From 2019 to 2020: Tech-xtualizing the Three Major Challenges Restaurants Face

From infamous chicken sandwich wars to on-trend plant-based burgers and acai bowls, it’s safe to say that 2019 was a trademark year for restaurants. In fact, amidst all the hubbub, new projections are putting the industry at a whopping $1.2 trillion in sales by 2030. 

With all of 2019’s success, restaurant operators are also facing challenges that can be addressed with the help of technology in the New Year. For instance, the growth of delivery led to uncharted operational struggles, with more business came heightened compliance risks and of course, with more customers came labor-related headaches. So, in an era where various aspects of our lives are improved by technology, why can’t it also help restaurants be more efficient?

The Delivery Dilemma

U.S. diners spent nearly $27 billion last year on restaurant delivery, and the convenience-driven service still has more room to grow in 2020. A recent survey of QSR and fast casual customers found that 51 percent of consumers would order from a restaurant more often if delivery was offered, indicating that it’s crucial for operators to jump on the delivery bandwagon or risk losing sales. However, navigating the delivery landscape is much easier said than done.

In an era where various aspects of our lives are improved by technology, why can’t it also help restaurants be more efficient?

Directly managing a delivery workforce comes with a slew of management and administrative-related burdens and costs for operators. To avoid this, many restaurants are tapping third-party delivery partners like DoorDash and Postmates, but these services come with myriad downsides, including a heightened risk of brand damage. We’ve all heard horror stories of drivers delivering cold food, not bringing the customer the food at all, or perhaps most notoriously, munching on the customer’s food. A sweeping new survey found that 1 in 4 delivery drivers are snacking on the product they’re responsible for delivering.

To facilitate a best-of-both world’s scenario that combines the brand-safety of directly employing a workforce and the convenience of third-party delivery platforms, restaurants can look to technology as the solution. There are platforms on the market that will hire a delivery workforce away from the restaurant, and lease them back to the operator. In this scenario, the platform manages all management and administrative duties for the operator, allowing them to meet consumer demand with ease. 

Compliance Is Key

Earlier this year, a Taco Bell franchise owner was ordered to fork over a $250,000 settlement for asking lawful permanent residents to provide unnecessary work authorization documents. While the intentions of this particular operator can’t be presumed, this is an employee verification error that could have easily been made unintentionally. 

Form I-9, or officially, the Employment Eligibility Verification, is a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services form. Some estimates suggest that 60-80 percent of paper Form I-9s contain some type of error, including but not limited to failing to complete the form within the three days required or requesting to see a specific document that isn’t necessarily required of the new hire.

While the issue of employee verification and proper completion of Form I-9 has long been an obstacle facing restaurants, the topic was front-and-center in 2019, as operators faced massive fines for errors on their Form I-9s. Since technology can help individuals do their taxes and pay their bills without error, why shouldn’t restaurant operators identify and utilize services that can help mitigate problems associated with employee verification? The costs and benefits of these types of offerings are often worth it, given the steep fines associated with non-compliance.

Labor Wars

As restaurants attract more customers, whether it be in their dining rooms, drive-thru lanes or delivery, they consequently need more employees to help meet growing demand. This has proven to be a major challenge for operators in 2019, not only because the country is facing a part-time labor crisis, but because the restaurant industry is experiencing notoriously high turnover rates. The average tenure of a restaurant employee is just one month and 26 days

Restaurants across the board should be leveraging technology for operational efficiencies.

In fierce competition for part-time labor, restaurants are attempting to get creative by offering their employees accolades for good work, discounted or free meals, and fun gatherings like pizza parties. While these efforts might boost employee morale, they won’t be effective in attracting and retaining workers in the long-haul. But, flexibility will.

In 2020, restaurants can get a leg up on other restaurants battling for part-time labor by leveraging technology to give employees the option to pick when and where they want to work. As an added bonus, a tech-driven scheduling tool can identify gaps in a schedule and solicit empty shifts to available workers. With this solution, managers no longer have to manually monitor their employee’s availability, and employees can decide when they want to work, based on their schedules.

Restaurants across the country ended the decade with a bang, and as we enter 2020, the industry can surely expect continued innovation and change. To fuel this growth even further, restaurants across the board should be leveraging technology for operational efficiencies. As new tech increasingly permeates various aspects of our lives, there’s no reason why restauranteurs shouldn’t utilize it to navigate delivery, compliance and the labor shortage.