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April 18, 2024

S2E16 - Breaking Language Barriers in Hospitality: Rachael Nemeth's Opus Training Story

Opus Training: Revolutionizing restaurant training with micro-training, multilingual AI, and a focus on scalability.

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Logo blanc WISK-> All episodes <-

April 18, 2024

S2E16 - Breaking Language Barriers in Hospitality: Rachael Nemeth's Opus Training Story

Opus Training: Revolutionizing restaurant training with micro-training, multilingual AI, and a focus on scalability.

Lien vers le lecteur Podcast d'AppleLien vers le lecteur Podcast de SpotifyLien vers le lecteur Google Podcasts

Notes du spectacle

Episode Notes

Rachael Nemeth, Co-Founder and CEO of Opus Training, shares her journey of starting the company and the challenges they faced in the restaurant industry.  Opus Training is a training platform designed for hospitality businesses, offering micro-training that fits into the flow of work. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it pivoted to provide free COVID-19 safety training, which led to significant growth. The platform is multilingual, offering training in 101 languages, and leverages AI to improve accessibility and user experience.

In this conversation, Rachael emphasizes the importance of simplifying language and avoiding idioms in training materials to ensure effective communication. Opus Training is a platform that focuses on solving the business problem of achieving scale with training. They aim to save money and make money for businesses by cutting back on training labor and positioning training to increase sales. Their typical clients are emerging brands and established brands in the restaurant industry. The customer journey with Opus Training starts with content education, followed by a simple and quick onboarding process. The platform offers a free trial for users to try out. Opus Training plans to continue investing in AI technology to enhance its training platform. The founder, Rachael Nemeth, encourages businesses to be intentional about training and sees training platforms as an enhancement, not a replacement, to existing training systems.

Takeaways

  • Opus Training is a training platform designed for hospitality businesses, offering micro-training that fits into the flow of work.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, Opus Training pivoted to provide free COVID-19 safety training, which led to significant growth.
  • The platform is multilingual, offering training in 101 languages, and leverages AI to improve accessibility and user experience.
  • Simplifying language and avoiding idioms in training materials can ensure effective communication.
  • Opus Training focuses on solving the business problem of achieving scale with training.
  • Their typical clients are emerging brands and established brands in the restaurant industry.
  • The customer journey with Opus Training starts with content education and has a simple and quick onboarding process.
  • Opus Training plans to continue investing in AI technology to enhance its training platform.
  • Training platforms should be seen as an enhancement, not a replacement, of existing training systems.

Timestamps

00:00 The Evolution of Phone Usage at Work

01:16 Introduction to Opus Training

02:11 Rachel Nemeth's Background and Inspiration for Opus Training

03:37 The Love for Operations in the Restaurant Industry

04:45 Transitioning to New York and Starting ESL Works

05:44 The Journey from ESL Works to Opus Training

06:43 The Decision to Move to New York

07:55 Working for Danny Meyer and Starting ESL Works

08:22 The MVP and Evolution of ESL Works

09:47 The Iterative Process of Building a Company

10:43 The Shift to Technology and the Birth of Opus Training

12:39 The Breakthrough Moment for Opus Training

13:30 The Impact of COVID-19 on Opus Training

14:29 The Focus on Accessibility and Multilingual Training

18:22 The Sign-in Experience and Language Selection

20:18 The Importance of Training in the Flow of Work

21:43 The Content Problem and AI Solutions

23:34 The Challenges of Language Translation

25:36 Managing 101 Languages and Leveraging AI

32:54 Ideal Customers for Opus Training

35:35 Onboarding Process for Opus Training

39:57 The Future of Opus Training

45:10 The Importance of Training and Enhancing Workflows

Ressources

Follow Rachael Nemeth on Instagram!

Connect with Rachael Nemeth via Linkedin!

Learn more about Opus Training!

Transcript

Rachael Nemeth [00:00:00]:

Ten years ago, it was taboo to use your phone at work, even if you were a desk worker. You just were expected not to use your phone at work. Now you actually need to keep your phone. And there's ways to regulate it, right? There's ways to manage that phone usage so that it can actually benefit an employee and they can get the access they need. Save HR a ton of time. Save HR so a ton of time. AI is much bigger, but it's the same thing. Where to your point, like, if you embrace it and if you look at it for the good that it can create and generate, it can make a meaningful impact on people's lives.

Angelo Esposito [00:00:45]:

Welcome to Wisking It All with your host Angelo Esposito, Co founder of Wisk AI, a food and beverage intelligence platform. We're gonna be interviewing hospitality professionals around the world to really understand how they do what they do. Welcome to another episode of Wisking It All. We're here today with Rachael Nemeth, founder and CEO of Opus Training. Rachel, thank you for being here with us today.

Rachael Nemeth [00:01:14]:

Thanks for having me. Excited to be here.

Angelo Esposito [00:01:16]:

Of course, yeah, I'd love to. I mean, I always like to start off with the most obvious thing, which is just for people who don't know, what is Opus training?

Rachael Nemeth [00:01:23]:

It's not the wine. We have to tell people that. I wish we were the beautiful $300 a bottle of wine.

Angelo Esposito [00:01:30]:

Right?

Rachael Nemeth [00:01:31]:

No. Opus is a training platform. It's a software that is purpose built for hospitality businesses. What we do is we've designed training technology that fits into the flow of work, which I know we'll talk a little bit more about, but that's to keep it simple. That's what we do.

Angelo Esposito [00:01:53]:

Love it. I love it. Okay, so I always like to understand, number one, what people do, but what got them there or how they got there. So maybe this kick thing is off. Can you tell us a bit about your background and kind of what led you to start Opus training in the first place?

