Roughly half of restaurant operators expect that recruiting and retaining workers will be their biggest challenge this year.

Restaurants are struggling. A survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) last year found that as 2021 began, restaurant and food-service sales were $240 billion below its 2020 pre-pandemic forecasts. More than 110,000 eating and drinking establishments closed in 2020, and the Association expressed hope that 2021 would be a year of rebuilding. However, unpredicted labor shortages throughout 2021, and projected to remain through 2022, have been challenging that rosy prediction.

In fact, in a follow-up survey 2022 State of the Restaurant Industry, released by the Association last month, the hard truth is that roughly half of restaurant operators expect that recruiting and retaining workers will be their biggest challenge this year and a full seven out of ten operators reported not having enough employees to support demand at their restaurants. They do not expect that situation to improve. Restaurant operators are also looking to shrink food waste, amidst higher-than-usual food costs.


A full-service restaurant, with only a “half-full” complement of service providers, needs a new recipe for attracting consumers, who are already cutting back on spending because of bigger bites from gas prices. Restaurants must find a competitive edge—something they can sink their teeth into that will attract customers. That edge is trust—trust that operators are doing the right thing for food safety and the environment.

Unfortunately, at understaffed full-service restaurants, operators are often basing their labor model and inventory on bad data. Therefore, data accuracy is step one. Having accurate data offers a flywheel to become more surgical about labor to ensure food safety, take buffers out of inventory and reduce waste.

There are five pillars of data accuracy that restaurants can build to inspire customer trust and reduce waste amidst ongoing labor shortages:

  1. Availability: Items are available, without substitution, on the advertised menu. 
  2. Quality + Freshness: With best-in-class product specifications and the longest possible in-storage freshness
  3. Safety: Food safety is a paramount consideration for the customer, weary of news of recalls and wary of food outside the home
  4. Value: While price is obviously a major consideration, full-service restaurant guests are enticed by food quality and freshness.
  5. Sustainability: Customers want the brands they patronize to be stewards of the environment and make business decisions that reduce waste and support sustainability.

These pillars are a heavy lift even in fully staffed full-service restaurants. With persistent labor shortages, the way to inspire trust at the front-of-the-house is by deploying data-driven solutions that support the trust mission at the back-of-the-house.


A data-driven profile of food items offers the full-service restaurant operator reliable information that ensures food safety. A solution that combines hardware, software, and barcode or RFID technology provides insight into the food ingredients the full-service restaurant is receiving, storing, serving, and importantly where margins are so tight, identifying where there might be waste. In fact, automated, accurate data capture for every item provides new visibility to maximize the promise of freshness.

Consider information gathered along the food supply chain that ladders up to a freshness guarantee the full-service restaurant brand can offer guests and stand behind:

  • Origin Information
  • Harvest Date
  • Safety Details
  • Condition Details
  • Days Fresh
  • Brand Information

Any or all that information can be contained on a label, depending on how far upstream the label is created. The data on the label can be simply and quickly scanned by an associate with minimal additional training, enabling software to manage the inventory. By automating accuracy, full-service restaurants do more with less back-of-the-house human resources, who can be allocated to consumer-facing front-of-the-house duties. Freshness due diligence can be purposed as the customer-facing brand attribute of “freshness you can trust.”


While inspiring guest trust about freshness to build full-service restaurant traffic is key, the issue of sustainability is also important. According to a post-pandemic study conducted by Deloitte, “sustainability remains a key consideration for consumers in 2021 with 32 percent of consumers highly engaged with adopting a more sustainable lifestyle.” That means restaurant operators should find ways to make their business processes more sustainable and be accountable to their guests.

Beyond consumer trends, sustainability makes good sense for cost control. The amount of food waste in full-service restaurants is significant and expensive. Accurate data on ingredient expiry dates means that items can be rotated properly to ensure they are used. For example, accurate data enables the full-service restaurant operator to utilize ingredients that are nearing their expiry instead of having to discard them. Utilizing this data, full-service restaurants can establish an inventory system that forecasts and tracks food product usage so that it can be offered to guests safely, and not end up as waste. That’s a win-win for both brand reputation and operations.

The labor shortage is going to be endemic in full-service restaurants. By embracing data-driven solutions for inventory and food waste that can better support human resources: full-service restaurant operators, their guests, a transient workforce – and where sustainability is concerned, perhaps even the human race.

Adam Anderson, Vice President, Food, Avery Dennison Identification Solutions, is responsible for the creation and execution of the company’s global strategies for the Food segment which incorporate data-driven digital solutions encompassing hardware, software, and labels. Avery Dennison Corporation (NYSE: AVY) is a global materials science company specializing in the design and manufacture of a wide variety of labeling and functional materials. The company’s products and solutions are used in nearly every major industry.

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