The labor crisis in the restaurant industry shows no signs of easing any time soon. With job openings and staff resignations reaching unprecedentedly high levels, restaurant operators and their remaining workers are struggling—big time.
As of the writing of this blog (August 2021), restaurant dining room across North America are open, albeit with limited capacity due to a lack of employees and social distancing measures. Surges in COVID-19 variant cases, the polarization of pro- and anti-vaccination restaurant customers and staff, calls for vaccine passports, and a downward spiral of people feeling comfortable within dining out, are exacerbating already troubled times for restaurateurs.
Technology to the HR rescue
Clearly, as the pandemic has proven, technology has been the saving grace for restaurants, with online ordering platforms and food delivery apps providing additional sales channels for restaurant customers craving takeout, delivery and curbside pickup options.
However, did you know that many forward-thinking restaurant owners and operators are also leveraging these front-of-the-house technology solutions to win the recruitment and employee retention war?
Transforming the roles of front-of-the-house staff
With online ordering, food delivery apps, contactless self-ordering, and a restaurant’s mobile app, guests are, more than ever before, in control of their ordering and payment experience.
What does this mean? Front-of-the-house employees, however limited in capacity, can be assigned to a vitally more important task than taking orders, upselling processing bills, answering phone calls, and disinfecting devices: offering a stellar customer experience.
As an end result, restaurants can recruit and retain people persons who thrive off of creating guest connections and developing relationships. Offering potential candidates jobs that don’t require as many mundane, thankless, stressful tasks—on auto-pilot—restaurants can attract top talent that can drive revenues.
Reducing front-of-the-house staff requirements
Thanks to restaurant technology, you can actually make do with less staff.
Transforming the role of front-of-the-house workers means, for example, that waiters can take on bigger sections in dining rooms or patios. That translates into needing less waiters for any given shift and perhaps the ability to provide higher wages to remaining employees.
Reception employees, now that they are not “simply” seating guests or taking calls, can help out in other areas of a restaurant, depending on interests and skills. When properly managed and “sold” these new roles can actually help restaurateurs groom top performers to more elevated positions.
Attacking capacity issues with tech
Many new technology solutions enable restaurateurs to optimize restaurant capacity, especially during peak periods, so as to not overwhelm back-of-the-house staff—and incite them to ditch a job during a rush hour.
For example, an online ordering platform can be configured to allow for more prep times and limit the number of takeout/delivery/curbside pickup orders at critical times.
What’s more, if a restaurant is under-staffed, managers and owners can temporarily limit or even remove complex items or items that are time-consuming to make from their menus. Instead of inundating already stressed-out chefs and line cooks with an onslaught of orders, they can focus on serving up dishes they can actually manage.
In a nutshell, effective planning for peak ordering times can take a huge load off of your back-of-the-house workers, which helps to curb stress and improve their employee experience.
Appealing to new generations of workers
When competing for a limited number of applicants, restaurateurs cannot bank only on good wages and benefits—when margins allow for it. The new generation of employees have a different definition of what work means and different expectations than long-standing workers.
A great work environment, training, advancement opportunities, varied job responsibilities, work-life balance, etc. are all important for reducing pent-up demand for skilled employees. One low-hanging recruitment fruit that some restaurants tend to forget: new generations expect to use the latest tech tools at work. Let’s face it: Millennials and other upcoming generations grew up with tech. They judge future employers by their tech savviness and social media presence (or lack thereof). The new restaurant workplace has no place for tech laggards. Using restaurant technology to increase productivity and make employees’ day-to-day work more fun is key to brining on new crew members and keeping them stoked on their jobs.
While technology is not the cure-all for the current labor shortage in the restaurant sector, it can definitely be yet another secret weapon to boost restaurant performance, exceed customer expectations, and reduce the HR headaches.