Rachael Nemeth [00:02:08]:

What I always tell people is it's really like many people in restaurants, a long story for beers, but I'll try to keep it as short as possible. So I worked in restaurants for 13 years, and even preceding that, I came from restaurants. My grandfather owned a barbecue chain in Kansas City in the sixties called Don's World of Beef. It was a competitor with Arby's.

Angelo Esposito [00:02:37]:

They got the beef, they got the meats.

Rachael Nemeth [00:02:39]:

I mean, so they sold roast beef sandwiches and with Don's special relish. So my mom and my aunts and my uncle all worked there. My dad was an english teacher by day, and he worked at steak and ale by night, bartending. So I came from this industry, and it was never frowned upon. It was always a way of life. It was always a way to make a living. My mom is still in the food industry, although she switched to dessert, naturally. I grew up in this industry, but I also grew up, frankly, wanting to get out of this industry like everyone else.

Rachael Nemeth [00:03:18]:

It's very hard to make a career. It's hard to stand on your feet for 16 hours a day, especially during the holidays or what have you. But I always kind of found my stride in operations. That was where I really loved to work. You know, I waited tables, I cooked all that stuff. Really preferred cooking over waiting tables, even if it was half the salary. I still remember the conversation with the GM at this long gone little italian restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina, called Bocce's. It's like a tourist trap, having the conversation with the GM that I wanted to work cold apps in the kitchen for $6 an hour, and she looked at me like I was bonker.

Rachael Nemeth [00:04:05]:

And I was so, so happy after that because I was cooking for people.

Angelo Esposito [00:04:11]:

Right?

Rachael Nemeth [00:04:11]:

Anyway, fast forward to when I moved to New York in 2010. I stayed in the industry, really, to pay off my college loans and just make a living. And by night, I got my certification to teach English as a second language. That's what I wanted to do, was teach. So stayed in the industry throughout that process to really pay the bills, and ended up working for Danny Meyer at Union Square Hospitality group. And that was really where I began my first company, which was called eslworks. What we did is we delivered English as a second language, training to employee cell phones. For anyone who's listening, you know exactly what this problem is.

Rachael Nemeth [00:05:00]:

I don't have to explain it to you. 35% of frontline workers don't speak English as their first language. There's big communication gaps in the kitchen, and I knew how to teach English. So we started as a services business, and it very quickly, I guess, over the course of two or three years, it evolved into a technology that delivered that training to cell phones. There's a lot of twists and turns from there that got us to opus, which we can go into, but that's really, really the origin story, was me trying to get out and then finding a way back in. In a really odd way that solved a real problem.

Angelo Esposito [00:05:36]:

Yeah, it's like. Yeah, it's like, what is it? Like, the godfather? You know? Every time I try to get out. They pull me back in and out of curiosity, I mean, I got a couple questions that come to mind and we'll get more into it, but one is what made you go to New York? Like, were you going there specifically for something or. Yeah, I'm curious.

Rachael Nemeth [00:05:54]:

What kind of, I mean, why does anyone come to New York? I had this, I thought, I don't know, I just knew I needed to be here. I was in, I grew up in Kansas City, got and I went to school. I went to college at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, which is a very small town. And I like many big pivots in my life. Instead of inching my way into it, I just dove in headfirst and took a train up to New York. Just who takes a train anymore anyway? I'm not even aging myself. It wasn't, it was like twelve years ago. It's not like there weren't flights, but.

Angelo Esposito [00:06:43]:

Yeah, back in my day, yeah.

Rachael Nemeth [00:06:46]:

So, yeah, I think it was just the appeal of a bigger city and more people and more diversity. But frankly, it wasn't for the restaurants, it wasn't for the work either.

Angelo Esposito [00:06:57]:

Okay. That's what I was like thinking. That's why I was curious. Was it something to do with the hospitality space? It was really kind of just, hey, I got this itch. I want to see if like New.

Rachael Nemeth [00:07:07]:

York, what was the itch? I also, I had never heard of Danny Meyer in my entire life. Like, I didn't know, I didn't know anything about the industry until maybe like the real industry. Right. Until maybe I was like five or six years into New York and Mike Anthony, the executive chef at Gramercy Tavern who ended up being a mentor to me, was like, you really haven't seen the industry until you've worked for Danny Meyer and you don't really know what the industry can be and what innovation looks like and what risk looks like until you've worked for Danny Meyer. And he was right. So, yeah, I love that you asked that question because I still have no idea what the heck.

Angelo Esposito [00:07:55]:

Yeah. Sometimes intuition. Right. You just kind of like take that leap of faith. Yeah. That's super cool though. And I love, I love how you kind of married your, what you were doing in terms of, you know, work, like, right. Like you wanted to be a teacher and then your background and so that, that first kind of version or mvp, which I guess maybe your first, you know, crack at what you're doing today.

Angelo Esposito [00:08:15]:

What happened with that? I'd love to hear the story behind that. So it started off, as, you know, like you said, that training being sent to the cell phone for people whose primary language was not English. And so what did that look like? You started this thing. How did you go about getting customers? Like, I'd love to hear the transition, because sometimes, and it's happened to me personally, too, it's like sometimes you pivot many times within the same company, but sometimes it's a couple companies, and then you kind of pivot to the newest idea or company where it's like, yeah, if I didn't go through those other two things, I probably wouldn't have landed here. So curious to hear what that journey looked like.

Rachael Nemeth [00:08:51]:

Well, that's exactly it. And I think that's the dirty little secret about entrepreneurship in general, is most of us have built two to three to four companies, and sometimes it's under the same name, and sometimes it's not, and sometimes it's under different investors, and sometimes it's not. But it's all a process of iterating. It's just like a restaurant, too. There's so many different iterations. It's like, where you'll see, like, this was at my grandpa's restaurant. He ran, for many years, Don's restaurant and bar. That was like the first full service.

