Chili's to-go sign outside a restaurant.

flickr: Mike Mozart

Chili’s has made concerted efforts to speed up its service.

When You’re Not Fast Food, but Need to be Faster

Here, a few things to consider to provide a faster meal without decreasing the quality of the experience.

There’s good news and bad news for the full-service restaurant industry. On one hand, people still love eating out. Consumer spending at restaurants was $605 billion in the second quarter of 2017, up 4 percent in two years, according to the U. S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The not-so-good news is that much of that growth has been in the fast food and fast casual sectors as “time-crunched” consumers seek fast alternatives, and many in those segments have upped their game with healthier menu options served quickly.

READ MORE: Are full-service restaurants up to speed with customers?

Full-service chains are responding in kind. Chili’s Grill & Bar, a division of Brinker International, doubled down efforts to focus on decreasing the time it takes to eat without decreasing the experience, both with its 45-minute lunch “guarantee” and tableside options to pay.

But some of the secrets to these successes can be attributed to the back of the house. How smoothly are things running? Is food prep up to speed with ingredients ready to go?

Here, a few things to consider to provide a faster meal without decreasing the quality of the experience.

  • Food Safety: The first line of defense. In your haste, don’t get sloppy with food safety. Pre-empt that nightmare by tracking the temperature and humidity in your coolers. If something fails, employees catch it early, receiving notifications on personal devices and moving inventory. Temperature monitoring will also help employees be pro-active about expiration dates and food labeling. Tossing out-of-date food should be part of the preparation for each day.
  • Know what’s been done: Invest in a digital checklist application to so employees can track things like cleaning and food-prepping. Many systems are cloud-based, accessed on a central device or many, and information is stored digitally—a great way to compare performance and productivity over the short- and long-term. Employees see in real time what tasks are finished and what tasks remain, expediting back-of-house duties so the front end runs smoothly—and quickly.
  • Your employees: Do they know what they’re doing? Make sure each employee has been properly trained. Do they know the safest and most efficient way to prep ingredients, expedite food and get it ready for the server? Are they checking for quality before it leaves the kitchen? Invest in a system that offers training, tracking and also offers mobile printing in conjunction with an iPad or similar device, so your staff can do what they need to do—wherever they happen to be.

Speed is fast becoming the linchpin of success in the industry, but quality and compliance are standards that can’t be compromised. Invest in technology to streamline the back of the house for a better—and faster—front of house experience.

Ryan Yost is general manager for the Printer Solutions Division (PSD) for Avery Dennison Corporation. Avery Dennison Printer Solutions responds to the unique challenges of businesses in the food, retail and fulfillment markets. Its solutions are rooted in efficiency, cost savings, food safety and sustainability through intelligent innovations that solve business problems and improve business processes.

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