This edition of MRM's "Ask the Expert” features advice from Buyers Edge Platform. Please send questions to Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine Executive Editor Barbara Castiglia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
They say patience is a virtue. Well, tell that to someone who is hangry. Restaurants are experiencing more impatient patrons as the labor shortage causes operators to struggle to maintain business – and with a smaller staff. Without the right number of employees, how do you prep for the dinner rush, stock the bar for happy hour, and serve a crowded dining room?
By far one of the biggest shifts in foodservice since the pandemic has to be convenience. Customer expectations have shifted back from dining inside of a restaurant to having the ability to take that restaurant experience home with them through quick and convenient avenues such as take-out and drive thru’s.
With supply chain challenges and new Covid variants causing guests to choose quick alternative dining solutions, some operators are opting for low contact menu items to keep guests safe and returning for more. And as customer expectations move to be more focused on quick solutions with low contact experiences, how can operators keep up with the demand for convenience?
1. Leverage Pre-Packaged Ready to Eat (or Heat) Menu Options
More and more restaurants are turning to pre-packaged ready to eat (or heat) options as a solution to beat the labor shortage and provide a safe convenient dining experience for their guests. Meal kits are nothing new to restaurants these days. They were a way for operators to continue to feed the hungry mouths of patrons early on in the pandemic, and an even better way for them to make money. With less staff to support a crowded dining rooms, it’s time to think about adding more take and bake options to your menu. Brands such as California Pizza Kitchen have launched meal deals where guests can take home unbaked pizzas for an easy, safe, and convenient meal at home.
Having these types of convenient carry out meals on your menu promotes a low contact dining experience, less pressure on nervous patrons to dine-in and keeps profits rolling in.
2. Utilize Pre-Made Ingredients
Many popular brands have created convenient ready to use food and beverage ingredients so you don’t have to spend time pealing, chopping, juicing, or cooking a lot of your menu. There are pre-made solutions for things like juices and bar mixes, soups, potatoes, sauces, salads, and even eggs. With the right ready to use ingredients, your chef doesn’t have to boil potatoes and your hostess can become a bartender with just a twist of a cap.
Also, incorporating speed-scratch items into your recipes can create consistency in flavor, save your staff time and save you money. You cannot control the chaos that is all things supply chain at the moment, but you can make changes to keep your labor low and costs to a minimum.
3. No Dine-In, No Problem
By not limiting your operation to dine-in only, you create multiple revenue streams. As Covid cases continue to rise, restaurants are starting to temporarily shut down again. You can prevent having to do this by adding take-out and to-go options to your menu. Meal kits and carry-out items can mean the difference of a patron choosing your restaurant over another.
Everyone wants what they want and they want it now. Covid isn’t helping when it comes to a quick turnaround in foodservice. Convenience has become a normal expectation and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the demand. Your staff probably feels the pressure of having to navigate customer expectations and service standards. Show them some gratitude and add an “extra tip” section to your receipts. Happy patrons are sure to leave a little more for great service.
There are many ways you can provide a convenient dining experience, keep labor low, and keep profits rolling in. Stand out from other restaurants with signature meals kits, take-and-bake treats, and curbside cocktails to-go.