Economic forces are biting into the restaurant industry from three different sides. The big question for managers is: how to do more with less? This blog examines five ways to streamline restaurant operations and maximize efficiency savings.
Restaurants should get back on their feet after the blows dealt by the pandemic. But economic forces are conspiring against a strong recovery. Three challenges stand in the way of a return to growth.
Rising costs put pressure on balance sheets. According to a survey, 90% of hotel businesses have been affected by higher costs. Wages, food and drink prices, energy bills and taxes are all slowly rising.
Customers hesitate. Covid restrictions have put safety at the forefront of consumer consciousness. Additionally, the pandemic has pushed people towards home delivery, which appears to be a lasting trend, reducing restaurant traffic. According to a survey by global health and safety organization NSF International, Covid-19 regulations and the rise of home delivery are two of the biggest challenges cited by restaurant industry leaders.
Labor shortages have left a hole in the workforce. According to one estimate, there are now one million fewer workers in the restaurant industry in the US than in 2019. In the UK, the hospitality workforce has shrunk by 12% since before the pandemic. This leads to burnout among the overworked staff that remain. In a survey, 58% of hospitality workers said a shortage of colleagues was their biggest concern.
The combined effect of these challenges has pushed many restaurant businesses to the breaking point. Some have closed. The U.S. National Restaurant Association said nearly one in six restaurants — about 100,000 businesses — closed at the start of the pandemic. Others have stayed afloat, but often with reduced hours or complete closure on certain weekdays.
The challenge for restaurant leaders in the post-pandemic world is to cope with limited resources while providing sufficient quality and differentiation to attract customers. In other words, how do you do more with less?
Forward-looking leaders are implementing solutions to streamline restaurant operations. Using automated monitoring and workflow technology allows them to discover efficiencies that ensure high standards while reducing the burden on staff.
1. Streamline restaurant operations by saving staff time
Busy restaurant staff typically spend hours each week performing regular temperature checks on refrigerators, freezers and warming equipment. Staff at an average site with ten refrigerators and freezers spend about 1.5 hours performing and recording three temperature checks per day. The task can be greatly simplified by using wireless IoT sensors that continuously monitor temperature 24/7 and automatically stream the data to a central dashboard. This represents a significant time saving over the course of a month across a network of restaurants. The result is that staff can spend more time on face-to-face interactions that are important to the customer experience.
2. Monitor your equipment
The unexpected failure of essential kitchen equipment can be both disruptive and costly. According to a study by NSF International, 27% of quick service restaurant (QSR) crews simply turn off kitchen equipment that isn’t working properly. They lack the time or expertise to solve the problem. Within an intelligent operating platform, wireless sensors monitor storage temperatures and provide an indication of equipment status. Monitoring data goes into an artificial intelligence layer that provides managers with a view of trends over time. Variations in temperature can indicate aging equipment or an underlying technical fault that requires attention from engineers. This form of predictive maintenance means that failing equipment can be identified early for repair or replacement, reducing and streamlining restaurant visits for engineers.
3. Streamline restaurant operations by reducing food waste
The breakdown of fridges and refrigerators can put large amounts of stock at risk of spoilage, as food that has been exposed to the wrong temperature for too long must be discarded. Lost inventory has a significant impact on costs for restaurant businesses that may already be struggling with their balance sheets. Automated monitoring alerts managers when a temperature fluctuation occurs. Checkit takes it a step further with Mobile Alert, which sends notifications directly to nearby staff’s mobile devices, along with step-by-step instructions on what to do, which is especially handy if the manager is working remotely or the failure occurs during the night. but requires immediate attention. Food can be quickly moved to adjacent storage units before spoilage occurs, with repairs made faster. This can help reduce restaurant food waste. An industry analysis published by WRAP found that restaurants save $7 for every dollar invested in reducing food waste.
4. Digitize food safety with time-saving sensors and software
The time spent by management compiling and analyzing documents for food safety audits is a huge source of inefficiency in catering businesses. In some cases, managers will travel between restaurants to collect records and verify local performance standards. By replacing paperwork with a digital system that collects and stores data on compliance with standard operating procedures, hours are saved each week. Digitizing food safety helps streamline restaurant processes. This frees up time across the board and creates a better experience for colleagues. One of the UK’s largest leisure groups has saved around 20,000 hours of working time each year by digitizing compliance checks. An intelligent operations platform like Checkit also incorporates digital workflows, where a digital assistant, in the form of a mobile device or app, continuously prompts, guides and captures best practices to ensure maximum security and avoid duplication of effort.
5. Find new routes to save energy
Energy bills are skyrocketing. According to UK Hospitality, average energy price increases of 95% are putting significant pressure on businesses. As a result, 76% increased menu prices and 38% reduced training hours. Automated monitoring, using IoT-enabled sensors, helps highlight inefficiencies. Faulty refrigerators and freezers have to work harder to maintain correct temperatures and consume more energy. Early identification of a problem reduces overconsumption of energy. The problem can be something as minor as a refrigerator or freezer door left open, but the effect on energy consumption can be significant. By quickly identifying the problem, it can be corrected. At the same time, data from digital workflows provides managers with insights they may not have had before. Inefficient processes can be identified and addressed by deploying new procedures. For example, staff can turn on lights, heating and ovens before they are needed. As restaurant sustainability becomes increasingly important, data-driven insights are critical.
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picture by Drew Gilliamon Unsplash