July 14, 2021
How Digital Technologies Improve Restaurant Employee Acquisition & Retention
By Breck Hapner
Collage depicting how digital technologies improve restaurant employee acquisition & retention

The best way to solve the labor crisis is brand investment in custom digital technologies that improve restaurant employee acquisition and retention. 

By doing this, brands can tap the potential of the current workforce while increasing efficiency and streamlining operations.

This is critical for restaurants now that vaccination capabilities have rendered the in-store dining experience relatively safe for a large majority of the public. 

Guests are returning to eateries. In addition, restaurants are still struggling to establish a baseline for resuming “normal” post-pandemic operations.

 

The New Challenge, or the Coming Reality for Restaurant Employees

 

Digital technology is essential to sustain your brand. Importantly, it has a low barrier to entry and almost always yields higher ROI than the initial investment. 

 

Brand apprehension is ever-present, and caution taken to the extreme doesn’t always pay dividends.

It is best to establish a trusting relationship with an experienced technology provider. More importantly, one who takes the time to understand your brand. 

A partner who is ready to provide justifiable recommendations that aid in building your roadmap. That is to say, a partner to foster new processes that facilitate measurable digital progress.  

Your brand: Behind the curve? Maybe. 

Needing to make adjustments and/or updates? Probably. 

The reality: COVID-19 has irrevocably changed the restaurant industry, from top to bottom. 

Cutting a huge swath through the fabric of a once-stable industry, all brand owners know that they can’t depend on any facet of their business resuming its past shape. 

Innovators and Early Adopters have already taken steps to address the many issues brought by the virus. A great majority are just now realizing that action is necessary. An even larger percentage are facing serious consequences. 

And the core problems are all over the news:

There aren’t enough workers, period; 

We can’t convince past employees to return; 

We can’t retain those already on the payroll. 

 

The Great Guest Return vs. Greater Restaurant Employee Trepidation

 

Yes, some of this is due to fear of infection. Above all, it is also because of the wage quandary for every potential restaurant employee.

 

Restaurant workers still don’t feel completely secure coming back to their serving positions. In fact, many are unwilling to accept lower compensation when higher-paying positions in other fields are available.

Regardless, restaurants will need workers, and the fact of the matter is that there is a shortage of eligible candidates.

According to a May 14, 2021 National Restaurant Association survey:

  • Despite the recent gains, overall staffing levels remain well below the industry standard with 84% of operators saying their current staffing level is lower than it was in the absence of COVID-19.

What are brands to do? 

How do restaurants adequately serve guests eager to dine in-store once again? 

 

Unrequited Pulp Romance vs. Innovative Brand of the Future

 

Many fantasize about an army of robots available at the disposal of any needy restaurant. 

 

Sleek, powerful and intelligent androids capable of handling every consumer interaction during the in-store dining experience.

While it is true that there are mechanical devices available to perform certain types of automated tasks, we are a long way from a deus ex machina addressing the insoluble difficulty of providing adequate restaurant guest solutions. 

The cyborg-server doesn’t yet exist.

Subsequently, there is a solution, and it is actually realistic: 

Custom digital technologies that promote customer service while enfranchising, supporting, and streamlining the day-to-day employee experience.

So, what exactly are we talking about?

We’ve heard a lot about digital customer-facing technologies, but not so much about software and apps developed especially to improve restaurant operations. After that, solutions to mitigate labor costs, reduce employee turnover, and create a better work environment overall.

 

Custom Restaurant Employee Apps for Brands and their Franchisors

 

For the employer, the goal is to improve productivity. For the restaurant employee, the goal is to have a better internal workplace experience. 

 

This can be achieved by providing staff and franchisees access to digital app technologies that enhance operations. Further, this increases both employee retention and ROI for your brand.

Digital innovations that elevate experience improve staff satisfaction and functionality. Successful brands are attuned to the importance of employee-facing software. Solutions that foster a streamlined environment favoring integration and efficiency.

We have substantiated why digital technologies can make a big difference for your brand and employees. To sum up, let’s take a look at a few major digital coup de grace applications.

 

Restaurant Employee Portals

 

A brand franchisee and employee portal is a contact management system and communications platform that administrators, staff, and other external stakeholders can leverage to gain access to company resources.

 

A brand intranet is a closed system for internal communications use. An employee portal allows for expanded, exterior interaction with brand content, services, vendors, etc. which assist employees in performing daily operations. 

Attributes such as:

  • Firstly, completely control operations while offering the best experience to both users and staff. 
  • Secondly, customize brand operations with enhanced accessibility, partnered with a customized interface.
  • Thirdly, integrate with existing systems for brand/franchise data collection, or programs for employee development and user progress.

A portal has robust service capabilities. Similarly, it functions as a middleman to dish up content sources which are assembled in a simple-to-navigate interface that is easy for everyone to use.

Franchisors and employees benefit from portals that provide searchable access to services, reference tools, communication, classification and business intelligence.  This ability empowers all brand members. 

 

Intranets

 

Brands leverage intranets as a private network to distribute communications exclusively to their workforce to encourage knowledge acquisition and growth. 

