The past few years have given restaurant operators a crash course in the importance of collecting data – about guests, ingredients, sales performance and many other factors. Have you applied this approach to identifying potential staff? By taking the time to analyze data about what works for your business – and not simply casting a wide net and hoping you bring in some good people – you stand a better chance to attracting and keeping staff who are well suited to your business. This report from Modern Restaurant Management advises mining employee data by taking surveys of employees. What is important to them about their position? What benefits would keep them in their job? How does your business measure up to competing businesses (both inside and outside of the industry) when it comes to pay, benefits, growth opportunities and job security? Perhaps you can identify even incremental improvements that could help you find and keep good people. Or, maybe those improvements aren’t possible for you financially. In that case, having this information at your fingertips now can still be valuable in driving you to retool your business model. At a time when so much about a restaurant is learned online before a person even visits, give your website’s recruitment page a tune-up – much like you’d make your online menu more mobile-friendly for a guest. Can an applicant quickly scan the page for basic information about your business and apply on the spot?
Help wanted (tech skills needed)
As restaurant businesses become more digitized and connected, they are calling for a new kind of employee: one who is just as comfortable monitoring sensors and responding to alerts from a range of applications as they are chopping and cooking ingredients. Ensuring your staff is well-versed in these changes will only help your business, since your technology is helping you do everything from monitoring food safety, to collecting and continuously learning from the data you collect. Modern Restaurant Management reports that there is a growing role for skilled technicians to train, manage and repair this technology in restaurants. Do your training and management procedures adequately account for the tech changes your business has made? When you consider your job descriptions, training and feedback from staff, where are there opportunities to close knowledge gaps and ensure you’re reaping the greatest benefits from the technology at your disposal?
Hiring with the help of an app
As labor challenges persist for the time being, consider adopting technology that takes some of the more tedious and time-consuming aspects of the recruitment process off your plate. App-based systems – Fliptable and JobToday are just a couple of examples – can help a business find new employees and manage the details of onboarding them, making it easier for existing staff to share job postings with others, candidates to apply, and employers to track a candidate’s progress in the hiring process – all through a simple swipe on a phone.
Replacing an employee can be an expensive task for restaurants – according to the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University, the cost of employee turnover averages around $5,864 per person for a typical front-line employee. That expense is all the more debilitating when staff leave frequently. You can minimize those challenges if you can find staff who are a good fit for your business from the start, then ensure they have a smooth onboarding process. New research from the HR tech provider Sprockets suggests a number of tech tools operators can consider for help. Among them: JazzHR and TalentReef can help you track applicants and data based on your specific needs so you can better target applicants suited to your business. Spark Hire and Honeit can provide interviewing support, including tools to help you get a better sense of a candidate’s personality and store the comments they share. Finally, your training program can pave the way for a productive employee relationship (or provide a reason for a new staffer to disengage). Eloomi and Axonify can guide you through the process of developing a program that works for you and also track an employee’s progress.
At a time when so many restaurant workers have left the industry, the first impression you make on a candidate matters. According to a recent webinar from the National Restaurant industry entitled “New Thinking for New Challenges - Technology, Workforce and The Restaurant Operator,” the technology you use during initial candidate interactions can help. That’s especially true because the millennial generation, which grew up around technology and is comfortable with it, will comprise 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. The industry experts participating in the podcast suggest you have a strong online presence through your website, then enable candidates to apply for positions via a text or a scan of a QR code. Further, any information you request from a candidate on an online form should then feed into other forms (such as I9, W4 and WOTC tax forms) so you’re not asking for the same information multiple times.
As labor costs escalate, how are you ensuring you have the right number of employees scheduled at the right times? More brands are adopting artificial intelligence-based programs to help with scheduling. Domino’s, for one, has been testing an AI algorithm to help ensure they are using the most efficient number of staff hours in their stores, Restaurant Dive reports. As major cities enact predictive scheduling laws designed to ensure a fair work week for employees – Widget Brain reports that New York, San Francisco and Seattle are among them – finding ways to use AI to forecast labor demand, and then build and fill schedules, can help operators not only maximize labor expenditures but also comply with the law.
Hiring? Tech can handle that.
Amid the restaurant industry’s struggles to retain staff – and cover the costs of employee turnover – some brands are trying to broaden their reach when it comes to hiring new staff, all while saving time in the process. Tapping into technology can help. McDonald’s, which has made announcements in recent months about promoting greater gender balance and diversity in its workforce, recently began using artificial intelligence-powered software called Textio to craft job postings and write recruitment emails designed to appeal to a more diverse audience, QSR Magazine reports. Five Guys is also among the brands using AI to screen and interview potential candidates, according to Glassdoor.
What’s the next big thing in restaurant technology? Instead of kitchen gadgets and inventory software, 2020 may usher in the softer side of tech if expert predictions are correct. David Cantu, cofounder and chief customer officer of HotSchedules, foe one, told QSR Magazine that he anticipates more operators will harness technology to attract, retain and develop employees. Think tools to bring greater ease and efficiency to scheduling, enable better communication across the team, and encourage the sharing of feedback about a shift and the overall work environment.
As a new year approaches, it’s prime time to take stock of what went well and set the stage for the tests you’re likely to face in 2020. For most operators, labor spending and management continues to be a perennial challenge, along with such obstacles as managing the complexities of your inventory and finding a profitable path to offering delivery. Restaurant365 shared a list of operational challenges operators can expect in the coming year, along with some suggestions on how to manage them. While it’s not the most uplifting of countdowns, it does cover some important territory and may help you prioritize the steps you want to take to build your business in the months ahead. We summarized some of the key challenges here – along with some tech tools that can help you manage them. First, to manage labor costs, particularly if your state is in the roughly half of the country that is increasing its minimum wage in 2020, make the most of tech tools that can save you time and money. By integrating your POS with an accounting and scheduling platform, for example, you can analyze your labor and sales data to optimize scheduling and improve your forecasting capabilities. If you struggle with keeping your inventory accurate and your ingredient costs in line, consider inventory management software that can guide the process from start to finish – and offer tools such as smart ordering and receiving, which can help you maintain profit margins on menu items and pinpoint when vendor costs are higher than normal. Finally, if you want to offer delivery in an effort to meet consumer demand, make sure you’re making data-driven decisions when selecting a service model. Restaurant365 advises you use operations software to automatically calculate and track your delivery profits based on sales, cost of goods sold, and delivery expenses.
Finding and retaining talent is a perennial challenge for restaurants, and the millennial generation’s reputation for favoring flexible work arrangements stands to make things more difficult for the industry. So instead of fighting the inevitable, why not embrace it? If you’re able to adjust your labor model to accommodate a regular influx of temporary or even one-time staff of various skill levels (and particularly if you’re located in a metropolitan area) technology is quickly making it possible for restaurants to fill staffing gaps with skilled people. A recent report from Bloomberg Businessweek offered up the example of Pared, a staffing app founded by two tech and restaurant veterans that enables operators to fill last-minute staffing needs. What began as a Bay-area resource for finding dishwashers and prep cooks has since expanded to new cities (they aim to be in all major U.S. metro markets by next year) and to roles including servers, baristas and oyster shuckers. Operators are able to request various levels of experience as well. While some operators have found the app costly — a skilled worker can walk into a restaurant for one night and make a higher hourly wage than a longtime cook — they acknowledge that insurance, taxes, overtime and hiring costs make apps like Pared a viable alternative to hiring staff. As Wade Moises, executive chef of Rosemary’s in New York noted in the report, “Thinking about Pared now, I’m not sure if I should fire my whole staff or quit myself.”
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