How Restaurants Can Drive Profits and Growth During a Perfect Storm

Soaring prices, continued supply chain disruptions, and ongoing staffing shortages are creating a perfect storm for restaurants. Food and labor costs are elevated and expected to remain high in 2022, negatively impacting restaurants’ profit margins. Additionally, supply chain disruptions remain a huge problem, with 96 percent of restaurant operators saying they experienced supply delays or shortages last year. And seven out of ten operators said their restaurant doesn’t have enough employees to support customer demand.

So, how do restaurants drive profits and growth while navigating this trifecta of challenges? They need to do two important things:

  • Maximize their existing resources, using staff, budget, and supplies more effectively.
  • Invest in tech tools that allow them to work smarter and make data-based decisions.

To maximize your existing resources:

  • Reduce food waste. Restaurants toss a jaw-dropping 22-33 billion pounds of food each year, and food waste costs the hospitality industry an astonishing $100 billion annually. With prices skyrocketing, restaurants should focus on eliminating food waste. That could mean shrinking portion sizes, using every scrap of food in creative ways, and repurposing leftovers into new dishes. Digital tools allow brands to use data – not instincts – to make decisions. These tech systems let operators view sales patterns, track inventory, and determine areas of wastage to make smarter, more profitable and sustainable choices.
  • Use what you have. It’s difficult to get certain ingredients, or we’re paying more for them. Therefore, the “pantry to plate” movement is having a moment. Chefs are utilizing what’s in their pantries and what they get in their produce and protein deliveries to create delicious, creative meals. This isn’t the time to conceptualize a dish using rare, hard-to-find ingredients. Instead, simplify menus, use the skills learned during quarantine (like using existing sourdough starter), and leverage whatever supplies you have on-hand.
  • Make small changes. Small changes add up over time. Use silverware instead of plasticware, offer incentives to customers who bring their own takeout containers, install energy-saving lightbulbs, replace the disposable menus with QR codes instead. These sustainable changes will help your bottom-line and the environment.
  • Make your employees happier. No one on your team enjoys doing tedious administrative tasks, like line checks or inventory, but they’re a necessary part of the job, even when you’re short-staffed. Automate these chores using tech tools, making it faster, easier, and more accurate for your employees to complete these tasks. Use digital systems to help with scheduling to ensure employees aren’t working too much overtime, and to be certain they’re getting proper breaks. Take care of employees’ physical and mental health, especially as things remain challenging for our industry. Consider closing on certain days to give overworked staff a break. Offer competitive pay, thank employees for their efforts, and recognize hard workers in staff meetings and on social media. These seemingly small efforts will make a huge difference in terms of employee happiness, satisfaction, and retention.
  • Train continuously. New employees get trained on safety and quality protocols as part of their onboarding. But all employees should receive ongoing training – not just upon hiring, but throughout their tenure. Many brands provide helpful reminders via employees’ phones, so critical information is always at their fingertips.

In addition, restaurants need tech tools to:

  • Help your business thrive. The majority (87 percent) of restaurant operators said tech adoption was critical to their business survival over the past two years, and many operators plan to increase their tech investments this year. It may seem unrealistic to invest in tech tools when food, rent, and other costs are high, but these tech tools are invaluable. Digital tools will simplify administrative tasks, offer essential insights, and ensure safety and quality compliance. Software will also allow leadership teams to make data-based decisions, spot trends, and mitigate risks. Choose an integrated solution that will allow you to seamlessly manage various aspects of your operations (e.g., safety, quality, inventory, predictive ordering, etc.) in one tech stack.
  • Maximize compliance. At a time when many restaurants are understaffed, overworked employees may “cut corners” during a busy shift. One accidental error – a protein not being cooked to proper temperature, a walk-in door being inadvertently left open, a nut-based pesto accidentally served to a nut-allergic guest – can irrevocably damage a brand’s reputation. It’s critical to ensure safety and quality procedures are properly and consistently followed. Tech tools can help mitigate risks and maximize compliance, which is especially critical as restaurant teams are stretched too thin or as new employees are learning safety protocols. Digital tools help enforce safety standards, reduce risk, and protect your brand by optimizing and improving safety and quality protocols.
  • Manage your suppliers. Looking at accurate, real-time safety and quality data helps you make informed decisions about which suppliers to work with, and which to avoid because they’re not performing to required safety and quality standards. Tech tools can help you easily, accurately manage supplier certification for all your vendors, to determine whether their products are consistently good quality that meet established specifications. Use tech tools that can document, organize, and centrally store data for each supplier. This helps you assess whether their products vary in quality over time and allows you to spot any potential noncompliance issues or risks. This important process helps verify that you’re using consistently reliable, best-in-class, safety-conscious vendors. 

The restaurant industry has faced many major challenges over the past several years. The COVID-19 pandemic was an unprecedented disruption, and we’re still dealing with its fallout. Now, rising prices, issues with the supply chain, and labor shortages are continuing to impact restaurant operations. The good news, though, is that the restaurant industry is resilient, and we’re leveraging opportunities to accelerate tech trends and maximize existing resources to drive profits, growth, and other critical metrics. Many of these changes – born out of necessity – will allow brands to operate more efficiently, safely, and sustainably moving forward.