Experiencing a labor shortage in your restaurant? Here's how technology can help

Published May 27, 2021

The labor shortage is the most important challenge facing the restaurant industry in 2021. In fact, according to CBS News, nearly 4 in 10 restaurants report that they’re having difficulty hiring enough staff. At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, thousands of restaurant workers were laid off or furloughed due to severe economic downturn.  

Unemployment insurance applications skyrocketed, and many former employees were forced into dire financial situations, with both their homes and families at risk. Yet, now that things seem to be turning around, those same employees aren’t returning to work as expected.  

Although current trends suggest that there’s no need to panic, you may still need to address the challenge of operating with fewer staff, especially as more customers leave home and rush to brick-and-mortar restaurants. One of the best ways you can accomplish this is through the use of technology.

Enhancing your core POS technology in your restaurant


Your staff is a key part of your restaurant experience; they guide patrons through every step of the ordering, dining and payment process. But if you’re short staffed, you only have a few servers for tables. Even if you don’t run a table service restaurant, too few employees can hinder your fast casual, quick service, counter service and/or delivery operations, too, causing service to be slow and inefficient as your employees become overwhelmed with all of your customer requests.

Free up your staff with a handheld restaurant POS


Using contact-free and handheld POS systems can make the ordering and payment process easier for your customers and employees. Handheld POS systems help free up your staff to take orders and payments quickly, anywhere at the restaurant—whether that’s inside at the table, the counter, the bar, the patio or even outside for curbside pickup.  

With employees essentially carrying the POS in their pocket, they can cover more ground in the restaurant. This can greatly reduce employee error while reducing labor costs by keeping servers on the floor engaging with more guests, or more customers moving through the line.

Support back-of-house staff with kitchen technology


Your restaurant is only as good as your kitchen—you could have all the technology and amazing service in the world, but if you can’t deliver fresh, ready food in a timely manner, in the way the customers ordered, it can drastically affect the experience.  

Implementing a robust kitchen technology system helps create more efficient operations in the back-of-house, especially with limited staff. Technology helps direct and orchestrate orders, focusing on what needs to be produced and when. And with kitchen technology solutions that support multiple languages, it’s easier to accommodate a diverse talent pool.

Offset the need for more front-of-house staff with contactless order and pay


When the pandemic hit, many restaurants had to quickly pivot to online delivery and digital ordering to keep revenue coming in. Even now, consumers still value contact-free service and more restaurants are using new technology to take advantage of that value—and the benefits to their business.  

One benefit to offering contactless digital ordering (both inside and outside the restaurant) is that it reduces the need for more front-of-house staff. You put the power of ordering into the hands of the guests on their own personal devices, freeing up time for your staff to focus on bringing food to tables and ensuring guest satisfaction. Indeed, restaurants such as Roots Pizza have offset labor shortages by using their mobile app, online ordering and contactless order and pay onsite. 

Create a more efficient payment experience


Especially if you’re short staffed, consider introducing contactless pay-at-table and curbside payment options to help the staff you do have turn tables or get customers through your lines faster. By empowering your guests to pay more quickly and on demand, your staff can help more customers in less time, relieving pressure on limited staff. 

Make sure you have an easy onboarding and training experience


When you’re able to bring in new employees, training eats up a lot of time they could otherwise be spending with your guests. You want to implement restaurant technology that’s easy to adopt for your staff, so it doesn’t cost more time to manage the tech than it does running your business and serving guests.  

Consider investing in a universally-known restaurant POS system that incoming staff may already be familiar with or can easily learn how to use. You want to create an easy onboarding experience, too, so look for restaurant POS providers who offer a library of training videos—for instance, NCR provides customer, IT and deployment/integration training support—that make it fast and simple to bring employees up to speed and makes their day easier, so they have a great experience—and want to stay with you. 

Rely on your restaurant’s data and smart analytics


With a limited staff and the need to manage labor costs, data can be your best friend. Use analytics to drive scheduling decisions – using historical and predictive data can help you better plan, staff up for busy hours and operate on a leaner scale for slower periods. Relying on your restaurant’s data can help you better optimize your scheduling methods and save on labor costs.

The future of the restaurant labor crisis is uncertain—no one really knows when the workforce is going to catch up to demand. Offsetting labor shortages with technology is a smart way to keep running efficiently while ensuring a better employee experience that helps you be a top employer for local candidates.

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