Back in August, a survey of restaurant operators by the National Restaurant Association found that 65 percent of respondents did not have sufficient staff to meet guest demand. That means there are a lot of restaurants having to streamline tasks, adopt new technology to offset labor loss wherever possible, and make tough decisions about where employees are truly needed most in the business. If you’re struggling to do as much as possible with far fewer staff resources than would be ideal, start with that last point. Considering the people you have available to you, what is the most important function for them to serve? Talk to them about how their skills can best support the business in those places. Then get creative – or even ruthless – about making changes in other places. A recent Reuters report indicated that restaurant brands are taking such steps as introducing new equipment that can accelerate or automate aspects of cooking and cleanup, using more speed-scratch ingredients, and changing preparation procedures so that any time spent waiting for food to cook is time spent completing tasks that previously would have been handled separately at the start of a shift. Scrutinize any wasted labor at each step of a shift. When you look at the preparation of each menu item and your needs to keep your operation clean and safe, where is there room to optimize the staff resources you have on hand? Across a shift and across a restaurant chain, all of those labor efficiencies add up. You may be able to operate with less staff than you had previously thought.
Winning a new customer can cost five times more than it costs to retain an existing one. What’s more, even a small increase in customer retention – say 5 percent – can boost profits anywhere from 25-95 percent. Taking the best benefits of your technology and reinforcing them with strong interpersonal customer service skills can help you cement the loyalty of the guests who are already coming to you. Your guest data is your best asset, so analyze it and create opportunities to collect more of it – through your loyalty program, as well as through tech-based ordering and payment. When your Customer Relationship Management system is integrated with your POS, you’re better able to address repeat customers by name, pull up their preferred dishes and table location, and elicit regular survey responses from them to identify their likes and dislikes, as well as your own opportunities for improvement. But this information is even more powerful when it is blended with more anecdotal input from staff who interact with your guests. Your team can tag a guest as a VIP, a wine connoisseur or as someone who enjoys the best of what you offer, giving you extra intelligence to make the person’s visit special. Taking better care of your best customers is also likely to result in their sending their friends and family your way – so you may end up winning new customers anyway.
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.
Restaurant delivery continues to climb: In 2023, the online food delivery market is expected to balloon to $154 billion from $111 billion in 2020, according to Statista. Are you doing all you can to make sure that as many delivery orders as possible are coming to you from customers directly instead of through third-party delivery apps? Your patrons aren’t necessarily seeking out the DoorDashes and GrubHubs of the world – they are simply ordering via the channel that’s most convenient to them. You can make direct orders more convenient (or at least more enticing) for them when they’re ready to place an order. First, make sure your customers know they can find the best food selection and deals if they order directly from you. Limit the menu options you offer via third-party providers to your highest-margin items – and make it clear on your website, search engine listings and social media posts that people can find a wider variety of food options, lower prices and access to limited-time offers by coming directly to you. When they do visit your website, they shouldn’t have to navigate far to where they place an order. Modern Restaurant Management suggests using a pop-up banner with a link (and perhaps a QR code) that directs them to your online ordering page. On that page, encourage them to join your loyalty program so you can continue to reach them with direct and increasingly targeted offers. Finally, make sure your customers know that they can best support you and your staff in challenging times – and help ensure they can keep their favorite dishes coming – if they order from you directly. Include language on your menu, website and on notes placed in third-party delivery bags that says just that.