Rachael Nemeth [00:09:26]:

And then he many, many years later, Don's world of beef was like the casual dining QSR version. We see this all the time, where you're like, how'd you. From that to that. But it comes with lots of attempts and failures. So training is very hard, teaching is very hard. So I literally chose one of the hardest things to work for, and then I switched to another really hard thing to do, which, God help me, I have no idea why I did that, but it gave me a unique perspective on why I wanted to solve this problem really fast and really well, because I was so frustrated. And I think some of the greatest moments of innovation come from pure frustration and fatigue. And so the origin of ESL works was actually a services business.

Rachael Nemeth [00:10:22]:

I literally, I hired a league of, you know, a dozen teachers, and I basically, like, shipped them into New York City restaurants between shifts. That's the only time when you can teach esL, right? It's opening and closing shift coming together, 90 minutes classes, all work focused. I stored an easel at all these places, and what I was Really running was a logistics business.

Angelo Esposito [00:10:49]:

Right? Wow.

Rachael Nemeth [00:10:50]:

Telling teachers where to go. And so we had, like, some of the biggest names in New York City, but it was so hard, and I. And I think it's maybe man, it's probably, like, the closest I'll ever get to running a restaurant. So I was Like, the margins are terrible.

Angelo Esposito [00:11:09]:

It was really long hours open every day.

Rachael Nemeth [00:11:12]:

I was, like, getting up at three to teach a 05:00 a.m. Class at a warehouse in the Bronx. It was wonderful, though, because. Because we were really learning so much so quickly. But out of that fatigue came this idea, and frankly, like, demand from our customers who were saying, you know, even if you're coming at the most convenient times, you're still missing out on 80% of our workforce that's got second jobs and kids and commutes. And it's funny, you know, how, in retrospect, everything always seems like it was much faster than it was.

Angelo Esposito [00:11:45]:

Yeah.

Rachael Nemeth [00:11:46]:

I was thinking about this the other day. You've probably been through this. It actually took me with people, with other humans, I think, like, 18 to 24 months to prototype, to get the right prototype for ESL to employee cell phones. I think we maybe had 15 different MVP's, and it ended up being. One Saturday morning, I was sitting really frustrated, ready to give up. Honestly, it's like one. You know, it's like a fairy tale.

Angelo Esposito [00:12:21]:

Yeah.

Rachael Nemeth [00:12:22]:

And I was like, you know what? I'm gonna try one last thing. I made a quick video. I just, like, recorded something on the computer. I think I was. I taught the Alphabet. I think that was the first video. I didn't care what I taught. I was like, I need to do something.

Rachael Nemeth [00:12:40]:

I made a quiz using Google forms, and the one thing that I hadn't tried is we had the phone numbers of, like, 500 employees, and we had all these teacher WhatsApp chats with them, these group chats, to tell them about class and send them their homework. So I ended up just using the WhatsApp chat to distribute this video and the quiz, and 86% of them completed it within, like, an hour.

Angelo Esposito [00:13:09]:

Wow.

Rachael Nemeth [00:13:10]:

You know, it's the highest engagement rate I've ever had.

Angelo Esposito [00:13:13]:

That's insane. Yeah, that's insane. 86%. That's unheard of. Okay.

Rachael Nemeth [00:13:17]:

It was a small test group, but it was all the validation I needed to start sunsetting the services side to figure out the tech side. So, of course, found engineers, et cetera. But you're probably wondering, like, how we got from ESL.

Angelo Esposito [00:13:30]:

Yeah. Yeah.

Rachael Nemeth [00:13:30]:

Which is still. There's actually still ESL lessons embedded in the product, kind of an active part, but that's not really the core of what Opus does. We are a multilingual training platform, but what we really do is we deliver micro training to employees. And we couple that with this coaching technology. I know you see this all the time. Managers are some of the hardest people to train, to be good trainers. They're mostly green, lots of different generations, very difficult to get data, lots of tribal knowledge floating around that's not being recorded, which is why you get bad customer reviews and then it's not solved for four months. And a lot of that comes back to managers not responding and not teaching their teams.

Rachael Nemeth [00:14:20]:

But I don't blame them. Like, they're busy as hell. Yeah. You know? So how we got from this tiny little niche product to this beautiful training platform was COVID.

Angelo Esposito [00:14:37]:

Oh, really? Okay.

Rachael Nemeth [00:14:38]:

Yeah, I mean, I'm sure you saw this at WISK, too. Like, we really saw that the industry was suffering. We thought the industry was dead at that point. So, March 2020, I emailed all of our customers. I said, listen, we're going to stop invoicing. You let us know how we can help. And at that point, I was like, well, had a good run. I tried, had a really good run.

Rachael Nemeth [00:15:05]:

Anyway, what ended up happening is I started to get emails from customers who said, listen, we're up and running. We're off premise, but we have people here, and they don't know how to wear a mask or wash their hands. They don't know how to handle food properly. And we need to figure out a way to teach them really fast because my training director is working remotely right now, or we had to let her go because we had a Rif. And so they needed technology. Very quickly, we pivoted to use the same technology to deliver free COVID safety training to any business in America that wanted it. And at that point, I was like, well, if we're gonna go down, let's just go down in flames and do this with helping as many people as we can.

Angelo Esposito [00:15:56]:

Yeah, yeah.

Rachael Nemeth [00:15:56]:

You know, and that was the genuine reaction at that point. The one thing that everyone craved during COVID if you were fortunate enough to be safe in your apartment or your house, was something to do. And I was like, well, this is something to do, and I can help people. But it very quickly, we grew from zero to 20,000 users in a week.

