Z Central – an online platform for centralized training, education, & content.

Zócalo Central was built as a need to improve training in between restaurants to help with consistency and to make content easily accessible online.
Z Central theme: collages of all moments at all the locations combined with culture brand elements.
Zócalo Central used to exist as a paper binder in the kitchen at all locations, managers would print out new pages if certain ones got ruined (which was often because it's a fast moving kitchen) and the team would huddle over the binder trying to learn recipes as quickly as possible. The same was done for the front of the house team, there was a binder at the Bar & another at the Front Desk. The binder would constantly get lost or would always be outdated because replacing & adding new pages would be a huge inconvenience for the managers already packed days. Thus, Z Central was born.

Centralizing content & training in one location

As Zócalo continued to grow, there were growing pains that came along with it. Training had become hard to manage and finding updated content was a challenge for the restaurant managers. Managing a restaurant is already a huge challenge in itself, there is no playbook for restaurant managers as every day is a new day with constant setbacks that come from outside forces.

The current training at the time was a 4 inch plastic binder with printer paper within plastic covers.

The team didn't need a binder, they needed a training platform that was fast, easy to learn and easily available to everyone at all times. So when I was asked to create this digital platform, I got to work quickly on how to execute this in time for their next batch of hires.

Information Architecture & Wireframing

The first step I took in tackling this project was organizing every single piece of content and categorizing it accordingly. I worked closely with a member of the team, she had been at Zócalo from the very beginning & had the in-depth knowledge needed to bring clarity to every single training course and the education that followed it.

Working together, we organized each piece of content into 10 different courses, categorizing it from entry level to mid to manager and corporate level training. She arranged the content in Google Docs and shared it with me so that I was able to design a template for a paper/printer version, as well as the digital version - the one living on the web.

  • We organized HR & CA safety standardized training materials:
  • the main restaurant cookbook & recipes for every single item on the menu
  • the cocktail recipes for the bar
  • hospitality training for staff members
  • and most importantly, education for the internal culture at Zócalo (one of the strongest teams I've ever met)

Sitting with all that content, we were finally able to get a birds eye view of everything. From this step forward, I now had clear direction on the design and the functionality of the site as well. Grouping the content pieces by training level, also meant that there needed to be content locks & permission settings in place on the platform. The platform had to be built for everyone to use, and in doing so, that meant that the manger and corporate level training needed to be reserved behind a different access level than the ones served for entry level employees.

We determined the platform need 3 core sections: Masterclasses, Articles & Six Steps.

The overall content strategy for Central.
Tier One of the hierarchy of Z Central content pieces
An overview of how each content piece plays a role in each training course.
an example of one of the menu items we had to redesign.

Designing the theme of the site

Now that all the content was organized, I was able to focus on the creative pieces, like the design & theme of Zocalo Central. I really wanted to draw attention to the brand elements like the exotic greenery at each location, Modern Mexican art pieces imported straight from Tlaquepaque, Jalisco and of course, the wonderful staff. Zócalo has one of the strongest internal culture I've ever experienced. The team at each location works so hard to bring great quality, spectacular service and delicious food & beverages to each guest that comes in - and they do it all with a smile on their face every single time.

I really wanted Z Central to bring in the same level of camaraderie they felt when they showed up to work. I wanted familiar faces, fun memories and cultural call backs to truly make them feel like it was the Zócalo they knew and loved but in a digital form.
Using images I had taken during my time at Zócalo, I was able to cut the focus point of each image and design collages to fit the theme of the site.
The background is a photo I took of Agave fields in Jalisco, Mexico. The foreground is a photo I took at Zócalo Folsom. Alex the global bar manager is in the corner as he's the one who makes all the recipes for each cocktail on the menu. This was the cover used for the Bar team as a highlight to Alex and the agave fields.
more examples of the collages for Z central using the staff and Z brand elements to form together a visual language for the site.

Six Steps, Masterclasses & Z Docs

With the content being in a good place and the theme of the site approved. I was then able to take the core design pieces and apply them to the hub of the site. It's important to notice that I didn't design every single page, only the templates that each section of Central would need. Using Webflow as a CMS, I was able to design the site how I wanted and create the templates as CMS sections so that once we launched the site, the team could learn how to upload new recipes, cocktails and other type of content updates into Central.

Building central was a 4 month process, I was able to take this project from start to finish with the help of one other team member. Katrina was in charge of grabbing ALL of the word docs, random pdfs, sticky notes from each restaurant and rewriting it for us to upload in central. Her & I worked closely on content management, I created templates in Canva for her that fit the Zócalo Brand Style Guide so she could create training for each section of the site & also replace old outdated word docs with beautiful branded Zócalo docs.

Z central home page
Six Steps for how to plate a salad
Course Library for Training
Interior view of one of the courses.

Z Central: a successful launch plan

After we ran user testing on Central to make sure that the content made sense to the team & that the password protected locks were in place, we launched central to the whole organization. First we created a keynote for the whole organization to understand why Central was so critical to each stores success and the success of each employee and guest experience. Then we had a whole separate training with the managers that would be in charge of continuing to upload content to central. For example for a new menu item, there needed to be a six steps for that so that the team knew how to make it, prep for it and plate it. Same can be said for the Bar team as crafting a cocktail followed the same steps for creating a new menu item.

introduction keynote to Central
explaining each hub of Central
providing proper direction for Kitchen & Bar managers to follow when uploading new content.

In Conclusion

Z Central Maintenance

Now that the project is launched and in use, the team has the speed and flexibility they needed to keep up with the intensity of working at a restaurant. I'm called upon from time to time to help troubleshoot some errors that may arise, but due to the training I provided when we launched, Central stands on it's own daily and the team has completely adapted it and has helped solve most of their problems they had before.


Figma for wireframing & design.

Canva for print templates.

Airtable for automation and a database for each employee record in Central (trainings completed, certifications, etc).

Typeform for quizzes for each course.

Zapier for automation and bridging together most of the tools.

Slack for when an employee completes a course, a manager gets a notification in their store channel to view results and congratulate the employee.

Webflow as the CMS for the platform.

Photoshop & Illustrator for the key design elements and collages.

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