 

Because brand intranets are internal, they can be used by employees to search for information, communicate across the organization, and manage workflows, scheduling, ordering, etc. 

It just makes things much easier for staff, who must be able to talk to the right people quickly and easily through the right channels to accomplish daily tasks.

Top considerations include:

  • A collaborative approach with employees boosts productivity, builds trust, and provides an easy way to communicate.
  • Employees, management & franchisors can all benefit from having one source of communications truth, so that all staff is on the same page. 
  • Intranets provide a repository for brand products, training and other programs which enhance culture and create a better work environment. 
  • Interactive restaurant intranets tap employee potential, which leads to profit growth.

As a participation tool, intranets create reliable channels within brands that reinforce policies and regulate processes. This leads to stability and better employee workplace experience. 

Employees almost always react favorably to brands possessing intranets that provide structure and communication for every facet of the operation. 

 

Dashboards and Business Intelligence

 

One primary upgrade is easy access to all the data that powers your restaurant through dashboards and business intelligence.

 

Employees are helped in their day-to-day tasks with data measurement technology solutions that provide analytic insight through the tracking tools provided by an interactive dashboard.

This can keep everyone on the team on the same playing field.  Dashboards provide a repository for all hourly, daily, weekly and monthly data used to make decisions. Dashboards enable processes from top to bottom. Having a finger on the pulse of the restaurant is important for everyone.

This is liberating for staff, who can now feel empowered. Employees can help determine what business intelligence is critical, in what format data should be delivered, and how that data should be acted upon to achieve desired results.

Employees also benefit from dashboards that make data relationships and purchasing interactions easier to understand. In short, dashboards provide source analysis to track KPIs related to performance and customer satisfaction. 

Here’s how:

  • A custom dashboard provides a snapshot of the restaurant.  It is a visualization tool that answers every high-level staff question at a glance, providing an enterprise view of restaurant operations.
  • Employees can use tracking analytics to understand customer engagement and purchasing habits to improve guest service.
  • Dashboards help employees with purchasing and expense tracking, making their daily jobs easier. Staff can show accountability:  how money was spent while ordering hospitality supplies, show margins, and record totals for any expenses paid out to suppliers.
  • Employees can see the popularity and profitability of specific menu items with restaurant dashboard insights.
  • Employees can join with managers and administrators to measure and track customer experience, e-commerce, and operational successes across all digital channels.  

Restaurant Employee Retention & Gamification Apps

 

Right now, more than ever, restaurants are pressed to retain top talent. Providing custom retention and gamification software for your brand is an employee investment that creates a stronger bond between all members of the organization.

 

When you think about employee retention, you probably don’t think about apps and software, but you should. Apps designed for a human resource purpose can help to boost confidence and interdepartmental collaboration between restaurant employees.

What do these apps do?

  • Tracking employee mood and morale to report how employees feel while at work can help reduce turnover when integrated with feedback and suggestion boxes.
  • Help to better understand the workplace environment for your restaurant with a retention app designed for anonymous feedback. That provides insight into any employee level or station, and between managers, supervisors and staff.
  • Company culture can be enhanced by providing surveys for company engagement, and supervisor reviews can help you retain your best restaurant employees from the moment they are hired.
  • Create an employee resources module where staff can go to improve their own development or help to collaborate with others, seeing their own progress as their work continues.
  • Make it easy and convenient for employees to check their hourly, daily, and weekly scheduling, request time off, and make other detailed comments regarding staffing requirements and/or needed resources.
  • Increase employee engagement and participation with gamification, which generates a fun way for staff to interact with your brand. Administrators can set up goal and reward structures which are taught and implemented through digital games. The app can challenge workers in different ways to work through progressively difficult levels to earn points leading to benefits such as prizes, paid leave, and other positive applications.  

Employee retention is an important part of every business. In the same vein, it is crucial to improve the well-being of your restaurant staff.  

Your employees are an investment. Retention apps can help you better understand your own company culture from a worker’s point of view. 

 

KDS

 

Restaurant employees appreciate tools that make their daily tasks easier. Above all, for incoming orders and preparation. A pivotal cornerstone for every brand location should include a kitchen display system.

 

Kitchen display apps seamlessly connect your front of house and kitchen employees. They aggregate all orders from web, mobile, kiosk, and third-party channels. 

Kitchen display systems promote visibility and organization with intuitive menus, simple user interfaces, and POS/payment processor integration.

Similarly, also to consider:

  • KDS software provides increased efficiency. Orders are sent immediately to the KDS from all channels with routing, preparation, coursing, and tracking available for all to view.
  • KDS apps include order tracking, with options to evaluate how long orders take to prepare, late orders, online orders, paid orders, voided orders, and deliveries.
  • KDS software leverages integrated online ordering. Online orders automatically appear on the KDS screen, and don’t require staff members to re-enter them into the POS system.
  • Kitchen Display Systems apps provide insight reporting, business intelligence and data analysis of order completion, fulfillment, shift/staff efficiency, inventory, resources, etc.

