When Texas Roadhouse trains those who are assigned to train employees — they get outside the restaurant. Way outside the restaurant.

About 300 employees gathered in Columbus this week for an event designed to teach them how to better interact with those who are learning how to work in a restaurant.

It’s called the Trainer Games, a series of competitions that pit teams representing 12 restaurants in the Midwest against each other in events that range from relay races carrying serving trays to eating mashed potatoes.

This week’s competition is the 15th annual gathering of the “trainers,” who met at Mill Race Park for pregame chants before heading out to compete.

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The Texas Roadhouse program is different because it’s not about a set agenda delivered in a conference room, organizers said.

“It’s all about getting together and having fun,” said Ashley Teipen, a Roadhouse employee who organized the games.

Those at the games might be assigned to train a cook, or a server — or maybe the person who clears the tables.

No matter which restaurant job, the trainer must have the skills to communicate and demonstrate what needs to be done for the employee, something these games are designed to achieve.

Though it might seem like the activities are really kids games — the trainers competed in tug of war and tricycle races — the competitions have a serious business purpose: building teamwork.

Andrew Bennett, manager of the Columbus Texas Roadhouse, said his staff communicates better with each other after participating in the Trainer Games.

“Having a good time outside of work really helps your guys come together as a team at work,” he said.

This year was Bennett’s seventh Trainer Games.

He said it is always an important day to bond with employees in an industry known for its high turnover rate.

Restaurants can lose more than half of their employees every year in turnover, statistics from the National Restaurant Association show.

And that results in a great need for people who have skills in training new people in how to do the job right.

The 300 employees competing in the games came from Missouri, Ohio and Kentucky.

Columbus was chosen because it’s centrally located and a midway hub for the restaurants that were competing, Teipen said.

Chad Schenk and his staff made the 338-mile journey from Cape Girardeau, Missouri to Columbus for the games.

Schenk, who manages the Cape Girardeau Roadhouse restaurant, said that last year’s games helped improved his managerial skills.

“It makes me more human to the employees,” he said. “I get to know more about them, they get to know more about me, and you get to relate a little better.”

Teams also were in Columbus representing restaurants in Indiana communities, including Evansville, Bloomington, Richmond and Southport.

Mill Race Park was transformed into a different color palette as the trainers donned neon blue, red and white jerseys, and practiced their team chants before heading out to compete.

While the goal is to increase teamwork and communication, it’s not all about serious business skills, Teipen said. It’s also supposed to be a silly day for employees and managers alike.

After taking a group picture of all 12 teams, some competitors donned bandanas, plastic Spartan helmets and one Roadhouse employee channeled his inner Superman with an American flag cape.

Standing before them, Teipen introduced each team by name and asked them to do their rehearsed cheer, a prerequisite before the games could begin.

“This day is all about fun and camaraderie,” she said.

To learn more

For more about Texas Roadhouse, visit texasroadhouse.com