Amid Influx of New Employees, Restaurants Must Build and Reinforce Brand Excellence

The recent workforce shortage brought the restaurant industry to its knees. Fewer employees have carried the burden of prepping, cooking, and serving food while working to keep guests safe. Now, massive layoffs in other sectors (including tech, real estate, etc.) will create more job seekers in the restaurant/hospitality industry. This influx of new employees means that restaurant brands will need to build (and reinforce) cultures of excellence.

Tech is essential to this effort. Restaurants must adopt tech solutions to boost safety, quality, accuracy, transparency, consistency, and compliance – all factors that contribute to brand excellence. To accomplish this:

  • Improve training efforts. Unfortunately, many restaurants are using archaic training programs, so update your training to be current, relevant, and tech driven. Some restaurant brands have started successfully utilizing microlearning platforms, learning management systems, AI, and gamification to provide interactive, engaging training opportunities for their employees. It’s also wise to periodically offer live trainers who can explain details, share experiences, answer questions, and supplement online training. When you invest in modern training programs, your employees better understand (and comply with) safety and QA protocols and deliver safer experiences for guests.
  • Boost safety and quality protocols. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the massive Jack-in-the-Box foodborne illness outbreak, where 732 customers were sickened and four died. Yet, three decades later, foodborne illness remains a huge problem. The CDC estimates that, each year, 48 million (one in six) Americans get sick from contaminated food or beverages, a problem that costs more than $15.6 billion annually in the US alone. To increase key metrics for your restaurant – including customer loyalty, sales, and profits – establish and maintain an exemplary food safety culture, where all employees work collaboratively to maximize safety and minimize risks.
  • Ensure safety all along the supply chain. Your restaurant may be following proper safety protocols, but if your suppliers deliver tainted products, your organization (and guests) are at risk. Therefore, food safety and QA must begin at food products’ point of origin and continue all along the supply chain until the food is (safely) served to your guests. Restaurants should routinely conduct supplier audits to be certain that all food safety and QA practices are being followed before the food even arrives at your restaurant. Additionally, audits and confirmation of safety certifications should be standard operating procedure before working with new vendors. Tech tools are instrumental in streamlining this effort.
  • Leverage new employees’ tech expertise. Layoffs at tech companies means many job seekers have tech skillsets, knowledge, expertise, etc. that the hospitality industry should leverage. As people with tech experience migrate to the hospitality industry, wouldn’t it be great if they used their tech backgrounds to help elevate operations, reduce food waste, improve sustainability, and analyze data so food brands can make better, more informed decisions? Let’s encourage these tech-minded people to create more automation within the restaurant industry for increased efficiency, accuracy, profitability, and other benefits that will drive positive change.
  • Reduce employee turnover. While the labor shortage is easing, employee retention remains critical. The average restaurant loses $150,000 yearly in staff turnover, and losing a front-line employee costs a restaurant an average of $5,864. Since the COVID pandemic, hourly employee (crew, kitchen manager, service manager) turnover is higher than usual, around 194 percent. It’s essential to keep employees happy, engaged, and loyal to reduce the disruption (and cost) of turnover. Use tech tools’ staff management capabilities to boost employee satisfaction and productivity.
  • Elevate transparency. Greater transparency leads to increased consumer trust (and loyalty). Increasingly, brands are relying on tech to boost transparency (and related metrics). For instance, digital temperature monitoring systems can record and manage data in refrigeration systems in real time. Since FDA record keeping requirements go into effect in 2026, the need for technology is undeniable, so it’s best to begin preparing now. Moving forward, many businesses will require safety documentation and certification, and tech tools make it exponentially easier to simplify and automate this important task.
  • Emulate innovative restaurant brands. Starbucks uses AI and IOT to remotely monitor and fine-tune its espresso machines for a consistent coffee experience. Last year, Chipotle was one of the first restaurant brands to pilot radio-frequency identification (RFID) label systems to optimize operations and trace ingredients. As these brands are demonstrating, tech solutions are no longer “nice to have” luxury items. They’re necessities for restaurant brands that prioritize excellent – and safe – experiences. 

There’s no denying that tech solutions will be instrumental as restaurant brands work to improve their safety, quality, accuracy, transparency, consistency, and compliance. As the labor shortage finally softens, brands will need to ensure that all of their employees are following proper protocols to provide a consistently safe and excellent experience. Restaurants that don’t embrace tech will get left behind.