Angelo Esposito [00:16:19]:

Wow.

Rachael Nemeth [00:16:20]:

And that was all the validation I needed to know that what we had built was really special and could do a lot more than just teach English. It could actually solve these business problems of accessibility. So that was it.

Angelo Esposito [00:16:36]:

The rest of it that's amazing.

Rachael Nemeth [00:16:37]:

Is history and so easy and perfect and.

Angelo Esposito [00:16:43]:

No, but it's amazing because it's. It's funny, then you kind of alluded to it, but sometimes it's like if you really focus on giving value, which is hard when you don't have your back against the wall, but, you know, having a back ends the wall, being like, you know what, effort. Like, if I'm going, like you said, I'm going down and going down and really giving free value. It's interesting how sometimes that's, that's what you need. And, you know, there's just saying of like, how do you make your free shit better than someone's page? And, you know, like, to get, to get good, good leads in the door and earn that trust. And it's funny because, you know, you, whether on purpose or not on purpose, but, you know, by just kind of going in good faith and being like, you know what, let me help people. You probably gained a lot of trust, learned a lot, built a lot of users, validated, you know, the version 5.0 of the business. I'm sure there was many iterations.

Angelo Esposito [00:17:30]:

So that's super interesting. And I love the years. Like, from that point on, you're now like, okay, 20,000 users, people are watching this COVID training. Was that when you're like, yeah, well, yeah. Like what? Like, how do I, like, were you thinking, like, how do I, how do I monetize this now? How do I need engineers?

Rachael Nemeth [00:17:49]:

We were definitely trying to figure out how to monetize it. What made sense? I think the next big problem to solve was, believe it or not, it was accessibility. We were getting people in fast, but we weren't satisfied. It wasn't fast enough. There were so many barriers to entry, especially for technology, for frontline workers. And it's a really important thing, especially if you just look at the software space. Everything requires an email. Everything is English only, everything is mobile responsive and not native mobile, or it's desktop only.

Rachael Nemeth [00:18:30]:

And then the web responsive on mobile is, is terrible. And so we spent six months perfecting the sign in experience. And I'm not going to say that it's like some big trade secret. Like, literally anybody could go to the website and sign in and figure out and see it. But I'm saying that because we nitpicked the flow. And it's one of the first things that people get all sparkly eyed about opus, is we never ask for an employee email. We ask for their phone number, which is actually better and more accurate for frontline employees. They're changing their phones all the time, so we handle that as well.

Rachael Nemeth [00:19:11]:

And the sign in experience, the first thing we ask you is not what's your name? It's what language do you speak? So the whole UI changes to, you know, Arabic or French or Spanish or what have you, 100 global languages, you feel welcome before you even start.

Angelo Esposito [00:19:30]:

That's cool.

Rachael Nemeth [00:19:30]:

And so that was really like the thing that set us apart so quickly was this emphasis, honestly, on the training, the trainee experience historically, what a lot of software companies do, especially if they're building any sort of frontline training solution, scheduling, whatever. They focused on the admin first, and we knew that there were 17. Well, I've heard 1200. I've heard 1700. There's a ton. It's a super fragmented learning market.

Angelo Esposito [00:20:05]:

Right.

Rachael Nemeth [00:20:06]:

But only about 30% of businesses are actually using these platforms because they don't work for restaurants. And so my point in saying all of that is you can't solve the same problem by doing the same thing 1700 companies have done before you. And so you have to take a step forward and just say, we might fail again at this, everyone might hate it, but we've got to do what we know works for the end user. And it worked in our favor. After that, it was all about content. We lovingly call it the content problem at Opus, but that first piece was just getting you into the system.

Angelo Esposito [00:20:53]:

Wow. And at that time, you know, you alluded to it. There's a lot of different learning systems. What was the main reason from your point of view that, like, you know, I know some of it's just user experience, but what was the main reason that maybe restaurants weren't adapting these other systems and, you know, like yours worked, and I guess a big piece was maybe the sign in process, but what else would you say kind of contributed to that?

Rachael Nemeth [00:21:17]:

Well, when we talk about how Opus fits into the flow of work, yeah. It's designed to be a training companion to your workday. One thing that we never promise restaurants is that we're going to digitize 100% of your training, which is a lot of what you saw in the early aughts.

Angelo Esposito [00:21:36]:

Yes, that was exactly what I was thinking. All your sops in here, yeah, that's.

Rachael Nemeth [00:21:44]:

Fine dating, but Google Drive can do that. I don't care about that. So it was really about creating an interactive experience that was in any language that an employee preferred, but coupled it with the stuff that was already happening on the job. No one will ever get rid of in person training. You shouldn't, because that's the good stuff. Manager's sitting next to somebody and saying, listen, you're chopping that onion the wrong way. It's not how we do it. Here's how you do it.

Rachael Nemeth [00:22:16]:

You can't teach that with a video and a quiz. You just can't. And I don't. I will go to the. You did a godfather, I'll go to the mattresses or whatever they say. But that doesn't lead to knowledge retention.

Angelo Esposito [00:22:35]:

Fair. Yeah.

Rachael Nemeth [00:22:36]:

And so, sure, you can get a quick completion checkbox, but how do I make sure that you have coached me properly and that there's a record of that? Well, it's already happening. So what we're doing to solve this problem is capturing all that data while simultaneously getting that manager a tool. That said, a lot of these guys are like 18 years old, say, listen, like, you know how we do this, but you got to make sure that those five people know how to do it. How do you greet guests? And so we give them a really beautiful interface that's just for managers and just on mobile for them. We're not going to ask the manager to go to the office that gives them guidelines that says, listen, like, here's the five things this person needs to know in order to actually be certified in this skill. Rate them one to ten or take a photo or what have you. And that's led to really incredible success. The reason why restaurants, to answer your question, the reason why restaurants aren't choosing these systems is because it actually is.

