To dine in or not to dine in? Restaurants have been plagued with difficulties since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and just when things seem to be getting better, a new problem arises.
Over the past several months, as many restaurants have reopened or moved back into serving more dine-in customers rather than focusing solely on delivery and curbside pick-up, they have dealt with a resurgence in cases due to COVID-19 variants, as well as increasing labor problems and issues receiving shipments of needed supplies and ingredients.
Many of these issues circle back around to labor shortage. Even many of the supply chain problems are due to a shortage of workers to harvest, pack, load, and transport food and supplies.
According to the National Restaurant Association, a June 2021 survey showed difficulty recruiting employees is at its highest level ever, with 75% of restaurant operators reporting it as their top challenge.
And it’s no surprise these business owners are having trouble. In August 2021, there were 1,747,000 job openings in the leisure and hospitality industry, with unemployment numbers in the same industry at 1,201,000, leaving more jobs open than there are workers to fill them.
On the day-to-day operations front, the labor shortage has resulted in restaurants scaling back hours of operation, reducing restaurant capacity or shutting down indoor dining altogether.
Even large fast food franchises are looking for ways to decrease in-person contact between customers and employees and focus on drive thru, takeout and delivery options.
Technology innovation and efficiencies continue to drive restaurant operators’ ability to maintain operations while facing a shortage of labor availability.
Customers are picking up on it too. The National Restaurant Association reported that more than half of customers surveyed wanted restaurants to incorporate more technology.
So how can restaurants incorporate the technology necessary to meet the needs of their customers in light of the ongoing labor shortage?
Dining room kiosks
Incorporating kiosks in your business’s dining room streamlines the ordering experience for your customers and frees up staffing availability to focus on order fulfillment and back-of-house activities.
In addition, customers are able to place and pay for orders without risk of COVID-19 exposure from face-to-face contact.
Kiosks can range from larger, standalone kiosks where customers can order when they enter to small tabletop units that allow customers to order, pay and request additional service right from their seat.
Online ordering, via your own website and app as well as third-party services, also help reduce the burden on staff and keep dining room congestion down.
Many businesses implemented or improved upon their online ordering systems in 2020, and are still working to implement new and better systems. An effective online ordering system will offer customers a smooth, seamless experience, while offering opportunities for upsells and add-ons and integrating seamlessly with the restaurant’s inventory and order management software.
When your business increases its front-of-house efficiencies, you are better able to keep your flow of customers moving smoothly and avoid bottlenecks. Using tools like online ordering and kiosks, mentioned above, are good ways to increase that efficiency.
Designating pick-up stations for those online and kiosk orders, as well as other tools, can help increase those efficiencies. Restaurants that want to keep a steady dine-in business going may want to consider implementing an effective online reservation system to help them manage the flow of customers without taking up staff time to take reservations by phone.
Other areas for improvement won’t be as visible to the average customer. Those include the tools your staff uses to keep the dining room running smoothly, including tabletop management software and inventory management systems.
Use technology to become pandemic-ready
While restaurant operators have little control over things like a global pandemic or national labor shortage, they can implement new technology and processes to increase their restaurants’ efficiencies even in difficult circumstances.
Staley Technologies can help you keep your restaurant running smoothly and efficiently. Give our experts a call at (800) 280-9675 or contact us online to see how we can help you better leverage technology in your business.