Restaurants are feeling an unprecedented churn as they face staffing shortages, implement new SOPs, keep up with city, state, and national regulatory agencies and ever-evolving pandemic information – while also running their business and keeping everyone safe. Many restaurant leaders are feeling relentless pressure.
While safety and quality have always been paramount, the ongoing COVID pandemic has amplified these issues. Customers and employees are demanding more transparency, expecting to see ongoing, proactive efforts to keep everyone safe. With the tricky combination of reduced staff, new regulations, ever-changing COVID protocols, and the need for transparent safety practices, restaurants need tech tools to get everyone aligned around quality assurance and standards.
Four significant benefits to using digital tools include their ability to: increase safety, quality, accuracy, productivity, and efficiency, minimize risks, train and empower your employees, and manage COVID protocols.
Increase Safety, Quality, Accuracy, Productivity, and Efficiency
As many restaurants work with reduced teams, they still must prioritize safety and quality while navigating ongoing pandemic protocols. Tech solutions are significantly faster, easier, and more accurate than manual processes, allowing businesses to boost productivity, even with limited staff.
Additionally, digital tools can help reduce labor costs – which is critical as restaurants work to financially recover from the pandemic. Employees and customers are demanding safe environments, so demonstrate the additional steps you’re taking to keep them healthy during the pandemic – constant cleaning, mask wearing, social distancing, limiting capacity, offering hand sanitizing stations – in addition to your “normal” food safety protocols. Use digital solutions to maximize compliance and receive proof that employees are following proper SOPs.
Digital solutions help restaurants minimize risks. Tech tools ensure that safety procedures are properly conducted monitored and enforced, and that employees don’t “fudge” important safety checks or alter critical data. This is especially important as restaurants work with limited staff, who are often stretched too thin. High turnover means that restaurants are onboarding new staff, who may not be familiar with safety protocols. If a busy employee skips a manual safety check or a new employee doesn’t know how to conduct one properly, it increases your odds of a safety breach that could ruin your reputation and/or your brand.
Tech tools are also invaluable to manage more rigorous cleaning and sanitation protocols amid the current COVID surge, providing reminders and tracking compliance. With manual processes, employees could cheat the system and tick boxes on a paper checklist without actually conducting safety checks. On the other hand, digital systems provide proof that safety protocols are being followed, giving restaurant owners and managers peace of mind. Increasingly, restaurants are using tech tools to conduct regular self-assessments, which supplement in-person and remote audits. This is an important exercise to help guarantee all safety and quality protocols are being followed.
Self-audits can (and should) be implemented more frequently than third-party audits as part of your restaurant’s continuous quality initiative. These self-assessments will help your team identify (and fix) problems before they become liabilities.
Train and Empower Your Employees
Technology can streamline and simplify the training process when new employees are hired and throughout their tenure. Remember: training should be an ongoing effort, not just a one-time endeavor on an employee’s first day of work. Utilize digital tools that allow you to regularly communicate with employees on their smartphones. Push out reminders about training protocols, send short training videos, provide information on protocol changes, etc. to keep these essential messages top-of-mind for every employee.
As you increase employees’ knowledge through training and education, empower them to take ownership of your safety efforts. When you make employees accountable for safety and quality initiatives, they will feel more invested in your successes. For even greater impact, create and promote a food safety culture. This will attract employees looking for a safe place to work and will also draw customers who are choosing where to dine based on safety protocols.
Manage COVID Protocols
As we’ve seen since March 2020, COVID information and recommendations change often. Instead of posting flyers on team bulletin boards – which may or may not get seen – use tech tools to communicate COVID protocols to all employees in real-time. Digital tools are a reliable way for you to simultaneously send information to all employees across your locations, so staff is aligned on the latest regulations and procedures. Ever-changing vaccination requirements are impacting hospitality businesses in certain areas, e.g., New York City is now requiring proof of vaccination to dine in local restaurants, so it’s wise to utilize tech tools to relay information immediately and accurately throughout your organization.
As restaurants work to recover from the pandemic, tech tools can help them immensely in many ways, improving safety, quality, productivity, efficiency, and accuracy. Any tools that bring consistency and quality assurance are going to benefit operations teams, who are looking for solutions to align everyone around quality assurance and safety standards – especially as many restaurants face staff shortages and COVID-related financial constraints. While it may seem unrealistic to spend money right now, purchasing digital quality management toolsets will help get all staff aligned and improve compliance around safety initiatives. Today’s digital tools are affordable, accessible, and user-friendly – and will provide a high ROI.