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How to address labor shortages & make your restaurant more efficient

Published July 28, 2021

Since the pandemic began, many employees across the food and beverage industry have opted not to return to work for various different reasons. If you’re in the restaurant business, chances are you’ve been affected in some way by this global labor shortage.

There’s good news, though. If you own or manage a restaurant, there are several ways you can pivot your business model to manage the current situation and even prevent the same scenario from impacting you again in the future.

With the right strategies and technology in place, you can nix the middleman, reduce costs in the long run and still operate your restaurant efficiently.

Tip #1: It’s all about staff retention.

The happier your employees are, the more likely they are to stay. And as a manager and leader, it’s your responsibility to create an environment that fosters long-term loyalty and commitment among your team. Here are just a few things you can do to ensure your staff wants to be in it for the long-haul.

1.     Create an open line of communication.

Build trust between you and your employees so they feel comfortable coming to you with problems, challenges and solutions. You don’t want employees to feel like they’re not being respected, so encourage your team to provide feedback and share their perspectives.   

2.     Implement new ideas.

It’s not enough to just listen to your employees. You have to show them you’re willing to act on their feedback and suggestions. People want to know the company they work for values their opinions and is proactive about creating a work environment they feel happy, safe and heard in.

If an employee’s ideas align with your organization’s goals and mission, find a way to implement them in your business. If feedback isn’t in step with the company’s objectives, seize the opportunity to work with your restaurant staff and possibly reach a compromise. People put more effort into their jobs when they feel respected and valued.

3.     Provide growth opportunities.

Invest in your employees by strengthening their current skills and helping them develop new ones. Take the time to sit down with them one-on-one and understand their career and life goals.  

If your budget allows it, offer them training courses that align with both their goals and those of your organization. Otherwise, provide mentorship and on-the-job training to keep your staff challenged and engaged. 

Related: Tips on how to find and keep the best talent for your restaurant in 2021—and beyond

4.     Increase wages.

Restaurants like Chipotle and McDonald’s increased employee wages earlier this year and made benefit packages more competitive to improve employee retention and recruitment efforts.

The unfortunate truth behind minimum wage is that it’s not a livable wage. Employees will look for other opportunities that help them pay their bills, and you don’t want to be the job they leave. 

Sure, increasing employee wages is easier said than done. But technology can help offset the costs of such changes.

Tip #2: Technology is the future.

Now you have an idea of what to do to prevent a labor shortage, but how do you soften the effects of the shortage that may be impacting you right now? Well, there are a few steps you can take to help ease the strain caused by the current crisis, even if hiring new employees is a challenge.

Many restaurants, even quick-service restaurants, have taken advantage of technology to help manage labor. Whether it’s hardware, software or add-ons to your restaurant’s POS, good technology offers solutions for every part of your business. Here’s how you can take matters into your own hands:

1.     Improve kitchen technology.

If your back-of-house team is short-staffed, you can still keep up with customer demand and maintain speedy service so that nobody misses a beat. A robust kitchen production system can make your back-of-house operations run smoother than ever.

Look for a system that provides advanced routing rules to boost productivity and efficiency, makes sure orders are routed to the right stations and gives you a real-time view of problem areas in production and delivery.

A good kitchen production system will even let you load-balance by automatically routing orders to underutilized stations or showcasing which orders are takeout or delivery.

2.     Go contactless.

Empower your customers to order what they want when they want it. Offloading this task to technology instead of an employee will help reduce labor costs

Additionally, look into opening new revenue streams by adding or improving digital ordering and curbside pickup offerings.

3.     Invest in your POS.

Whether you want to provide a new service or speed up your existing ones with a limited staff, powerful restaurant POS systems can handle the bulk of the work for you and your employees.

Your restaurant POS is more than a register and actually holds valuable data and analytics. You can use that information to better understand and engage with your customers. Additionally, your POS can help you run your restaurant through digital ordering capabilities and contactless payment, among other features.

If you’re struggling through the current labor shortage, you’re not alone. But remember that there are steps you can take to deal with the situation and turn it into an opportunity. As the leader of your restaurant, it’s up to you to take the challenge head on. Invest in your employees and your restaurant technology, and you’ll have the right people and resources to continue to operate even more efficiently than before.

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