By Mo Chaar
The ongoing labour shortages continue to affect restaurants across the country. Currently, 80 per cent of foodservice operators are having difficulty hiring kitchen staff and 67 per cent are having trouble filling front-of-house positions. As a result, restaurants across the country are resorting to cutting their open hours short and slimming down menus to sustain their business with the staff they have.
Although labour shortages are painting a challenging picture for restaurant operators, there is still opportunity to take back control. The strategic implementation of technological solutions can help restaurants fill in the gaps by alleviating the pressure on overworked employees and providing a way of coping with the seemingly never-ending setbacks that restaurants have endured throughout the pandemic.
Technology is a modern-day necessity
Technology has played an essential role in supporting restaurants in the past couple of years. In early 2020, we saw the need for the implementation of QR code menus and efficiently-run, user-friendly delivery platforms. Throughout 2021, we have seen an increase in customer overreliance on online ordering, requiring an industry-wide need to accelerate online presence. Customers have come to expect these technological advancements to be part of their dining experience, making these systems a necessity for restaurants to build and maintain customer loyalty.
These systems also streamline the staff’s experience and relieve stress. In the front of house, they take menial tasks off the server’s plate. For example, an advanced payment processing system that accepts multiple payment types including credit cards, gift cards, and loyalty, eliminates the need for the server to run back and forth to the POS system to process different payments. In the back of house, advanced kitchen display systems (KDS) help increase efficiency and remove redundancies. A digital KDS streamlines the back-of-house processes, reducing human error and providing much-needed support to the back-of-house team.
Integration is key
The success in leveraging technology that we have seen over the past couple of years did not come without its pain points. The varying customer needs and the evolving industry landscape triggered an ongoing shift in technological advancement. Problems bring about a need for solutions, and in an industry of solution seekers, this has resulted in a variety of systems being rolled out throughout restaurants.
However, navigating multiple platforms by different providers can be stressful. The key to successfully implementing these systems lies in the integration of platforms – where systems are able to work together and talk to each other in the background, without the need for human interference. This ultimately provides the much-needed support of streamlining operations. Integrated systems also provide the ability to easily add or modify new services as they are acquired, and they can relieve pressure from existing staff during labour shortages.
Integration can be a significant time-saver for employees that don’t have to manually step in to ensure proper functions are taking place. For example, an online order that goes directly to the kitchen eliminates the need to have a server catch the order coming in on a separate tablet and then punch it in. Or, a table using a pay-at-the-table function that automatically closes on the POS system eliminates the need for the server to manually close it. These details can not only save time in the moment but also reduce the chance of human error. The server now has time to focus on other aspects of the guest experience, such as personalization, upselling items, and providing recommendations – the aspects of customer service that technology can’t duplicate and what gets left out from the guest experience if a server is too busy.
Having a system that follows the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) ensures secure transactions are taking place and can help prevent fraud. Systems that uphold these standards can make a significant difference in fostering customer trust.
Reporting rounds it out
Customer data is essential for restaurants to drive repeat business. Data reporting allows restaurant operators to see a detailed outline of how the restaurant runs, as well as provide access to customer engagement insights. Integrations between all your various systems ensures that all your reporting is in one place and you are not creating manual overhead to pull reports from different vendors and reconcile them. This can help restaurant operators see where any gaps in service lie, providing helpful insights into how to best utilize their staff.
An added benefit of having a fully integrated system with accurate reporting is the reduction of employee turnover. Labour shortages are causing restaurant workers to be sought after more than before. Having insight into whether any one restaurant section is suffering from greater turnover (i.e. bar, lounge, dining room, etc.) and having access to consistent and reliable customer trend data provides an important advantage to operators in being able to make valuable changes and retain staff. Reporting can also be leveraged to identify which employees are excelling so they can be properly rewarded for their work. Incentivizing employees and acknowledging hard work is important for employee morale and, in turn, employee retention.
A technologically bright future
Although the restaurant industry has experienced more than its share of setbacks throughout the pandemic, the proper implementation and use of technology can be a saviour for understaffed restaurants and overworked employees. Through integrated systems, technology not only alleviates the pressure from employees, but provides an opportunity for operators to have greater insight and control over the restaurant.
Mo Chaar is the Chief Commercial Officer of Givex, where he oversees commercial strategy and development worldwide, including the development of GivexPay, as well as managing sales teams within North America. His experience in gift card, loyalty, and POS has played a pivotal role in the success of some of Givex’s largest partners.