App-based learning and training for food service workers.

Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC) improves wages and working conditions for the nation’s restaurant workforce. ROC provides support and training to hundreds of restaurant workers across the country, manages an association for ‘high road’ employers, and mobilizes dining consumers to advocate for pro-worker policies.

ROC came to The Workers Lab with an early-stage idea to develop a smartphone-enabled training program that might help low-wage restaurant workers move into fine dining jobs. We connected them with a game developer, provided $150,000 in loan support, and offered business development training to bring the game to life with an eye toward revenue generation.

After some preliminary testing of the prototype, development is ongoing and additional testing with more users is needed to prove out whether app-based learning is an effective conduit for upskilling low-wage restaurant workers. An early aspiration for the user-tested game was to have it placed on HotSchedules, one of the nation’s largest scheduling and eLearning platforms. In working with ROC, one of The Workers Lab’s earliest partners, we learned that most nonprofits are not structured to rapidly prototype products. They want to have a complete product before validating user uptake, which is not standard practice for tech products.

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Summary of Support

$150K Loan + Enterprise Institute business development training + Connected with a developer


Key Milestone

Launched program used by restaurant workers.