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Starts With A Bang

Weekend Diversion: 25th anniversary of Wendy’s training music videos

Time to bring back the VHS players… and the magical rapping black man to train the new employees!

“If there are things you don’t like in the world you grew up in, make your own life different.” –Dave Thomas

And if you want a stellar example of someone who made his life different from the world he grew up in, you could do a lot worse than Grandmaster Flash, who took the music world by storm in the early 1980s with his hit, The Message.

But songs like this — as well as other contemporary ones — didn’t just influence the music scene, oh no. They also left their marks on employee training videos. While videos before and since have focused on boring “how-to” tutorials, there was a brief golden age 25 years ago, where you could get a new job at say, Wendy’s, and be greeted with the ultimate in video training!

Image credit: screenshot from Wendy’s Inc., 1989.

Sure, it might start off boring, with a very 1980s psychedelic-style intro followed by the mandatory “why we’re here” of listening to the company founder talk about fast food, but as the new employee-in-training — Bill — gets invited to training, we go with him through this new world of fast food mayhem. It seems overwhelming at first.

Image credit: screenshot from Wendy’s Inc., 1989.

We worry for Bill, as he might seem out of touch with what’s going on in this fast-paced world around him. But never fear, Bill, just prior to the four-minute mark, help is on the way for you. In what form? We’ve got a magical black man in a sparkly outfit and sunglasses ready to take you through the magical world of the grill. How?

Image credit: screenshot from Wendy’s Inc., 1989.

Through the power of videotape, rapping, and a little bit of spatula-based air guitar, of course!

Image credit: screenshot from Wendy’s Inc., 1989.

“Billy,” as he’s now known, gets all sorts of grilling advice, including how to salt the meat, when to flip it, and how to press it.

He also gets a lesson from the meat itself, mind you, on why you need to press it: otherwise, it’ll shrink, and we can’t have that!

Image credit: screenshot from Wendy’s Inc., 1989.

And once he’s told you what to do, now he’s going to take you through the steps again. All you’ve got to do is remember the rap!

Image credit: screenshot from Wendy’s Inc., 1989.

Billy remarkably remembers every single step in the Wendy’s rap, and even remembers the four-corner press on the meat.

We’re clearly rooting for Billy now, but his mentor has a little extra advice for him: try choking up a bit on the spatula!

Image credit: screenshot from Wendy’s Inc., 1989.

And once he’s got it all down, they celebrate with — what else — a secret handshake! (Billy doesn’t quite get it, but hey, he’s still new.)

Image credit: screenshot from Wendy’s Inc., 1989.

And Billy, don’t worry if you make a mistake on the grill. Don’t worry if your burger patty gets dry, burnt, broken or incomplete… we’ll just turn it into chili meat! (Think about that before you order Wendy’s chili next time.)

Image credit: screenshot from Wendy’s Inc., 1989.

We’re left wondering exactly what’s happening to “Billy” as he’s envisioning this magic training session, because when we return to the real world, we find his real-life manager there, trying to get his attention and saying, “Bill, the tape is over!”

Image credit: screenshot from Wendy’s Inc., 1989.

Not to worry, Bill, I have a feeling you’re going to be okay! After all, you’ve mastered your Grill Skills now!

Thanks to the power of YouTube, you can experience this remarkable journey for yourself, with no VHS player necessary.

But what if you’re not in the grilling business? What if you’ve got to learn how to serve sides, or hot drinks, or even cold drinks?

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Don’t worry, Wendy’s employees, we’ve got a training video for you, too, each one done in a different 1980s song style. Although “cold drinks” has a definite Paula Abdul vibe,

Image credit: screenshot from Wendy’s Inc., 1989.

and the “Chili can be served with cheese” video walks you through all the sides and snacks (including how to serve milk-in-a-carton),

Image credit: screenshot from Wendy’s Inc., 1989.

I think the “hot drinks” video has got to be the catchiest, in no small part due to the charisma of the dancing, boogie-down employee who kills it with his sassiness in this video!

Images credit: screenshots from Wendy’s Inc., 1989.

And with that, I hope you truly appreciate your employee training, no matter where you work!

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