Rachael Nemeth [00:23:39]:

Compared to the legacy systems, it actually is easier to train on paper and just rely on tribal knowledge because it's very expensive to get all of that training into a platform. So that was like the second piece that really. I was alluding to this earlier. There's nothing harder than creating a training module. It is so hard, it's so taxing. And no one in the industry is. Is like an instructional designer by trade. Most of the time, they were former operators, and someone was like, you're really good at teaching people.

Rachael Nemeth [00:24:21]:

You should do this. And honestly, they're the best ones for the job. That was me, too. So we have invested heavily in AI in order to help businesses create training, either from existing materials and convert them into microtraining, or create it from public domain so they can build custom content 500 times faster than traditional solutions and get it out to market at the speed of their operation, rather than what we hear a lot, which is we have an LTO coming up. We got a plan six months in advance because Judy Schmoote has to create the training and do all the classroom stuff, or, you know, we have to let 15 people audit it. It can just be solved in minutes.

Angelo Esposito [00:25:12]:

Now that's awesome. That's super interesting. And, like, I, like, I love the idea, obviously, of the multilingual aspect. Like, how. I mean, I guess the first question that comes to mind is, how do you manage that? Like, how do you. How did you manage to offer 101 languages, you know, and are you, these days, are you leveraging AI to kind of do that? Because I'm thinking about tools. I've seen more on the marketing side and stuff, or sales side, like being able to maybe do some video and then it can transcribe it or audio it in different languages. And it's not perfect yet, but with any technology, it usually grows pretty exponential.

Angelo Esposito [00:25:50]:

So it's probably not far off from being perfect. Like, maybe. Maybe a couple months, maybe a year. Like, it's probably not a crazy, far fetched idea, but I love to hear from your side, like, what does that look like? Right. Like, especially in places. I live in Miami, so, like, obviously Spanish is big here, English and Spanish. But, you know, when you, when you're in places or New York, which is super multicultural, you get a bit of everything, maybe even Spanish, English, French, who knows? But how. Yeah, how do you go about managing that? Because that's building a tech company is complex enough, then building a tech company in the restaurant space, aka me, is hard enough.

Angelo Esposito [00:26:24]:

And then I think you take it a level above. I think we're in, like, three or four languages, but you're adding 101 languages. So I'd love to hear a bit about, like, the strategy and thought behind that and how you manage it.

Rachael Nemeth [00:26:33]:

Well, remember, we came into this with the language experience already, right? We already had competitive advantage, and we had this perspective that where we said, like, there's no question this has to be the thing that we invest in. It's ingrained in our mission and our vision. You know, our mission is to create a world where every frontline worker has a good job. You can't have a good job if you don't understand the thing on the paper that makes you feel welcome. And people say, you know, people are leaving managers, not jobs. That's true, too. Your manager doesn't speak your first language. You need some companion to help you with those interactions.

Rachael Nemeth [00:27:20]:

So to your point, we automatically translate every interaction in Opus into 100 global languages.

Angelo Esposito [00:27:27]:

Wow.

Rachael Nemeth [00:27:29]:

Yes. We're leveraging AI for that. On top of that, any video training that you choose to do, which, by the way, training doesn't have to be videos for anyone out there. There's plenty of good. That doesn't have videos, but we do the videos, too. Auto captions and auto subtitles for you. On top of that, we're supporting text to speech. So the level of accessibility that you can achieve grows, to your point, exponentially when you just multiply the languages from there.

Rachael Nemeth [00:27:58]:

We tell restaurants this all the time, but I don't blame them for not having solved it, because it's very expensive. If you have 250 employees and 249 of them speak English and one speaks Mandarin, you're not compliant and you're not inclusive. But I don't blame restaurants for not translating the employee handbook to simplify Chinese. So how do we, as opus, take on that burden and help you solve that problem? It's with technology. The second piece to that that's really important, you were talking about, like, AI. It's getting better. I agree it's getting better, but this is where the language nerd in me is gonna come out. Translations are only as good as your inputs, so I'm gonna put it as unromantically as.

Rachael Nemeth [00:28:53]:

As possible. If your English sucks, if you're not good at writing, then your translations are gonna suck.

Angelo Esposito [00:28:59]:

That's fair. Yeah, that's fair.

Rachael Nemeth [00:29:02]:

If you're using tons of idioms, which a ton of restaurants do, yeah. That translator will not pick it up for you. And so my advice to anyone, if you're using any translation tools, is be thinking about, like, the most simple, straightforward English that you can use in your translations most of the time, will get you better than what a human could do.

Angelo Esposito [00:29:26]:

That's interesting. Yeah, it's a good point, because. Yeah, I think we all speak in idioms, and we all use kind of, you know, all kinds of expressions. And when you think about it, yeah, it's not easy from a translation point of view, because we're always using, you know, and especially, like, across cultures, it's too tough. Like, you know, I'm thinking of, like, other languages, too. I grew up in Montreal, actually, so I speak French, too, and I actually speak Spanish, too, and then, so, like, I just think about some things that if you translate word for word, make no sense at all, you know, I'm thinking of a funny one now that comes to mind. But it's like, at least, I think in most of, like, South America, but at least I could say for sure in Colombia, because that's where I've heard it. And.

Angelo Esposito [00:30:04]:

And my wife's colombian. But don't. Basically, translation is like, don't give them papaya, which basically means, like, don't show off. So you don't get raw, like, don't wear a rolex or whatever, like, in public, you know, but it's like, I'm thinking of translations, like that. That would be so hard to capture.

