It’s no surprise that leading a restaurant brand is incredibly challenging right now. The industry is facing disruption on a scale not seen in decades. After emerging from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurant operators have found themselves dealing with record high food costs, ongoing labor shortages, inconsistencies in the supply chain, and quickly changing guest preferences.
Many changes made during the pandemic, such as bolstering off prem capabilities, were necessary, but restaurant employees are feeling the lack of support as operators scramble to address issues that are eating into the bottom line. Fortunately, modern restaurant operators have tools to help address both needs, demonstrating the leadership their employees need while maintaining margins.
Here are four ways to harness technology in a way that leads your restaurant more effectively.
1. Give employees training and education opportunities
Nobody likes feeling like they don’t have what they need to be successful at their job. During the Great Resignation, many restaurant workers cited lack of career growth or training as one of the top reasons for leaving the industry. Whether your employee is making a career of foodservice, or they’re in the industry for the flexibility during school, setting them up to succeed is a mark of good leadership and will save money on turnover.
Better training not only builds affinity to the brand but improves efficiency and service for customers. Bringing in technology to assist will strengthen the learning process. Many restaurants rely too heavily on on-the-job training. While this is valuable, it should only be one part of your training repertoire.
You can reduce cognitive overload and improve information retention by adding in things like gamifications, microlearning modules, videos, and more. This empowers employees and helps you avoid interruptions in operations when an employee with a lot of institutional knowledge leaves the company. You should also remember to audit your learning and training programs to make sure they aren’t getting stale over time, in addition to looking for new ways to provide training or invest in learning programs that align with your company goals.
2. Use integrated restaurant technology
Integration is the name of the game when it comes to your restaurant tech stack. We know there are dozens of vendors offering solutions for each problem you face, but if each platform you add is discrete from the other platforms, you’ve just added a new problem. You’ll have to work harder to admin those solutions and integrate the data, rather than being able to use the tools at your disposal.
However, being thoughtful about how you bring in technology will pay off. Focus on what will make your employees’ and customers’ lives easier. Leading as an employee and customer focused brand wins advocates internally and externally. Look for benefits like improved ordering, faster reporting, insight into menu performance and more to help guide you as you look at where the IT budget should be spent first.
Trustworthy data and tools that will improve overall experience with your brand helps ensure your restaurants are running safely and efficiently. Your employees will appreciate that you are striving to improve the brand and give them what they need to be successful.
3. Improve your labor and scheduling processes
Every operator knows getting staffing wrong will kill your profitability for the day – or even week – so why is it so hard to get right? Customers can get frustrated with the long wait times and poor service caused by understaffing, but your profits will disappear with an overstaffed schedule. A good manager can go a long way toward mitigating that, but scheduling software is increasingly important to restaurant brands trying to manage labor.
It can determine optimal staffing levels based on forecasted demand, which can help current managers, but also reduce ramp up time for a new manager. Further, it shows employees you care about getting it right for them. Scheduling software can let them manage schedules from their phones, avoid snafus where they’re scheduled for a shift on a night they have class, or pick up shifts when they want to.
4. Communicate better
Open and transparent communication is a hallmark of great leadership. Employees can sense when something is off that they’re not being told about, and ultimately, having as much information as possible empowers them as they work. Letting them know about supply chain issues gives them a reasonable explanation for customers. Or communicating why staffing is short and what you’re doing to fix that, helps retention because they know this is something you’re actively working to fix.
But communication goes both ways. You need to listen to what concerns employees have. Ask managers to check in frequently and give employees a way to offer more feedback. Their insight is valuable, and, in aggregate, can also help you improve the brand as a whole, not just individual stores. Communication and the “lack of feeling heard or appreciated” is another one of the top reasons listed as to why hospitality workers left the industry during the great resignation. Listening to concerns and recognizing successes is critical to the kind of leadership that sets your brand apart.
Help your employees (and restaurant) thrive by providing proper knowledge, tools, and support.
Greg Staley is the CEO of SynergySuite, a back-of-house restaurant management platform. Greg focuses on facilitating better visibility and increased profitability for restaurant chains through the use of intelligent, integrated back-of-house technology. With over 21 years in the enterprise software industry, his experience provides the foundation for solid leadership and overall organizational success. For more information or to discuss SynergySuite’s solutions, please contact Greg at [email protected].
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