Restaurant operators are feeling the pinch from all directions right now – double the unemployment of the general economy, widespread supply shortages and inflationary woes. One recent study found that 64 percent of consumers plan to cut back on their restaurant spending. Amid these challenges, many restaurant brands are trying to reconfigure their physical operations to accommodate the new ways in which consumers are demanding restaurant food. Some formerly full-service restaurants are converting to fast-casual or quick-service models. Others are expanding drive-through lanes, adding windows dedicated to third-party delivery pickup or otherwise making off-premise orders a bigger priority. But all of this costs money – and something has to give. In your operation, what might that be? Amid the strains of the times, there are also opportunities, as well as more companies looking to offer them. In a recent webinar, Morgan Petty of the Interactive Customer Experience Association moderated a discussion with representatives from Steritech and Zaxby’s about how restaurant operators might leverage current market disruptions to improve the brand experience they offer guests. Steritech, for one, is now supporting clients in the midst of remodeling by offering up its specialists to visit client restaurant sites around the country, take photos of every item that an onsite real estate team from the restaurant would normally want to inspect, then upload those photos to an online portal for review by the restaurant. The company says across 500 site visits, it has given restaurant clients back more than 500 hours and reduced their labor cost by 70 percent. Everyone is having to find creative ways to reduce spending, do more with less labor, or otherwise be more efficient with resources right now. What priorities are you managing that can be addressed in modified ways?
At the time of this writing, it had just been announced that Congress would not be replenishing the Restaurant Revitalization Fund as part of the omnibus spending bill, which would have given about 200,000 foodservice businesses a critical lifeline to help manage the ongoing challenges the industry continues to face. So what now? Stephani Robson, an emeritus professor at Cornell University who studies the restaurant industry, recently said the pandemic’s biggest lesson for restaurants has been to “be lean.” Surely you’re already doing a lot of that, or aiming for it, but can more be done? To be sure, technology can help in the effort, but only if implemented in ways that make life easier and faster for guest and staff alike, and can be scaled up, scaled back or otherwise adapted when the operation needs to change. Does your technology ensure you don’t have too many staff working a shift? That you don’t accumulate food waste before a dish ever reaches a guest? That you can make incremental adjustments with ease when you’re short on a key ingredient and you need to incentivize guests to try another dish? If you can follow the waste in your operation – whether in food, time, staff or other resources – you may find some practices that can be improved and made leaner. Ask Team Four for help in uncovering them.