Pandemic shortages are still hurting the restaurant industry—this time it’s not paper plates or potatoes. It’s people. The labor shortage is hitting restaurants hard, but there are powerful ways to offset the missing labor with smart technology.
Restaurant tech can help you make the most of the staff you have, and lessen the burden of unfilled positions. And when the labor shortage is over, you’ll be set to scale even faster with efficiency-boosting technology on your team.
We identified six different technologies that restaurant chains can use to reduce their labor by 21%, minimize the burden of the shortage, and come out ahead when it’s over.
These percent-saved estimations are calculated from a blend of in-house experience and feedback from customers—your mileage may vary.
In this guide we’ll be exploring:
- How to use line-busting tablets to cut wait times
- The new intersection of AI and time-costly phone orders
- And why a robot kitchen might just be the solution to all your problems
By the time you’re finished with this article, you’ll be ready to slash inefficiency and keep your restaurant running at full speed.
First, Where is Restaurant Labor Least Efficient?
When it comes to labor inefficiency, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. A pizza delivery chain is going to have a very different set of problems than a dine-in establishment. You’ve got to find where you’re bleeding labor efficiency, then match solutions to plug those leaky buckets.
Common leaky buckets include:
- Pulling staff away to answer the phone (not to mention order mistakes from restaurant noise and dropped calls/orders due to wait times)
- The endless back-and-forth of taking orders, cleaning tables, or refilling condiments
- Or high turnover—which can equal high training costs and the never-ending hiring hamster wheel
All of these are opportunities to run your business more efficiently, even with the current labor shortage. Let’s take a look at how restaurant owners are tackling these issues.
Give Customers the Power to Order Independently
Estimated Savings: 4%
Giving your customers the chance to order by themselves is a great way to maximize labor resources. You can redirect front of house staff to other essential tasks—as long as your ordering experience is seamless to the customer.
Here are some ways restaurant chains in our network are increasing customer autonomy and minimizing labor burden in this area:
- Digital QR menus are the future. All your customers have to do is scan the code and they’re taken to an (easily updatable) website featuring your menu. You can even embed contactless ordering and payment. This method eases COVID worries customers might have and takes the pressure off your staff.
- Self-ordering restaurant kiosks are great for increasing AOV (Average Order Value). You can easily show deals and up-sell promotions without reminding your staff about them over and over. It’s a great labor saver that allows you to concentrate your team’s energies on what they do best— offering a high-quality dining experience for your customers.
- Worried about the admin behind integrating QR menus, app orders, and phone calls? HungerRush digital ordering system unifies all that. All orders, no matter the source, are collated into one easy-to-manage package.
These technologies give power to your customers, reduce waiting time, and can increase table turnover rates—all while enabling you to optimize your team’s time.
Replace Time-Costly Phone Ordering with Text Ordering
Estimated Savings: 2%
Some restaurants estimate they have over $2,000 per month going out the door, due to the human cost of phone orders. And with margins already tight, there has got to be a better way to take orders.
Now, we know what you’re thinking. Text ordering? Really?
But text ordering technology has changed a lot in recent years.
- It’s no longer clunky chatbots and limited legacy systems. They’re backed by smart AI capable of learning via a process called Natural Language Processing. That means they actually understand your customers, sync up with your customer database, and can send out personalized promotions based on customer data to spark orders and revenue.
- Plus they’re completely integrated into the HungerRush 360 platform. Deals, coupons, addresses, and payment information—it all syncs up seamlessly.
- Which is ideal if you’re a multi-unit restaurant owner. No more juggling a dozen apps to check your monthly sales data and no more taking staff off the line to answer calls during the middle of the rush.
Text ordering these days is a smooth experience that keeps customers on a medium that they’re comfortable with—and have access to. They don’t need to download third-party apps like Uber (which take up to 30% of the order value!) either. All they need is a phone.
Curious? Check out Order AI today.