Rachael Nemeth [00:30:20]:

Well, there's even simpler ones that are so subtle, like, take it away. Right? Hey, get started. You know. Hey, Rachel, we're recording the podcast. Take it away.

Angelo Esposito [00:30:32]:

Yeah, it's so true.

Rachael Nemeth [00:30:34]:

I think we. If it would be such an interesting exercise if there was some cool technology, we will never do this. But, like, if they could record someone all day, then they pick out every idiom.

Angelo Esposito [00:30:49]:

Yeah, no, and there's a lot.

Rachael Nemeth [00:30:51]:

Yeah, there's so many. And it's such a core part of English. So I'm not negating that. It's a core part of many languages. Not all, but many.

Angelo Esposito [00:31:00]:

Yeah.

Rachael Nemeth [00:31:01]:

It's about developing some awareness around that you actually know what parts of your English are confusing or when you're speaking too quickly. And there are very simple ways. We actually developed so most of the content that people are doing, they're creating themselves with the AI builder. But we do have off the shelf stuff, and we have this module called cross cultural communication. I preached this all the time at eslworks. I was like, you do not have to learn Spanish in order to communicate thoughtfully with your team. You can speak slower, you can use better body language, you can understand what other cultures are expecting of body language, and you can slow down and simplify your English, and people will pick it up. It's not going to be perfect, but you'll get the point of it.

Angelo Esposito [00:31:53]:

Yeah, that makes sense. That's an interesting way of putting it. And it's funny, because I think. I think about, like, the. The challenge. Sorry, not the challenges. The. The number of times I was just.

Angelo Esposito [00:32:05]:

As you're talking about, like, idioms, I'm thinking about, like, our regular kind of internal meetings, even at risk. Like the classic, like, yeah, we'll put that on ice, and, yeah, we'll like the classic things people say on these online meetings. I'm like, there's. That'd be a funny exercise. But I swear, if I would, like, listen back to all my meetings, I could probably pick out, like, 20 a day easily of just kind of like, yeah, I'll put that on the back burner, you know, just like, whatever it may be. But there's so many of these things anyways, but, yeah, so I love to hear. So. So going back to opus, like, so obviously, you guys now have this niche.

Angelo Esposito [00:32:35]:

You're very focused on the frontline. Worker, which makes sense. You're a real focus on the actual experience, on the multilingual approach. So at this point, like, what type of, let's say, restaurant is really up your alley? Because on one hand I'm imagining groups because you have that, like, you know, economies of scale of, like, training and maybe, but, like, I'd love to hear from you. What, where did you guys start finding success? And who's your, like, typical client these days?

Rachael Nemeth [00:33:03]:

I mean, we. Opus is really designed to solve this business problem of how can I achieve skills with training? And training is expensive, so how do I either save money or make money? So I either need to cut back the training labor, which can sometimes be, you know, depending on how intense your operation is, it's at least two shifts for a QSR. We've seen up to four weeks for full service restaurants.

Angelo Esposito [00:33:34]:

Wow.

Rachael Nemeth [00:33:35]:

And so how can you shave back that time, give admins their time back, too, so that they can start to be more strategic? And so it's about shaving down that cost and then actually positioning the training in a way that you can start making more money. So what I mean by that is we were talking about, like, guest complaints and things earlier, things that, like, can potentially disrupt your operation. If I get a bad Yelp review, I should be able to, to turn that into training very quickly so that I can get those customers back and start to increase sales. So a lot of what we're trying to solve for are those pieces, which means that the best customers we have and the best fit for us is a business that is maybe small. Right now we call these, like, emerging brands. So maybe, you know, it's like Kevin Hart's heart house. We started with them when they had, like, one location, but they have plans to grow to 25 in the next couple of years. So they have to be investing now.

Rachael Nemeth [00:34:46]:

Big chicken, lots of chicken brands. But those are great examples. We also really love working with really established brands that maybe have been on paper for the last 20, 30, 80 years and need to stay competitive in the market. Whether it's the labor market or not, it's hard to keep up these days. The market itself is changing. Consumer behavior is changing. Investor behavior is changing. Franchisee behavior is changing.

Rachael Nemeth [00:35:20]:

And paper and versioning becomes very expensive.

Angelo Esposito [00:35:24]:

Right. That's, that's interesting. And like, when, when you guys think of, like, onboarding a customer, you know, for our listeners, restaurateurs, owners, you name it, managers, you know, probably this is going through their head. Maybe they've tried something, maybe not. Maybe it's on paper, what does the actual, let's say, experience look like of. Okay, I'm interested. Opus training has caught my attention, I guess for a quick plug, you know, where do they go and what does the process look like from, you know, discovery? They're interested, they land on your website. Maybe just walk them through the, the typical maybe customer journey.

Rachael Nemeth [00:35:57]:

Most people are going to hear about us through this, through content. We like to educate, we like to teach, we like to be out there in the world generating ideas and thinking through what's next in the world. So you'll hear about us a lot, but it's really simple to get started with Opus. I'll position it this way. There's a lot of things that frustrated me with the status quo when I was working in restaurants, and one of them was also that I had to like if I was ever signing a contract, I had to spend months sometimes negotiating this thing for, you know, 300 people or users. With Opus, you can get started really small, you can grow from there. Most people want to get started with one or two locations. That's totally fine.

Rachael Nemeth [00:36:47]:

And you can sort of evolve from there if you want to, especially if you're a little nervous about making that switch. We can help you out with that. The journey's quite quick, though, to get from. I am excited to bring my training to life and have it fit to flow to work. You can get a couple of training topics built within a matter of hours. You can collaborate with colleagues immediately if you want to, to get some feedback. They can do it asynchronously to do course reviews and give you some feedback. That way they can also just get in the content builder with you and build live much like you would Google Doc.

