Balancing technology with a human touch is key.

As the digital revolution sweeps across the globe, impacting employees, organizations, and industries in its wake, restaurants have a unique opportunity to measure technology’s impact on not just the way work gets done, but the way people work.

On one hand, the benefits of automation are endless, particularly in the restaurant and hospitality industry, where self-pay tablets, automated kitchens, and robotic food runners can mean speedier service, decreased employee burnout, and instant gratification for consumers.

However, the slope from automated technology to an impersonal experience is a slippery one.

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While robots aren’t taking over all jobs—like many headlines might compel you to believe—the age of digitization is certainly hitting the restaurant workforce in a big way. In many ways, automation can lead to an impersonal interaction, like using an iPad to place an order at the airport or choosing your meal from an in-booth tabletop tablet. What if you’re looking for personal recommendations, or need to request a tricky substitution in your entrée? Or what if, in a vastly digital landscape, you’re just looking for a real-life, spoken “hello?” This is an especially tricky conversation when it comes to full-service restaurants.

We all know that guests count on employees—not touchscreens —to deliver the incredible experiences the industry was built on. To continue to make good on the shared mission of providing exceptional customer experiences, restaurants across the board must engage their employees and empower them to do just that.

Embrace automation to empower—not eliminate—your most strategic advantage: your people.

Organizations looking to further engage their workforce and deliver memorable guest experiences should ask themselves: “How can I enrich the employee experience so my people feel inspired at work?” Investing in new technology that automates routine tasks and surfaces business insights using machine learning and analytics is a great place to start. With the right technology, managers can be freed from the cumbersome or manual processes that, before, may have prevented them from fully engaging with the people in the restaurant. Likewise, this technology can leave frontline staff with the flexibility and bandwidth to foster an exceptional guest experience and boost customer loyalty as a result.

The backbone of any organization’s success is its people, rather than its functionality. Therefore, investing in foundational workforce management tools is critical to ensure long-term, human-oriented success.

Eatertainment giant Dave & Buster’s has made impressive strides in its journey to optimize employee engagement and productivity across its 110 restaurant locations by launching a modernized workforce management experience. According to Jeff Weiss, IT director of store systems at Dave & Buster’s, there’s no room for employee disengagement.

“Our business is centered around creating uniquely fun guest experiences,” Weiss says. “It’s incumbent on us to implement technologies that empower our employees to delight customers with a friendly human touch—the kind many of us seek out or expect when interacting with a company or brand.”

READ MORE: Can food play a larger role at Dave & Buster’s?

“When we recently set out to reimagine and reinvest in our workforce management process,” Weiss continues, “we focused on untethering managers from the back office by streamlining basic tasks like approving employee timecards, forecasting and building schedules, and reviewing time-off requests. Once we automated the basics, we could then turn our efforts to empowering managers to spend more time interacting with employees and guests, with the goal of creating a consistently optimal customer and employee experience.”

Cultivate an unforgettable guest experience by investing in resources to enrich the workplace for managers and employees.

Because nearly half of employees wish their work technology were as easy to use as their personal technology, organizations can meet this need by adopting employee solutions that feature a modern user experience and reflect the ease of use their staff experiences when using everyday consumer applications.

“We’ve seen first-hand how mobile-first and self-service solutions provide greater flexibility for our staff to address issues when and where they arise,” Weiss says. “This is saving our employees time while providing them with a level of convenience that aligns with the quality guest experience we pride ourselves on at Dave & Buster’s.”

In addition to being easy to use, workplace technology should also tackle the tasks that take up the greatest amount of time and energy. Take staffing accuracy and scheduling: A whopping 90 percent of employees believe their organization can fundamentally improve scheduling processes. Particularly in the hospitality industry, where most employees work hourly shifts and expect their employer to provide fair and predictable schedules, workforce solutions that enable schedules to be built or customized based on employee preferences offer an enormous differentiator in both attracting and retaining great talent and advancing workforce engagement overall.

Automation may be here to stay, but so are people. Whether they realize it or not, customers depend on engaged employees to foster those unforgettable experiences that keep them coming back for more. By leveraging high tech to wick away basic work, humans are left to do what only the high touch can do: engage, understand, and connect.

Casual Dining, Chain Restaurants, Expert Takes, Feature, Labor & Employees, Technology, Dave & Buster's