Restaurants are facing increasing financial strain as states and municipalities pass more legislation around wage and labor practices, healthcare costs grow, and the hospitality labor pool shrinks. At the same time, customers are also becoming more demanding. Not only do they want better service, but diners are also not always willing to pay more to offset the expense of increasing the number of employees on staff. This means that restaurants can’t make payroll cuts alone to make up the difference in the budget.
“Everyone is trying to find ways to increase efficiency instead of passing labor costs on to guests,” says Jim Martyn, director of development at The Canadian Brewhouse, a 30-unit Canadian restaurant chain. “But when you blindly cut shifts, you are hurting people.”
Relying on payroll cuts alone leads to long guest wait times for tables and food, as well as mistakes when staff is overwhelmed, which can disappoint guests who might not return. Additionally, cuts to employee paychecks—and ultimately tips—can lead to turnover and lower-quality service.
One effective strategy for balancing all these competing demands is to use technology that simultaneously allows restaurants to reduce staffing needs while making guest service more efficient. To solve these problems, Martyn’s team at the Canadian Brewhouse invested in Kallpod, a device that enhances brand experience by allowing guests to communicate with servers. With a push of a button, diners can send messages to servers, who wear KallWatch devices that receive alerts. This allows servers to check on tables as frequently or infrequently as guests would like and lets them spend time where they are needed most.
“Everyone goes out to a restaurant for a different reason, whether they want to be helped by a server or not bothered,” Martyn says. “This technology allows a server to be paged if guests need to leave and get to a movie or if they ordered the wrong side dish. But if guests don’t want to be bothered every five minutes when they are catching up with friends, it lets servers know to leave them alone.”
Natasha Dart, training manager at the Canadian Brewhouse, says this puts power in the hands of servers. “Kallpod makes it easier for servers to manage time. Because they know exactly when they should go back to a table, they can better assist guests.”
By reducing unnecessary visits and prioritizing customers who need assistance, servers are able to cover more tables, allowing restaurants to staff fewer employees without sacrificing guest experience. Additionally, by increasing both the number of tables per section, as well as the level of service provided, servers receive more gratuity.
Though the idea of increasing the number of tables per section may seem daunting, Kallpod also keeps servers from becoming overworked. If they are busy with another table when an alert comes in, other servers can also receive alerts and assist with their teammates’ tables so that guests don’t have to wait for a check or a refill.
“We organize our tables into sections, but we also loop sections together with pairs of servers who are working adjacently to each other,” Dart says. “This keeps guests from having to wait, and it also ensures servers still have time to talk with their guests.”
Additionally, Kallpod technology aids managers. Not only do they have peace of mind that tables are being assisted when needed, but leaders can also communicate with servers and even help with table alerts when needed.
Though some might think the costs of this type of technology are prohibitive, it makes it easier for customers to communicate with servers, which encourages repeat visits. Additionally, by improving customer experience, guests are more likely to order another round of drinks or desserts. Martyn says that one extra round of beer sold each day pays for the units in his restaurant.
“99 percent of guests have absolutely loved the product, and those that don’t simply don’t use it, so it doesn’t take away from the restaurant experience,” Martyn says.
While rising costs make it easy to cut labor to reduce expenses, many restaurants are seeing success from programs that enhance service efficiency to drive sales. This is especially true as brands try to lure younger consumers.
“Millennials are the quick-service generation, even when they go to full-service restaurants,” Dart says. “They have grown up getting what they want when they want it, and restaurants are adapting to this strategy. It’s new for us, but once people understand how big a difference this technology makes and how it increases revenue, Kallpod becomes a necessity instead of an option.”