Imagine you operate a multi-site restaurant organization known for its elegant holiday dining and delicious catering. You’re approaching your busiest season, and more of your customers are planning gatherings and returning to their pre-pandemic spending levels.
Though you’re thrilled at the increased business, your anxiety is also reaching a boiling point. You’re still at just 75 percent of your 2019 head count, and even increasing wages isn’t attracting the people you need. You’re also hostage to other rising costs and supply chain delays, and want to deliver the experiences your diners expect, now and into 2022.
At this challenging time, what is on the top of your holiday gift list?
You’re wishing for:
- Efficiency, so you can do more with fewer people and don’t need to cut operating hours
- Money savings so you can grow your bottom line
One of the ways to accomplish both goals is through technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), which has saved individual restaurant brands hundreds of millions of dollars over a multi-year period.
Just like with “smart homes,” these business solutions give restaurant operators more “eyes, ears and hands” to automate and monitor what’s happening in each location, and then be in a position take quick action when processes are going awry or machines are on the brink of breaking down.
The technology empowers operators to make direct, digital connections with their equipment (e.g., freezers, food warmers, fryers, etc.). The data gathered from these connections is a goldmine. By viewing the data from a desktop, tablet, or phone, operators can quickly spot patterns and errors and make adjustments accordingly. And, the more advanced systems analyze and process the data automatically, delivering proactive notice of issues and exceptions so they do not even need to log into the system.
Let’s return to your restaurant. Thanksgiving is approaching, and families are excited to enjoy the turkey and trimmings they remember. With fewer staff, how can you ensure that the food quality and service will be up to their standards?
One multi-site brand has let their ovens “guide” them, no matter what the season. They were previously experiencing kitchen backups because they could only fit so many of their most popular entrees in their ovens at any one time …. Or so they thought. Careful analysis of the data emanating from the ovens’ digital controls revealed that the kitchen staff weren’t loading the equipment to capacity. They changed their procedures and throughput increased, along with customer satisfaction.
When it comes to equipment maintenance, procrastination is one of the biggest financial risks during these holidays.
Research from multi-site facilities management association Connex demonstrated that it often costs three times more to repair equipment after it breaks than to proactively service it when problems occur. Hence the importance of monitoring equipment performance in real time and being alerted to these problems. As prices rise, and supply chain delays continue, it’s especially important to stay on top of equipment issues now. Otherwise, the combination of fewer staff, reduced hours due to non-working machines, high costs, and lost opportunities will build on themselves.
Data from connected equipment can reveal which food warmers, freezers, dishwashers, shake machines, etc. just aren’t working the way they used to. It may take them too long to heat up or cool down or frost may build up too fast. These could lead to food safety issues too, not to mention excess energy consumption and costs.
Sometimes, this data also uncovers ways to change processes that will extend equipment longevity. One major brand using stacked ovens noticed more wear and tear on the top ovens than the bottom ones. This turned out to be because kitchen staff tried to avoid bending when they were loading them, so the bottom oven was seeing limited use. Management was able to reprogram the ovens so the top ones would turn off during “nonpeak” periods when both weren’t needed.
Avoiding Unnecessary Energy/Water Usage and Costs
As customers return to their favorite restaurants, it’s natural to want to ensure that dining is as comfortable as possible. In warmer climates, as year-rounders and snowbirds eat out close to the holidays, management will want to make sure they’re cool enough.
Air conditioners, though, are especially power hungry. Using new intelligence capabilities and controls, restaurants can pre-program their start/stop times so the machines are not all running at once and also make sure all units are kept at the right temperatures at all times of day.
During the holidays, staff may be working extra shifts to accommodate increased demand. It can be easy for them to forget to turn off the heat, lights or signs as they leave for the day—especially if their restaurants are short staffed. Automate this through the Internet of Things and the problem of wasted energy usage and expenses is once again solved.
Increasingly, restaurants are becoming stronger—but the sleigh ride forward is still long. Smart technologies are more than ornamental during this holiday period; they represent the promise of more lasting gains to come.