Rachael Nemeth [00:37:27]:

So we've seen smaller businesses get up and running in a matter of two days. Their whole front line it's reached them. But some people like to take it slow. So they might say, I'm just going to focus on just my guest facing employees to start, and then we'll do back of house next. The third way that we see people start. This is actually interesting. It's much more common these days, compliance training. It's a big focus for restaurants these days with fair work week and joint employer and all of these laws on top of sexual harassment prevention and food handlers.

Rachael Nemeth [00:38:05]:

So we have a whole arm of the business where you don't even have to create content. We can just help keep you compliant on all the state laws.

Angelo Esposito [00:38:13]:

That's interesting.

Rachael Nemeth [00:38:14]:

Same day we've seen businesses that unfortunately something happened there was a claim. And they did train their team, but they trained their team maybe with a platform that didn't resonate. So they had a couple people that didn't do it. The finest example is the anti harassment training with the man and the woman in the office. Like what restaurant employee is ever going to resonate? So that's kind of, those are like the three ways that someone can get up and running is just choosing a plan that's nice and simple for them and their finances. Choosing something that maybe starts with a segment of your workforce if you'd like to, or maybe a couple of locations or starting with like the compliance only.

Angelo Esposito [00:39:10]:

And I guess for people that are listening, just quick plug. So it's Opus.so. Right.

Rachael Nemeth [00:39:17]:

It's Opus.so perfect.

Angelo Esposito [00:39:19]:

Cool. So for those listening, Opus.so. And I notice even have a free trial. So I was assuming it was a demo. That's awesome. No, because in my head I was thinking maybe a demo or something, but it sounds like it's pretty easy. So. And then sounds like you guys have a good user experience.

Angelo Esposito [00:39:34]:

So yeah. For those listening, if this piques your curiosity, if it's a problem that you've been facing, a pain point you're facing just literally Opus, sign up for the free trial and try it out. But super interesting. And then on your side, just to get into like from idea to serious pain point you want to solve. I love to see how it pivoted from that first kind of version to where it is today. What's kind of next for you? Like, and I say next maybe like what's obviously just growth and getting more customers and every entrepreneur wants that. But outside of just, you know, growing and getting more brands, like what, what type of things do you see next?

Rachael Nemeth [00:40:11]:

For Opus, it's a long road to completely change the world of work. There's a lot it's very broken from and it's not just as simple as, you know, pay. I've been on the employer side too. That's hard and it's hard to afford it. So we have a long journey ahead of us. But we fundamentally believe that training is the golden thread through all of it that can really solve some big problems with frontline work and namely the restaurant industry. You know, in the immediate future, we're very excited and committed. Obviously I'm biased, but like, to the restaurant and hospitality industry.

Rachael Nemeth [00:40:55]:

So we're here and there's a lot of work to do. We're also very committed to training. We've only just begun to be honest and so it's important to us. That and me as a business owner. Like, we keep our team laser focused on that training problem to solve, and we plan to be there for a while. So as far as the innovation side is concerned, we're continuing to invest heavily in AI. I know you're probably hearing this from everyone right now.

Angelo Esposito [00:41:24]:

It makes sense.

Rachael Nemeth [00:41:25]:

We did years ago when we started with translation technology. We did a year ago when llms started becoming more publicly available, and they're getting better and better and better, so much faster than you would ever expect, and in really good ways. I was talking to Kristen Hawley about this at Expedite.

Angelo Esposito [00:41:49]:

Yeah. Like, we had her on not too long ago.

Rachael Nemeth [00:41:52]:

Yeah. And she was like, you know, everyone's so pessimistic about AI, and you're so optimistic. Why are you so optimistic about AI? And listen, like, there are a lot of regulatory conversations happening right now, and we'll see where those lead. But if you use AI intentionally and if you use it to solve the right problems, it can really help businesses and their teams significantly. And so you can expect a lot of really cool stuff the next year centered on that technology.

Angelo Esposito [00:42:31]:

That's awesome. And I'm with you there. Like, honestly, the way I see it when it comes to AI is, like, unfortunately or fortunately, I don't know, but I don't have enough power to stop AI. That's like, either I'm gonna, you know, see how I can use it for good, or you can just lock yourself in a room and be fearful, but, like, being fearful won't change anything. So, like, for me, it's just a matter of, like, hey, it's possible there are a lot of serious potential negative outcomes, but, like, I can't really do anything, so might as well look at the positive outcomes. How can I help in my personal life, in my business life? How can I make my employees lives easier? How can they leverage tech to maybe focus on more creative tech? Like, how can we help our restaurateur clients? So I'm with you there. It's like, I'm optimistic about it, too, because it's like, the alternative is what, just waiting and locking yourself up?

Rachael Nemeth [00:43:17]:

Yeah, it's a little apples and oranges, but I'll try to thread the needle on this. It's kind of like, ten years ago, it was taboo to use your phone at work, even if you were a desk worker. You just were expected not to use your phone at work. And we saw this seismic shift in culture, especially in restaurants, that now you actually need to keep your phone and there's ways to regulate it, right? There's ways to manage that phone usage so that it can actually benefit an employee and they can get the access they need. Save hr a ton of time, save mattress a ton of time. And AI is much bigger. But it's the same thing. Where to your point, if you embrace it and if you look at it for the good that it can create and generate, it can make a meaningful impact on people's lives.

Angelo Esposito [00:44:24]:

Yeah, I love that. Well said. Any, this is great by the way. Again, for those just kind of tuning or listening or need a reminder, Opus training platform opus. So they got a free trial. It sounds like a no brainer. Try it out if it works for you. 101 languages.

