Who doesn’t love eating out? A restaurant in full flow is a sight to behold. Food flies out the kitchen, hosts diligently care for their guests and, as diners, we are treated to great food, exceptional service and a top notch experience.
Sounds easy, right? Well, trust us, it isn’t. Bringing all these elements together and ensuring they work in harmony is much more difficult than it looks. And, for operators of large restaurant chains, we feel your pain.
You’ve got diners to keep happy, staff to keep engaged and motivated, costs to control, and targets to hit. And your doing this at a time when the industry is awash in some pretty choppy waters.
Alongside a high staff turnover there’s changing attitudes towards eating out you’re having to contend with. In the UK, this has been dubbed the ‘casual dining crunch’ where a perfect storm of a saturated marketplace, rising food and staff costs, increased rent and business rates coupled with a falling demand for eating out is squeezing many restaurants harder than ever.
As Stefan Chomka, the editor of Restaurant magazine, says: “There are greater costs, more competition, fewer people and, consequently, the shit is hitting the fan.”
That’s why it’s more important than ever before for restaurants to ensure every element works perfectly because, if they don’t, the margins are so tight it won’t take long before the restaurant is in trouble.
The good news is forward-thinking restaurant chains are innovating fast, using new products, technology and software to keep healthy margins while giving more to their customers.
Here’s how they’re doing it…
1. Making their time go further
Most restaurants know that to be profitable and successful they need to deliver a memorable customer experience. In fact, research carried out by a Harvard Business School researcher found that a 1-star increase in a restaurant's Yelp rating can see a 9% increase in revenue. So the experience a customer receives is key. In order to deliver this experience, restaurants need to have the right people, in the right place, at the right time. And the only way they can do this is through great scheduling.
International restaurant chain Vapiano found they were able to reduce the amount of time it took their managers to create schedules from 3 days to 4-8 hours once they began using scheduling software to streamline the process. The managers could then reinvest this time into both their employees and customers.
2. Real-time cost control
Being able to control costs in real time and make better decisions driven by data is vital for a restaurant chain to be successful. Global pizza chain, Papa John’s, found they were able to reduce their costs by close to 15% thanks to better scheduling and forecasting, once they began using workforce management software to optimise their business.
As Daniel Patterson, Brand Excellence Manager at Papa John’s, says, it’s solving the problem of getting the right people, into the right place, at the right time, where they’ve seen the biggest impact.
“The biggest problem using WFM software has solved for us is purely moving team members’ resource into the right place at the right time,” he says. “This means we can move ‘dead’ hours, where we might be over staffed, into our busiest times and the hours that really matter, allowing us to increase our speed, our quality and our overall customer experience.
“And if we can improve our overall customer experience, we’ll encourage growth in our business and people to return, which is what we’re all about.”
3. Levelled-up communication
Traditionally, communication between restaurant staff and managers has been notoriously difficult. Many restaurants we know have tried everything from private Facebook groups to WhatsApp messaging but to little or limited success.
Great communication allows a restaurant to be flexible enough to respond to the needs of its customers and employees. Mobile-first workforce management solutions allow all communication to take place within an app environment. Whether this is requesting to swap shifts, making leave requests or simply sending a message to all staff, by integrating it within an app the restaurant staff use all the time, there is a dramatic improvement in internal communication.
4. Investing in their employees
Our CEO and Founder, Erik Fjellborg, swapped the boardroom for the restaurant floor when he went to run a section in a busy Vapiano restaurant. His most important takeaway from the day was having the opportunity to work with such passionate and highly skilled workers.
He said: “Vapiano has developed a world-class onboarding process that makes sure each employee has the right skill-set and also lives and breathes the right type of culture. Employees in a restaurant are on a tight schedule and don't have allocated time for learning or managing a complex software program.
“Systems needs to be intuitive and available on the floor (preferably through mobile apps). Even larger restaurants typically only have one proper store computer. Smartphones have the capacity to transform the way restaurants operate by making KPIs and data available in real-time for employees to take better and more informed decisions.
“What’s even more impressive about Vapiano is that they have designed an organisation that continuously deliver quality despite high turnover of staff sometimes reaching way over 50% yearly.”
You can discover more about the success of Vapiano and how they are using technology to tackle the modern challenges facing the restaurant industry by downloading their full story through the button below.