Mobile POS

 

Mobile POS (mPOS) app development makes day-to-day operations much easier for restaurant employees. A mPOS system is a handheld device that replicates a standard POS system. Consequently, it functions as a cash register or a card reader to process transactions. 

 

Mobile POS leverages the brand’s digital device (smartphone, tablet, etc.) data connection to accept payments via the app, engaging and converting restaurant customers from anywhere at any time. 

How does mPOS create a better experience for employees? This speeds up the checkout process, freeing up restaurant staff to assist guests or maintain operations with whatever is required.

This is worth it, because guests are served more efficiently and quickly. Certainly, this makes the server’s job that much easier, and much more painless. Mobile POS provides a better experience. Likewise, it eliminates long lines, slow transactions, and inventory checks.

What else?

  • See sales, staff and vendor performance data across multiple devices. Meanwhile, track, maintain and view inventory levels while managing your products and/or services. 
  • Access inventory volume and status, track returns to vendors, transfer items across locations, and sell products everywhere.
  • Capability to reward return customers with loyalty while capturing product choices, ordering preferences, and other information in real time through your app.
  • Integrate a range of mobile payment options so hospitality customers can leverage leading merchant providers to conduct transactions.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

 

And it comes full-circle. We aren’t back to suggesting robots. But, your brand can definitely improve restaurant employee efficiency and save employee sweat by implementing AI.

 

AI solutions boost workplace efficiency and support staff during peak hours. The restaurant industry is pivoting toward artificial intelligence technology to increase profitability and create better experiences for guests and employees. 

Yes, leveraging the Watson platform of APIs and  data sets of products is a start. We’re fundamentally speaking about some ways innovative restaurants are already leveraging AI in day-to-day operations. 

For example, custom chatbots and mobile applications using AI for customers, franchisors, and employees are very popular to help service customers while freeing staff to work on other daily tasks. 

This happens by:

  • Virtual assistants that respond to customer inquiries and applications to process guest orders, and customize restaurant operations.
  • By messaging their favorite restaurants, customers can order food through a specialized chatbot.
  • Voice-activated skills that perform automated tasks from ordering to payment to loyalty application & rewards redemption. 
  • Through apps the ordering process can be customized to integrate with existing restaurant systems to enhance user and staff experience.

Another popular innovation are smart kiosks with highly custom AI to generate interactive digital experiences in-store and off-site. 

  • Integrated AI-driven kiosks to reduce customer waiting time, and enhance the digital ordering experience. 
  • Kiosks help provide an intimate customer experience by streamlining order processing and reducing waiting time.

This is the new wave. Built-in recommendation engines for ordering applications which use AI to help customers choose meals based on their dining preferences. 

  • The AI recommendation engine matches customers with food choices and dining experiences that correspond with their pre-selected taste profile and specifications. 
  • Offers can be based on facial/voice/mood recognition based on the time of day, and even the weather conditions.

 

Is there more?

 

If your brand has a particular need, you can bet there is an app or platform available.

 

And even if there isn’t, there are many capable technology firms who can custom develop exactly what you require. It just takes some innovative foresight and industrious early-adopter investment. Here’s a few that help with employee retention:

Career Board Apps & Integrations – Custom integrations with a third-party career board vendor to post opportunities for new and existing staff.

Online Job Portals & Acquisition Systems – Custom digital online apps that handle all parts of the job submission, hiring, and human resource processes.

Reward Based System & Perks Platform – Loyalty digital apps that provide employees points, rewards & perks for outstanding service.

Custom Designed Staff Profile Pages – Top brand employees have their own landing pages with content outlining achievements and contributions.

To leverage the cliche: If you can dream it, it can be done. There are no limits when imagination is combined with innovation.

Agile & Responsively Actionable Restaurant Employee Empowerment

 

We have shown you the lay of the digital app landscape for the restaurant employee.

 

What is the lesson here?

In the early 21st century, we call these custom digital technologies, AI-driven software applications that provide required operational functionality. They have integrated modular features that can be easily deployed and swiftly updated for superior performance. 

Technology integration solutions will continue to drive changes in the restaurant sector. Moreover, some of the fastest-growing brands will employ advanced applications laced with artificial intelligence to further growth.  In this way, they will maintain consistently superior customer experience. 

This isn’t a one-sided playground. These custom digital technologies are designed to be customer facing. In addition, they  provide optimal data acquisition and internal operational reconnaissance from minute-to-minute for the benefit of employees. 

This is a truly elegant and powerful tool to wield, making your brand a much more appealing environment for a potential new restaurant employee, or a contemporary worker.

Employees are delighted to work with your restaurant because you have created a meaningful brand culture instilled with direction and intentionality. Therefore, it is not the same-old, same-old, but dynamic, insightful and progressive.  

To summarize, the focus is on the people who work for you, and how you can make that experience preferential. In other words, an internal digital app ecosystem so good that new hires seek you out, and those already on the payroll stay with your brand.

In conclusion, it is software that sparks a fire, igniting loyal and productive restaurant employee.

Marketing Director Breck Hapner handles the development and implementation of Chepri brand strategy, builds content for new and existing services/solutions, and oversees the implementation of campaigns, digital marketing, events, and PR.

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