Angelo Esposito [00:44:41]:

But to just kind of wrap up this episode, I'd love to leave you with or ask you any kind of last words. Anything you want to share when it comes to the restaurant industry, or maybe to folks listening that are thinking about a training tool, or maybe using an alternate training tool or are still on pen and paper, anything you wanna share.

Rachael Nemeth [00:45:03]:

If you are training your team, then you're doing something right. So just taking the step to be intentional about training in whatever capacity, whether you choose to use a platform or not, is the right move. It means that you're investing in your people. Everyone kind of has their own time in their business and when they're ready to scale and they're ready to take that leap into a training platform, and it can be really scary. But if you're already doing it, it's really just about enhancement, not replacement. And I think that's the important message here is it's kind of like the big step from cash registers to pos and you know, I was in the age of like squirrel. I didn't even know what toast was when I was a server wasn't around and like paper receipts, POS didn't seek to like completely replace these systems, it was there to help enhance those systems. And I think that's the best way to think about a training platform.

Rachael Nemeth [00:46:04]:

It's just the next evolution of what's already naturally happening at work.

Angelo Esposito [00:46:07]:

I love it. Well, you heard it here first. Rachael Nemeth, Founder of Opus.so Opus training, thank you for sharing your wisdom, sharing your journey, and it was a pleasure to have you on the Wisking It All podcast.

Rachael Nemeth [00:46:23]:

Thanks for having me. This was fun.

Angelo Esposito [00:46:25]:

Awesome. Feel free to check out WISK.AI for more resources and schedule a demo with one of our product specialists to see if it's a fit for you.

Meet Your Host & Guest

Rachael Nemeth, CEO of Opus Training

Rachael led operations and people for over a decade in the hospitality industry, most recently for Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group. She comes from a family of restaurant veterans, including her grandfather who owned Don's World of Beef, a restaurant chain based in Kansas City in the 1960's. Rachael is also certified in second language acquisition and teaching English as a Second Language.

ANGELO ESPOSITO, CO-FOUNDER AND CEO OF WISK.AI

Meet Angelo Esposito, the Co-Founder and CEO of WISK.ai, Angelo's vision is to revolutionize the hospitality industry by creating an inventory software that allows bar and restaurant owners to streamline their operations, improve their margins and sales, and minimize waste. With over a decade of experience in the hospitality industry, Angelo deeply understands the challenges faced by bar and restaurant owners. From managing inventory to tracking sales to forecasting demand, Angelo has seen it all firsthand. This gave him the insight he needed to create WISK.ai.

Recent Episodes

S2E16 - Breaking Language Barriers in Hospitality: Rachael Nemeth's Opus Training Story

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Notes du spectacle

Episode Notes

Rachael Nemeth, Co-Founder and CEO of Opus Training, shares her journey of starting the company and the challenges they faced in the restaurant industry.  Opus Training is a training platform designed for hospitality businesses, offering micro-training that fits into the flow of work. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it pivoted to provide free COVID-19 safety training, which led to significant growth. The platform is multilingual, offering training in 101 languages, and leverages AI to improve accessibility and user experience.

In this conversation, Rachael emphasizes the importance of simplifying language and avoiding idioms in training materials to ensure effective communication. Opus Training is a platform that focuses on solving the business problem of achieving scale with training. They aim to save money and make money for businesses by cutting back on training labor and positioning training to increase sales. Their typical clients are emerging brands and established brands in the restaurant industry. The customer journey with Opus Training starts with content education, followed by a simple and quick onboarding process. The platform offers a free trial for users to try out. Opus Training plans to continue investing in AI technology to enhance its training platform. The founder, Rachael Nemeth, encourages businesses to be intentional about training and sees training platforms as an enhancement, not a replacement, to existing training systems.

Takeaways

  • Opus Training is a training platform designed for hospitality businesses, offering micro-training that fits into the flow of work.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, Opus Training pivoted to provide free COVID-19 safety training, which led to significant growth.
  • The platform is multilingual, offering training in 101 languages, and leverages AI to improve accessibility and user experience.
  • Simplifying language and avoiding idioms in training materials can ensure effective communication.
  • Opus Training focuses on solving the business problem of achieving scale with training.
  • Their typical clients are emerging brands and established brands in the restaurant industry.
  • The customer journey with Opus Training starts with content education and has a simple and quick onboarding process.
  • Opus Training plans to continue investing in AI technology to enhance its training platform.
  • Training platforms should be seen as an enhancement, not a replacement, of existing training systems.

Timestamps

00:00 The Evolution of Phone Usage at Work

01:16 Introduction to Opus Training

02:11 Rachel Nemeth's Background and Inspiration for Opus Training

03:37 The Love for Operations in the Restaurant Industry

04:45 Transitioning to New York and Starting ESL Works

05:44 The Journey from ESL Works to Opus Training

06:43 The Decision to Move to New York

07:55 Working for Danny Meyer and Starting ESL Works

08:22 The MVP and Evolution of ESL Works

09:47 The Iterative Process of Building a Company

10:43 The Shift to Technology and the Birth of Opus Training

12:39 The Breakthrough Moment for Opus Training

13:30 The Impact of COVID-19 on Opus Training

14:29 The Focus on Accessibility and Multilingual Training

18:22 The Sign-in Experience and Language Selection

20:18 The Importance of Training in the Flow of Work

21:43 The Content Problem and AI Solutions

23:34 The Challenges of Language Translation

25:36 Managing 101 Languages and Leveraging AI

32:54 Ideal Customers for Opus Training

35:35 Onboarding Process for Opus Training

39:57 The Future of Opus Training

45:10 The Importance of Training and Enhancing Workflows

Ressources

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