How Restaurant Technology Can Help Overcome Labor Shortage Challenges

Automation can increase efficiency and profitability at any time – but it’s particularly essential when you’re operating with fewer employees.

The restaurant labor shortage continues. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary states the accommodation and food services sector had 1,310,000 openings in November 2021. And although job openings decreased by about 260,000, quits increased by 159,000, indicating that many restaurants have vacancies and difficulty retaining the employees they have.

Inadequate staffing can force restaurants to limit their days or hours of operation, abbreviate menus, and settle for fewer table turns and less revenue. It’s also frustrating for consumers. With fewer servers and back-of-house staff, service can be slow, and diners beginning to return to restaurants after shutdowns may find their experiences don’t match up to their expectations based on what dining out was like before the pandemic.

Furthermore, restaurant competition now has a new dimension: Businesses aren’t only competing for customers – they’re competing for employees. Restaurants are encouraging people to apply with sizeable signing bonuses and other perks – and those offers may be tempting employees to explore their possibilities. Losing employees at this point will only create more pressure on the staff that remains and require that more of your time is devoted to recruiting and training.

How Technology Can Help Weather the Restaurant Labor Shortage

The reality is, at least for the short term, many restaurants need to find ways to accomplish more with fewer employees. Technology solutions, including these five, can help fill the gap:

  • Online ordering If customers are ordering for takeout or delivery more often than choosing to dine in, accepting orders online is crucial. It eliminates employees having to stop to answer the phone, and it’s much more accurate than trying to hear a customer correctly when taking the call in a noisy kitchen. Also, streamlining the ordering process with a system that allows customers to order online and directly communicates those orders with the point of sale (POS) system eliminates the need for an employee to manage it.
  • Order and pay at the table If technology can save servers steps, they can cover more tables and work more efficiently. An order- and pay-at-the-table solution allows servers to use mobile POS devices to input orders tableside. Then, when the customer has finished dining, it eliminates the trips back and forth to a stationary POS terminal to run a credit card then return for a tip and signature. A restaurant’s team can save a wait staff even more steps if the dining area is expanded to comply with social distancing, curbside ordering or outdoor dining. With a mobile-first restaurant solution, a restaurant can decrease table turn time by 12-15 minutes at peak while decreasing the need for servers by 20 percent per shift.
  • Kitchen display system (KDS) A KDS automates the process of communicating orders to the correct food prep areas in the kitchen. It helps teams prioritize preparing menu items so that meals are timed correctly, minimizing the burden on managers. A KDS also helps managers by providing data that identifies processes that need improvement, so the kitchen operates more efficiently.
  • Labor reporting and scheduling With limited staff, it’s vital to make the best use of the human resources available. A POS system’s labor management features can provide data that ensures the schedule includes enough employees to handle peak times but avoid scheduling unnecessary labor during slow shifts. Optimizing schedules will help keep labor costs to a minimum.

Doing More with Less

Automation always makes sense whether a restaurant is operating with a full complement of staff or down a few people. If technology can accomplish a task, a team can focus on higher-value assignments, such as creating loyalty-building customer experiences.

Technology can help restaurants get through the current crisis and, when the restaurant labor shortage ends, operate more efficiently and profitably.