Staffing shortages are nothing new, but the pandemic has sparked a significant crunch across industries, and restaurants are no exception. As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s report released in January, quit rates in the foodservice and accommodation industry have risen from 4.8% to 6.9% over the past year.
Even though the industry added 1.7 million jobs in 2021, 7 in 10 operators say that they have openings, but they’re struggling with staff shortages to fulfill their service demands. While there are no particular solutions restaurant businesses can use to recover from the labor crisis, implementing advanced technologies can help overcome some of the challenges stemming from staff shortage.
If you’re a restaurateur grappling with restaurant labor shortages, learn to embrace technology and make it your best friend. In this article, we will walk you through how leveraging technology can help you combat your workforce challenges and shortages. But before we delve into how technology can help you solve your labor crisis, let’s spend some time to understand a little bit more about the staffing shortages in the US.
Staffing Shortages in the US - A Quick Overview
In the United States, finding and maintaining quality staff remains the #1 challenge for restaurant owners. There’s no denying that the pandemic had a significant role to play in driving the labor shortage, but another contributing factor that has given rise to this issue is The Great Resignation. As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a record 1 million of 4.5 million Americans who quit their jobs in November 2021 were restaurant and hotel workers. And what’s more surprising is that this widespread movement hasn’t shown any signals of a downturn this year.
Apart from the ongoing labor constraints, it’s quite common for companies to terminate workers or employees due to various reasons. Some of these reasons include misconduct, poor job performance, etc. While the firing decision isn’t easy, it can be even tougher for businesses like restaurants that operate in small teams. Regardless of these reasons, restaurant owners need to look out for ways to manage staffing shortages to ensure operational efficiency.
If you’re wondering how you can deal with labor shortages and keep your business running, the latest innovations in technology can help you solve this crisis.
How does Staffing Shortages Could Affect Your Restaurant Business
When it comes to restaurant labor shortages, all that’s required to overcome the challenges associated with the issue is creative thinking, patience, perseverance, time, and lots of energy. Even though the effects of labor shortage may differ depending on the type of your restaurant, here are a few ways in which it could affect your operations.
- Waiting time may increase: We live in the age of 5G and instant gratification. People have no patience, they want everything right away! . If your restaurant has only a few front-of-house and back-of-house staff available to serve guests and fulfill food orders respectively, it would translate to increased waiting time which could ruin your guests’ experience and your restaurant’s reputation.
- Profit margins could shrink: The shortage of staff could significantly affect the number of orders served, resulting in less revenue. Having only a limited number of staff members can lead to increased labor wages, which can reduce your overall profit margins.
To combat the current labor crisis, restaurants must focus on meeting staff expectations. This can only be achieved by having a staff management model in place. Offering perks to employees, following new compensation models, and equipping your establishment with technological resources to reduce their burden. Doing so will not only make it easier for you to retain your staff, but it’ll also enable your restaurant to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace.
How will Technology Solve the Labor Shortage
Investing in new-age technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI & ML) can open up a myriad of opportunities for food service businesses. It can enable businesses to automate repetitive manual tasks and beat staffing shortages. Furthermore, it can increase overall business efficiency and help you accomplish more with fewer employees. If you’re running a restaurant, below are a few technological solutions that can ease the burden during the labor crisis!
1. Point-of-Sale System for Ordering
If your guests are ordering food for delivery or takeout rather than choosing to dine in, you must accept online orders and communicate with customers in a timely and efficient manner. Equipping your restaurant with an automated POS system will eliminate the need of answering phone calls.
Also, streamlining the online ordering process with a system allows your customers to place orders, and track real-time updates on delivery time and executive’s location details. For fast-casual restaurants, it’ll be a win-win to boost customer satisfaction while moving staff to other important tasks.
2. QR Code Technology for Ordering and Paying at the table
With QR code menus, guests can place their orders directly from their phones throughout the dining experience. Besides, they can pay securely online when they’re ready to settle up checks.
As mentioned in the article “Ordering Method and System for Restaurants”, the labor costs in restaurants typically take 30% of the overheads. This means that replacing labor with self-service technologies can enable restaurants to significantly reduce this percentage, generate more profits, and tackle restaurant labor shortages.
3. Self-Service Kiosks for Convenient Ordering
A kiosk developer’s study reveals that optimizing restaurant operations by installing self-service kiosks can boost check sizes from a staggering 15 to 30%. Most quick-service restaurants like Wendy’s have already implemented digital kiosks at their establishments, enabling customers to place and pay for their orders, without having to wait in queues.
Once the customers place their orders from the self-ordering kiosks, the order is sent right away to the kitchen. Not only do the customers receive their food faster with the help of this technology, but the restaurants also don't need too many staff members to take orders. And this way, the workforce is freed to focus more on food preparation and other services.
4. Kitchen Display Systems to Establish Smart Kitchens
Many food establishments such as Taco Bell are dealing with staffing shortages. To fight this issue and to improve labor efficiency, these restaurants are looking to invest in back-of-house technologies including smart kitchens adopting Kitchen Display Systems (KDS).
These systems allow all the orders coming from a mobile app, website, self-service kiosk, drive-thru, or the front counter, to be pushed to the restaurant’s kitchen and POS. Restaurant businesses are also taking advantage of geofencing tracking to track customers’ location to streamline preparation, order fulfillment, and delivery processes.
Get through the Restaurant Labor Shortages - Adopt Technology to Do More with Less
Staffing shortage isn’t going to end soon, but eventually things will be back to normal. Meanwhile, one of the best things you can do to fast-track your business’ recovery is following a dynamic and technically driven approach . Given that innovations in technology will never go out of trend, pushing your restaurant to embrace innovative technologies can help you create a flexible workforce to foster sustained business growth.
So now when you learn that technology is the only way out to win the war against staffing shortages, consider investing in next-generation technologies to achieve more in times of crisis. Wait no further and begin implementing technologies like digitized menus, mobile apps, websites, self-ordering kiosks, etc to make processes more efficient. Remember, utilizing limited resources in an effective way can do wonders and can take your business to the next level!