Labor Shortages, Restaurants, and Technology

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Among the many benefits technology can bring to food service operators, we often talk about reducing costs, including labor, energy, and equipment maintenance.  This week, the Wall St Journal wrote an article on the food service industry and the application of technology.  The article offers an interesting perspective. Instead of focusing on labor savings, restaurant automation is addressing a related but different challenge — labor shortages. 

In a strong economy with a tight labor market, operators are seeking ways of making work more fulfilling for their employees as a means of recruiting and retaining talent.  It only makes sense that technology can be applied to reduce employee turnover by helping to eliminate or at least cut down on the number of menial tasks for staff.  Such tasks can add frustrations to someone’s day-to-day experience, which can lead to higher employee turnover.

The technology applied to menial tasks can take many forms.  An emerging idea is the use of robotics.  The article highlights “Flippy”, the hamburger-cooking robot.  Other less visible but perhaps equally or more impactful ideas include cloud-connected cooking equipment and automated sensors for tracking and reporting on food safety, product quality, and equipment performance. 

Who signs-up for a job in a restaurant eager to complete paperwork on a daily basis?  Who looks forward to interrupting interactions with guests in order to investigate an error code on a fryer?  It’s clear that these kinds of administrative burdens and interruptions aren’t making any employees happy.  Technology can help.

We have a customer that has measured a reduction of almost 90% in the time required for menial data collection tasks by using SiteSage to automate many of these tasks and digitizing the remaining manual tasks.  In the customer’s case, the store manager can spend the saved time on other higher-value activities such as making sure her customers are having a great experience. 

Combine this capability with other aspects of SiteSage, including integrating with cooking equipment to automate reporting and alerting, and suddenly, the operator’s team is relieved of much of the administrative burdens of running an efficient back-of-house operation. 

Let’s let humans do what they do best in a restaurant: create delicious food and serve it to customers.  Technology will help take care of the rest.