 11 AM. The second shift would then come in from 12 noon to 4:00PM. The last class would run from 4;30 to about 8:30PM.

It was hard work,specially for those of us who handled the night shifts because oftentimes the afternoon class ended late and so we were going home close to 10 PM at times. But we were able to give all managers and crews their first experience of handling the machine.

When time came for the roll-out of the product in all our stores,we were in for some surprises.

Because we had focused our training on the softserve machine operations and not so much on how to produce the final product, we had a lot of negative comments from customers about our crews not knowing how to serve a proper sundae or cone. Most of the time,the customers were served underportioned product because the crews did not know the technique for properly drawing the softserve.

To remedy the situation we required all stores to identify those crew members who knew how to draw the product correctly and designate them as softserve persons.

After a week or so, our crews got the hang of serving our Jolly Twirls correctly so we heard less and less complaints about the product. Less than a year after we introduced softserve,the novelty of the product wore off and we were faced with slow sales of the Chocolate flavored twirl and the Rainbow sprinkle sundae. We eventually phased these out.

There was one negative side-effect of the Jolly Twirls launch on me. Because I had to sample the product many times over during the training period, I developed an aversion for it so much so that I rarely ate softserve when it was finally on the market.

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