Bad Recipe: Why McDonald's Shouldn't Use Nintendo To Train Staff

Last Updated Apr 20, 2010 6:12 AM EDT

It's a great headline, "McDonald's Uses Nintendo To Train Staff," but don't be fooled. The real story is more fad than future. Here's Gizmodo:

...McDonald's Japan [developed] a $2.2 million DS "game" called eSmart that is designed to "cut training time by half." How? Unclear. Perhaps there's a frialator attachment we're not seeing yet.

Bloomberg just confirmed the training is happening in 80 percent of McDonald's Japan locations (with Nintendo DS video here).

But is it a good idea? Or, to put the question another way, would you use a Nintendo game machine to train your food-service staff? The problems are simple to understand:

  • No communication: I yell at my virtual cooking video games all the time. Luckily, they have no feelings -- or ears. A real restaurant environment, with real co-workers, requires real teamwork to succeed. In the real world, food service is never done in single-player mode.
  • No actual cooking: This is the big problem. Classic studies say people learn four different ways: Spatially (visually), Auditory-Musical (aurally), Linguistically (verbally) and Kinesthetically (physically). The visualizers don't see fake fries, the audiophiles most likely hear unrealistic noises, the verbals don't hear their co-workers' or customers' orders, and doers -- which is my group -- don't perform the same "muscle memory" actions.
McDonald's Japan doesn't purport to train using only the Nintendo DS software, but it's clear that the software will replace some more hands-on training techniques -- which is the whole point. From my books it should be clear that I'm a huge proponent of deploying technology in the workplace. But there are also some things that a specialized video game simply can't do.