The Brains Behind Bon Appétit’s Award-Winning Knowledge Library

Bon Appetit's Cervello logo

Sharing information with thousands of employees in 33 states is a challenge, one that Bon Appétit has managed for years with a proprietary extranet and a variety of communication tools.

Cervello's homepage

Cervello’s colorfully helpful homepage

However, in early 2019 it was clear to Bon Appétit Chief Administrative Officer Liz Baldwin that a new, future-oriented system was needed. She envisioned a learning platform that could house much of the information that was on the company extranet – employee services, accounting, safety trainings, and more – with all information able to be accessed easily and intuitively whether employees were using a smartphone or sitting at a desk. The team also wanted to capture data with the system to better understand how employees interact with the platform. This was a tall order, and Liz, National Brand Activation Director Jill Koenen, Vice President of Image and Style Carrie Buckley, and Senior Director of Information Technology Marcos Uechi set off on a hunt for this holy grail of a software system. Together, they landed on Inkling, a flexible and customizable platform that checked all their boxes.

With a new system selected, the team spent much of early 2020 eagerly building out what would become Cervello (the Italian word for “brain” — an homage to Bon Appétit’s Italian roots), only to have the project come to a pause when the pandemic threw Bon Appétit’s business, and the world, into chaos. Once accounts started coming back online, the need for a single and all-encompassing source of Bon Appétit’s information that would be conveniently accessible to on-site teams became accelerated. Teams needed to move quickly and have access to tools and information to navigate the competing demands of the pandemic, which have proved to be ever-changing. The Cervello team began a sprint that would last throughout the rest of 2020, and some of 2021, working with a designer to create a full suite of colorful and fun illustrations to complement the multitudes of content they were developing.

As Cervello took shape, the team began to appreciate the nimbleness and aesthetic sleekness of the new system. “We loved that Cervello has a playful and engaging interface, but also that you can access content from any device, and not only search Cervello as a whole but also within documents,”says Liz. “Cervello’s functionalities match the speed with which our teams work.” Cervello now integrates Inkling’s Learning Pathways, which can guide and track the lifecycle of an employee’s learning journey, offering important insights into employee engagement. Built-in InkForms provide safety checklists for Bon Appétit’s frontline workers, as well as other creative uses.

The user-friendly layout has also proved to be a perfect home for Bon Appétit’s updated interactive Win ‘Em Over With Service (WOWS) hospitality training program. Inkling’s interface conveniently lays out weekly directions for WOWS activities and beautifully showcases content submitted by teams across the country.

The Inkling Innovation award, on display at Bon Appétit headquarters

The Inkling Illuminate Award for Innovation, on display at Bon Appétit headquarters

In the summer of 2021, the team of Bon Appétit operators and support staff team who were instrumental in creating Cervello were selected from a crowded field of clients to receive Inkling’s 2021 Illuminate Award for Innovation. Accepting the award at Inkling’s virtual Illuminate conference, the team was celebrated as one of six award recipients. “By providing modern, interactive learning experiences, the winners of this year’s Inkling Illuminate awards provide great examples of how that flexibility and operational agility can elevate their business,” says Jeff Carr, CEO of Inkling. The award criteria noted the teams’ ability “to be a creative go-getter who found new and innovative ways to use or apply the Inkling solution,” a fitting testament to the folks who, in true Bon Appétiter fashion, rolled up their sleeves and built a new tool from scratch.