As the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt business, it’s important for restaurants to tighten up their operations in order to save on costs while continuing to provide excellent service. No matter the location or type, restaurants tend to run into the same few problems. Sometimes the solution involves a new technology investment; other times, all that is needed is a change of habits. Here are five common restaurant problems and the solutions that can help to address them.
Inventory Shrinkage and Waste
If not kept in check, restaurants can waste tons of resources per year. Common waste problems include:
- Food: Whether it’s scraps from food prep (broccoli stems, for example), items lost to spoilage, or served food uneaten by guests, restaurants throw away tons of food. According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture, wasted food costs the restaurant industry an estimated $162 billion per year, and as much as half a pound of food per restaurant meal is wasted.
- Liquor: Besides food, liquor is another significant cost for restaurants and one that is susceptible to employee theft or mismanagement (such as overpouring).
- Paper: From napkins, placemats and tablecloths to menus and order tickets, restaurants generate tons of paper waste: at least 5 billion pounds of paper waste per year just on receipts.
These figures represent not only wasted resources (and environmental impact), but lost profits.
The pandemic also drastically affected restaurants’ inventory. Disrupted supply chains meant some restaurants had to make do with what they had or could get, while the restrictions on in-house dining meant more unused food. As these challenges continue into 2021, many restaurants are looking to better manage inventory to reduce shrinkage and waste as much as possible.
Solution: One of the many benefits of installing a good point of sale (POS) system is reduction of waste. When employees take orders on a POS terminal or with a mobile tablet, paper ticketing is eliminated. Automatic inventory tracking can help owners keep a closer eye on stock such as liquor to spot potential shrinkage (and some bar software includes recipe banks indicating how much liquor should be used for various drinks). Reports and analytics allow owners and managers to make informed decisions on which items need to be restocked, which ones should be reduced because they aren’t selling, and even which ingredients are going to spoil first. All of these functions can reduce waste and save money.
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The Need to Reduce Face-to-Face Contact Between Customers and Staff
Efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 are ongoing, and social distancing will remain necessary for some time. Even after the threat passes, customers will likely still be health-conscious. Options that can increase their comfort level will help ensure their satisfaction and repeat business.
Solutions: Contactless payment options can help reduce the potential spread of germs by eliminating the handling of cash and passing back and forth of cards. Publicly handled paper or laminated menus (which are difficult to sanitize properly) can also be eliminated in favor of a QR code menu option: customers can scan a QR code to access the menu on their phones. (Bonus: paper waste is reduced as well!) Additional ways to make face-to-face interactions safer include:
- Masks and gloves worn by staff;
- Plastic dividers between employees and customers at checkout;
- Signage to control restaurant traffic, such as floor indicators of the proper distance to maintain while waiting in line.
Customers will appreciate these tangible reminders of your commitment to keeping them safe, which in turn can boost brand loyalty.
Heavy Labor Costs
Labor is one of the top costs for restauranteurs. To make up for the revenue lost last year, many restaurants are looking for solutions that will help them utilize their staff more effectively.
Solutions: Consider implementing self-service kiosks (with proper sanitization protocols). Customers can place their own orders, which go directly to the kitchen, reducing face-to-face contact. Order accuracy is also improved, as guests can check their own specifications and be assured they will get exactly what they want. And ticket size tends to increase with self-placed orders, in part because the kiosk will never forget to provide upselling prompts. The labor cost benefit for owners is that you can reallocate your front-of-house labor to help with swift fulfillment instead of taking orders.
You might also consider installing a self-pour beverage tap system. Customers can serve themselves simple beverages, reducing the need for staff behind the bar.
High Employee Turnover
Employee turnover rates have always been high in the restaurant industry, and now more than ever, you can’t afford to lose staff. Many places are already running under-staffed due to sickness. In light of these challenges, it’s important to make sure your staff is happy.
Solutions: As with any relationship, open communication between employees and managers is vital. Regularly conduct staff meetings to provide full transparency for managerial decisions and to check in with employees. Encourage them to make suggestions and give feedback on what’s working and what isn’t; and be sure to actively listen when they express concerns. Find out what will motivate them to do their best work, whether it’s bonuses, recognition, schedule flexibility, or job perks (such as free meals, which can also help you reduce food waste). Remember to lead by example; your employees will reflect your attitude.
Poor Customer Experience
Social distancing has transformed restaurant operations, taking a toll on the customer experience. Restauranteurs must address consumer needs so that they can still get an amazing customer experience amid the pandemic. Order accuracy and speed will always be in demand, and alternates to in-house dining should still focus on these expectations.
Solutions: Customers have come to appreciate the convenience of online ordering from the comfort of their homes, or anywhere. The availability of ordering channels such as your branded website or mobile app can influence a customer’s choice of where to dine. As with kiosks, order accuracy and ticket size are increased when customers input the order themselves.
Take that convenience a step further by offering delivery services so customers don’t have to come out for pickup. The ability to pay online enables contactless delivery for additional safety. Delivery management software offers features such as GPS and tracking so customers know when the order will arrive, and managers know when the driver will return. These systems help ensure that all deliveries are accurate and on time, increasing customer satisfaction.
While some common restaurant problems existed before the pandemic, the virus has put a spotlight on the need for some operational changes. When these changes require new technology, look for an experienced provider who can help you choose the solutions that are right for your business. To find out more about the solutions available from Touch Dynamic, contact us today.