While the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is, hopefully, in the rearview window, restaurants are still experiencing a perfect storm: runaway food and labor costs, an ongoing staffing shortage, continued supply chain disruptions, and increased customer demand. Considering these simultaneous challenges, how can restaurants learn to do more with what they have?
Or should they invest in specific tools to drive their profits and growth? As an industry expert, I’d advise restaurants to do both: maximize their existing resources and invest in tech tools to help boost key metrics.
As expenses soar and businesses remain short-staffed, it’s still critical to prioritize food safety and quality assurance. Tech tools provide essential insights, allowing leadership teams to make data-based decisions, spot trends, and mitigate risks. Understanding where your business is succeeding—and areas that need improvement—is critical to maximize compliance. If you don’t already have digital software, it’s time to invest.
Implement digital systems (e.g., predictive ordering technology, proper inventory management) to decrease food waste and expense. Today’s systems allow brands to view sales patterns, track inventory, manage production, avoid overstocking, and determine areas of wastage. Tech solutions allow organizations to use data—not instincts—to make better, more profitable, less wasteful decisions. At a time when supply costs are high, even minimal savings will add up.
Use resources wisely. Turn off non-essential equipment during slower times to save energy and money. Open windows instead of running the air conditioning. Use silverware instead of plasticware, QR codes instead of disposable menus, and reusable napkins instead of paper. Cook creatively to use every scrap of food. Think of different ways to reduce waste throughout your organization to save money, resources, and the environment.
Since many brands are still struggling with staffing shortages, it’s wise to streamline processes to make them faster, easier, and more accurate. Digital systems are much more efficient than manual processes, allowing restaurants to continue conducting essential activities (e.g., line checks, inventory, inspections) even when they’re short-staffed. And when you make the tedious administrative tasks easier and more efficient, it allows your staff to spend more time doing the things they love—interacting with customers, cooking delicious meals, dreaming up new menu items, etc. These seemingly small things matter in terms of employee happiness, satisfaction, and retention.
As businesses “staff up” to meet higher consumer demand, they’re training new workers on safety and quality protocols. But all employees should receive ongoing training—not just upon hiring, but throughout their tenure. Many brands provide reminders via employees’ phones, so critical information is always at their fingertips.
An astonishing 96 percent of food brand operators have experienced product delays or shortages recently. That means that brands need to be more creative, as many ingredients remain difficult to get. As prices are soaring, restaurant owners and chefs are saying that almost everything is 20 percent more costly than it was pre-pandemic, with proteins costing least $2 to $4 more per pound, and a 35-pound container of fryer oil increasing from $20 to $50 in recent months. Chefs should use their ingredients in their entirety—repurposing leftovers and excess food in new, exciting ways.
Since one error can irrevocably damage a brand’s reputation, rely on tech tools to help minimize risk and ensure safety procedures are properly conducted, monitored, and enforced. This is critical as businesses work with limited staff, who are often stretched too thin. Digital tools help enforce safety standards, reduce risk, and protect your brand by optimizing and improving safety and quality protocols.
You may have the best chicken pot pie or mac n’ cheese in town, but people won’t visit your restaurant if they don’t know what you offer—and what sets you apart from the restaurant down the street. Since 90 percent of consumers conduct online research before deciding where to dine, you need to be visible. Marketing efforts don’t have to be expensive or time consuming. It can be as simple as regularly updating the menu on your website and using social media to spotlight daily specials and incentives (such as discounts for healthcare professionals on specific days). Encourage happy customers to post positive online reviews to drive more attention, excitement, and traffic. These efforts can help attract potential employees, as well as new customers.
It may seem unfeasible to invest in tech tools when food, rent, and other costs are so high. However, digital quality management toolsets will provide a huge ROI, simplifying important administrative tasks, offering essential insights, ensuring safety and quality compliance, and minimizing waste.
Dallas Henderson, a 25-year veteran of the service industry, is an Account Manager at RizePoint. RizePoint is disrupting traditional market software with their innovative, new product platform Ignite Supplier Certification Management, which helps small to medium sized businesses simplify the supplier certification and maintenance process. To discuss RizePoint’s solutions, please contact Dallas at email@example.com.