When new staff members first learn their responsibilities on the job at your restaurant, is it an orderly process that builds their confidence from the start, or more like a baptism-by-fire experience that makes them regret taking the job? Incorporating technology in your training procedures can help ensure you’re providing an experience more like the former than the latter. As a result, it may improve your retention and save on costs associated with it, which can range from $1500-$5000 each year for every employee, according to Restaurant Technology News. Consider loading your training procedures onto an app. It can accommodate frequent updates, keep all important training knowledge in one place, and allow you to send alerts out to staff as soon as they are needed.
Amid food supply disruptions, restaurant operators have been encouraged to simplify their supply chain and source ingredients closer to home. While this may immediately sound like a lower-tech way to operate, your back-of house tech should be able to help you research local suppliers that will help you diversify your vendors and better manage the risk of an ingredient shortage, Restaurant Dive reports. Whether you are sourcing ingredients from the other side of the world or the other side of town, are you pulling as much as you can from your technology tools? Your vendor management process can and should be streamlined, accurate, and account for differences in shelf life and food safety requirements, whether you are sourcing products from a multinational supplier or a local farm.
Amid the labor crunch, restaurants have been facing a lot of upward pressure on their wages lately. As of May, 30 states, the District of Columbia and forty-five localities have set minimum wage rates above the federal level. But at the same time, many restaurants likely are not making best use of the tools they have on hand to better manage their labor costs and gain as much as possible from them. According to research from TouchBistro, 39 percent of restaurant operators are not using their POS to view labor reports. These reports can help you identify when you are overstaffed in your kitchen and dining room, which staff are successfully upselling most frequently and making customers the happiest, and which staff may be stealing from you. All of this can ensure you always have the right number of people on hand for a shift, that you’re rewarding and developing the right people, and that you’re quickly identifying sources of theft. It may even give you some wiggle room to raise your wages.
Maintenance generally comprises between 2 and 6 percent of a facility’s budget – and those costs can climb if repairs are left waiting for so long that they become replacement costs. But like so many elements of restaurant operations right now, repairs can now be automated, enabling operators to more quickly address equipment and facilities repairs as they are needed. ResQ is one company that helps restaurants request a contractor from its network to help address problems related to HVAC, refrigeration, electrical, plumbing, pest control and other challenges, as well as pay for and document the service received, The Spoon reports. ResQ is currently available in just Los Angeles, Dallas, Phoenix, San Francisco and Chicago, but a recent $7.5 million seed investment could quickly add cities to that list.
Restaurants are managing orders from more sources than ever – yet still need to prepare those items at the same time. If they’re short on staff, juggling this and keeping customers informed about their order can be a challenge. But smart pacing tools for order fulfillment can help. As Pymnts.com reports, that could include an automated text to a guest when their food or their table is ready, or a QR code that allows a guest to place an order or pay from the table as they leave.
Add cybersecurity to the list of challenges facing the food supply chain. Up to a fifth of the nation’s meat processing capacity went off the grid in June after JBS, the biggest meat processor in the U.S., was hit by a ransomware attack. Restaurants have been, and will continue to be, targets for cybercrime as well. As restaurant operators integrate new tech tools into their operation, accept digital transactions and find their footing with business streams that rely on technology, cybersecurity is an ever-important concern. As the pandemic was gaining momentum in March of last year and online transactions climbed, there was a 600 percent increase in email phishing scams. Cyber insurance may help recover losses in the event of a breach, but restaurants first need a cybersecurity program that guides business security day to day. It should ensure your operating system and security patches are up to date and establish policies on the purposes for which your computer system can be used and by whom. Doing a background check of employees and screening third-party vendors can help weed out potential threats, and you can also issue unique passcodes for staff to help identify the source of problems if they occur. Train staff on how to avoid email phishing scams and take steps to contain the damage to your systems by using firewalls between the systems in various parts of your business.
Consider it one of the pandemic’s silver linings. Before Covid-19, many restaurants were lumbering along with a patchwork quilt of technology – an outdated POS that made it difficult to pull information from the operation in an easy-to-analyze format, an overabundance of tablets to track orders, or any number of other siloed systems that were unable to eliminate time-consuming manual processes. But the demands of the pandemic have changed that, according to new research from J.P. Morgan and payment provider FreedomPay. Restaurant Business reports that the pandemic shifted restaurant leaders’ tech priorities from serving immediate needs to anticipating where business was heading and being prepared for it. One key insight from the research is the importance of data to maintaining a restaurant business in real time, responding to rapid change and enabling growth. Has your technology matured in this way since the pandemic started?
Before automation becomes more widespread in restaurant kitchens, look for it to enhance the ordering process. McDonald’s, for one, recently started testing artificial intelligence at 10 drive-thrus in Chicago, the Spoon reports. So far, the locations that have used it have reported an 85 percent accuracy rate on orders, with only one in five orders needing intervention. Ideally, these AI-powered systems can dovetail with a restaurant’s existing systems that track a guest’s past orders and suggest additional items, expediting the ordering process and freeing up staff for other tasks.
Even Starbucks, a brand name synonymous with anticipating and meeting consumer demands, has been facing supply shortages lately. As the New York Times reported recently, the brand has been struggling to source key ingredients in its popular drinks and food items, as well as packaging products. There is likely more of this to come as food distributors look to source new-and-improved ingredients to suit consumer tastes, all while managing factors ranging from labor shortages to disease to extreme weather that can suddenly impact an ingredient’s availability. Your technology is a critical tool to help you minimize your risk of running short on key supplies – or at least be aware of when it’s likely to happen so you can adjust promotions and menu options proactively. For example, your digital supply chain tracking system should allow you to see your network of suppliers, enable you to spot fluctuations in demand in real time, respond to changes in supply forecasts, and place orders as demand requires – as opposed to according to a set schedule. It should also help you spot problems in your supply chain, so if there is a foodborne illness outbreak, you’re better able to respond quickly to sequester the ingredient responsible and source replacements.