Making staff feel appreciated – and more likely to engage with the business and remain on the job – isn’t just about offering tangible rewards. The little things you can do to recognize a job well done, or acknowledge personal milestones like birthdays or work anniversaries, can all help you boost morale and make employees feel like they are making important contributions to the broader team. Harness your employee-facing technology to automate email messages and other alerts so you can trigger these communications as needed without a lot of manual effort.
If you’re not using technology to improve your employee engagement and retain staff, your competitors likely are – and that may well change the labor landscape for restaurants in the years ahead. According to Nation’s Restaurant News Intelligence’s 2023 Restaurant Technology Outlook, 47 percent of restaurants are interested in technology tools that support employee training and onboarding, 43 percent are interested in tools that support employee productivity, and 24 percent are looking for automated scheduling tools. AI is driving many of the new tools available in this area and delivering precise forecasts that allow operators to optimize staff headcounts according to demand, pay people on time, automate compliance, and gain more time to personally interact with staff and create the connections that encourage them to stick around. This will continue to be critical as wage increases and high turnover make it more expensive to train and employ staff.
Mistakes happen. But even little ones – like a burger being served with the condiments a guest had asked to be omitted – can have significant negative consequences. At the very least, you’re wasting food and losing profits when a replacement and/or comped dish is required. So where do errors occur in your operation? Are guests unable to communicate their preferences clearly using the ordering platform you offer? Are requests somehow lost in translation between the guest and the chef preparing their dish? Are chefs misinterpreting requests that were understood by the server? Your technology can not only help you pinpoint where problems are occurring, but also bring greater control and precision to those processes and prevent one mistake from snowballing into something bigger.
Employees who don’t feel heard aren’t apt to stick around for long. On the other hand, those who do feel heard – and who also believe they are being trusted with the information they need to do their jobs – are more likely to buy into the mission and values of their employer. Tech-based communication tools can help ensure everyone hears the messages they need to hear, when they need to hear them. They also provide your team with a repository for their comments, questions, criticisms and ideas. Meanwhile, they free up time for more senior staff and make sure everyone is hearing the same message. In your business, are you using your technology to keep everyone on the same page and prevent miscommunication?
It used to be a whole lot simpler: Restaurants were valued as places where consumers could share a meal and connect with people. While that is still the case, the pandemic has turned the idea on its head. Whereas the early months of the pandemic made it necessary for this “coming together” to happen at home or virtually in an effort to keep business flowing, many foodservice operators – along with complementary brands – are now redefining what it means to gather, even as dining rooms fill back up again. A new food-and-drink-trends report from Mintel mentions the increase of online hubs that offer ecommerce, brand-specific communities and opportunities to socialize virtually. Some restaurants are already well on their way: As reported by The Spoon, Chipotle recently created a Halloween promotion in partnership with the online game platform Roblox. Roblox gamers could enter a virtual Chipotle restaurant (specially decorated for Halloween) and collect a promo code good for a free burrito back in the real world. Granted, such partnerships may well be more feasible for major brands than small independents, but the example shows how the idea of coming together over restaurant food is being reimagined for the current times. How might you reimagine what it means to create memorable experiences for your guests?
Restaurant technology is one industry that has thrived during the pandemic – but we have yet to see how that will fully manifest itself. Restaurant Business reports that more than $5 billion has entered the industry so far this year alone– and that the investment has been feeding many mergers of complementary businesses that will likely develop new all-in-one solutions for restaurant operators. If you currently operate a broad array of tools and systems that don’t communicate with each other as well as they could, you can expect to see new options on the horizon that simplify tech for restaurants (and enough of them to make pricing competitive).
Many restaurants have added new guest-facing technology in the past 18 months – or at least considered adding it. According to the National Restaurant Association’s State of the Restaurant Industry report for this year, 40 percent of operators said they added tech solutions to their businesses. At the same time, there have been a dizzying number of options coming to market and operators have had more-limited resources to devote to additions. To ensure any new tech resource passes the litmus test for practicality, aim for it to simplify and smooth out the key pain points of the guest experience, yet fade into the background. How easy is it for a guest to use tech to view your menu? Can a guest quickly alert someone on your staff if they have a question? Can they place their order and pay without any delay? Can they split the tab with a friend who wants to pay another way? Consider any potential snag a guest may experience in the duration of their time with you – and how your tech can minimize it, shorten it or eliminate it.
You likely have guests whose habits you’d like to change: The one who regularly orders delivery from you even though he lives in your neighborhood, or the couple who visits semi-regularly who you’d like to see more frequently. Understanding and mining your data can help transform some of those guest behaviors in the direction you’d like. Allison Page, founder and chief product officer of the restaurant platform SevenRooms, told the Spoon recently that data is changing the game for restaurants by empowering them to build better relationships with guests. When you know the regular customer who orders delivery from you lives nearby, for example, you can entice him with a promotion of his favorite appetizer if he collects his order in person. If you know the favorite dish or wine of the couple who visits you only every now and then, you can invite them to a wine-tasting event or other experience featuring the wine they like along with a new dish you’re promoting. What clues are your guests providing through the data they’re sharing with you?
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.
It’s never been more important for restaurant operators and employees to understand – in real time – how their business is functioning. Nowadays, there is technology available to monitor everything from an incremental change in the price of a key ingredient to the identity of a customer approaching your restaurant. But old-fashioned communication between company leaders and the managers and front-line employees interacting with customers may get lost in the shuffle – and that’s a problem at a time when safety procedures and employee policies are evolving so regularly. According to a new survey of 100 senior restaurant leaders, direct communication (as opposed to company-wide updates) goes a longer way in connecting with employees in a more personal way, showing respect, imparting company values and relaying the up-to-date information employees need to do their jobs well. As you consider new tech tools to adopt this year, prioritize those that can help boost direct peer-to-peer and cross-location communication, as well as the effective sharing of best practices.