Despite industry-wide recovery from pandemic closures, restaurant owners and operators find themselves squeezed from both sides. In the back of the house, rampant inflation and ongoing supply chain disruptions are cutting into margins. Simultaneously, staffing is an urgent and ongoing front-of-house concern. According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2022 State of the Industry Report, seven out of 10 restaurant owners report not having enough workers to keep their business open at full capacity. And the majority expect this issue to persist for the rest of the year.
To solve staffing problems and save money, restaurant owners have to find more ways to increase automation. Here are four effective ways it can help your restaurant.
Automation eliminates human error while increasing efficiency and margins. Until now, the restaurant industry has operated on outdated, analog technology like faxed orders and invoices in the mail. Many managers still keep paper ledgers, which is labor-intensive and inefficient. For example, a single restaurant will transact with multiple vendors simultaneously, generating 50-100 invoices a month. Given the enormous volume, a mistake is highly likely to occur. It is even more so for independent restaurants, which usually have one manager for all front- and back-of-house duties. The consequences of even a single accounting error by a restaurant can snowball and incur late fees, accrued debt, and even damage relationships with vendors. Automation takes these disastrous possibilities off the table.
Automation of payroll and expenses saves time and money. Say goodbye to tedious manual calculations, data transfers, paychecks, balancing the books, and more. Automating back-of-house operations will instantly save restaurant owners time and money, which are precious commodities. Software that keeps a digital ledger of your expenses, stores and manages invoices, and issues payments might cost a few hundred dollars a month. Compare that value to spending several thousand a month on full-time bookkeeping or paying your staff their hourly wage to cut checks.
Automation allows staff to be more nimble, continuously hone operations, and plan for the future. One of the primary reasons that large restaurant chains have enjoyed wider margins than independent restaurants is unequal access to analytics. Large chains can afford teams to parse and analyze data related to historical spending patterns, whereas independent restaurants cannot. Back-of-house software can also help close this gap and give all restaurants the information they need to hone and streamline operations continuously by providing up-to-the-minute data at a low cost. Tracking food prices and historical spending patterns gives restaurants the agility to navigate today’s inflation- and shortage-ridden supplier marketplace. It helps reduce the number of last-minute crises, such as shortages of key products and supplies required for popular menu items, that take staff away from their day-to-day duties. And it empowers staff to make small-scale adjustments that widen margins, both in the short-term and over time.
Though staffing shortages are creating headaches for restaurants in the short term, this moment in time presents a unique opportunity for independent restaurateurs. By embracing automation, restaurants can not only solve staffing issues but widen margins and vastly improve overall operations.