Take Orders Faster with Line-Busting Tablets
Estimated Savings: 2%
If you don’t have enough staff on hand, then something as simple as a line-busting tablet can really save your bacon.
Customers can choose their food and drinks, and even pay for them while they’re still in the queue. The kitchen receives the order directly, and everything integrates into HungerRush 360.
Using a handheld tablet to order is much faster than going back and forth from the table to the counter. And it detaches your servers from the point of sale system, meaning you can maximize labor efficiency.
Smarter Training Creates More Efficient Employees
Estimated Savings: 1%
The restaurant industry can be a bit of a revolving door when it comes to employee turnover. A recent Gallup study showed that having well-trained employees equals less turnover by improving employee investment and reducing friction to success at work. And, with pandemic shortages still crippling the restaurant industry, it’s time to invest in the workers you do have.
Look, the savings aren’t going to be overnight or immediately noticeable, like if you brought on a new piece of technology. But they will add up over time. Investing in your staff is a great way to show them you care, and will make your restaurant one that they’re happy to visit every week.
Keeping team members for just three extra months actually feels like a major difference when it comes to stress levels and the financial cost of training. Plus it’s one of the simplest ways to ensure productivity and labor efficiency stay high.
Minimize Front of House Staff By Optimizing Takeout/Delivery
Estimated Savings: 4%
Delivery-only restaurants, or ghost kitchens, have skyrocketed during the pandemic. People were afraid to eat out, but with the lingering labor shortage, this trend looks like it’s here to stay. Uber reported 10,000 delivery-only restaurants on its platform last year—up from only 3,000 in 2019, a 233% increase.
- More sales from off-premise customers. That equals growth without hiring a bunch of extra Front of House staff.
- It’s automatic all the way. Everything from pickup to delivery can be automated. You just need one person to hand off the food.
- A delivery-only location with a lean team. Ghost kitchens are the best way to get a maximum return out of a skeleton staff.
HungerRush 360 is simple to use and makes running a ghost kitchen a breeze. All your tools, processes, and data sync into one clear system—and your POS integrates perfectly with DoorDash, so you can start offering third-party delivery from day one.
Dive Into the Deep End With a Robotic Kitchen
Estimated Savings: 8%
If you really want to go all-in on automation, consider robotizing your kitchen for substantial savings. The estimated labor savings are huge—and so is the initial price tag. But you might attract customers from the novelty alone.
Restaurant robots are exploding right now. Here are a few notable industry leaders:
Miso Robotics can cook up to 19 items from burgers and fries to onion rings and hash browns. It’s an AI-powered end-to-end cooking solution that can keep going for 100,000 hours straight. Now that’s labor-saving.
Picnic Pizza is a full-automated, customizable system of pizza modules. It’s capable of dispensing a wide variety of sauces and toppings, which means your staff can focus on customer experience.
Bear Robots are much less dangerous than they sound. They are the smart way to replace serving staff. With an estimated 60% labor reduction cost, kitchen staff simply place the food on the surface, and let Bear do its thing. It’ll trundle to the table, deliver the food to hungry customers, and get ready for the next order of business.
Spyce is a fully automated restaurant that proves the model. Dishes are placed on a conveyor belt that runs underneath dispensers to dole out ingredients to any of the 49 recipes in its repertoire. And it’s no slouch—the Spyce robots are capable of producing up to 350 bowls per hour.
With a robotic kitchen, the only thing you’ll need to worry about is doing the dishes.
Need to Optimize Your Labor Fast? Do This First
If installing a robotic kitchen isn’t quite in the cards, why not start with the easiest thing first?
Try getting your customers to place more text orders, and fewer calls. It’s one of the simplest to implement, and you’ll be able to see results fast.
If you’re struggling due to pandemic-related labor shortages and you’re not sure where to start, try OrderAI. It provides a smooth customer experience and integrates with our multi-functional platform services, ensuring a smooth multi-unit enterprise whether you have two locations or two hundred.