Following the removal of COVID restrictions by the World Health Organization (WHO) in May of this year, food and beverage (F&B) remains one of the industries best positioned for unprecedented growth; the road to pandemic recovery has affected the revenue and profit models of every restaurant or F&B operation; and while the current environment is forcing leaders to think outside the box, become strategically creative (and therefore more responsive), the fundamental landscape of the industry has not changed.
Consumer psychology in the F&B industry, for example, has changed. Behavioral changes in spending habits, standards of service, and efficiency models have all changed. Even dress codes are more relaxed. But the expectations of guests and owners did not change.
Most restaurants, however, are still trying to manage their operation based on their outdated business plans, SOPs, and vague key performance indicators (KPIs). At the same time, producers, suppliers and shipping companies have increased their prices; rent and energy prices have also continued to go up vis-à-vis the impact of the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Panicked at first, some restaurant and F&B operations managed to adjust. And chances are all of us know someone who, at some point, has since had to close their shop. But most industry professionals expected or planned for these eventualities – and responded well.
Here is the problem, though: Owners and F&B professionals severely underestimated the impact of – according to the National Restaurant Association – losing more than two million jobs and $240 billion in food-service sales. And that is just the United States. No one was prepared for that. Not eating and drinking establishments. Not operators. Not local communities. In other words, staffing and recruitment is the primary challenge for restaurant and F&B operations today. And this has had an enormous impact on overall productivity.
So what should owners do differently?
There is a saying we often hear: “Staff training is key to creating consistency and having a successful business.” This is now applicable more than ever. Investing in your people is not only best for the long-term growth of your business, but it can futureproof your business in new and unexpected ways.
Here are six things you can do:
- Shift the focus from irrelevant KPIs to revising and updating existing business plans
- Set realistic expectations for your targets.
- Revisit your processes and procedures so that the workload per employee makes workflows simpler and more effective.
- Reinforce staff training to close the gap between the desired knowledge level and the actual level of knowledge of current restaurant staff.
- Transform recruitment processes to focus on transferable skills, personality, even if your best candidate might not have the best CV.
- Invest in innovative technologies for all areas of operation in a way that makes your operation more efficient.
Investing in your people is not only best for the long-term growth of your business, but it can futureproof your business in new and unexpected ways.
Implementing these tactics will help restaurant and F&B operations reset targets and establish new KPIs while promoting a more agile management culture. How? My guess: Focusing on building supportive, collaborative environments with our peers creates healthy “in-house competition” and inspires each other to innovate and perfect the guest experience.
The linchpin, however, is connecting food experiences to the promise of restaurant marketing. In the Facebook and Google era, F&B marketing budgets are increasing, which is great, but in most cases, they go beyond what is necessary. That is because different customers have different expectations. Maintaining absolute consistency in marketing means keeping up to date with emerging technological advancements, content creation strategy, and quality and diversity of service display and delivery.
Of course, all of this would cost us more, but since we want the best representation for and investment in our businesses, we are prepared to pay more for a greater return on investment (ROI).
At the same time, we must not forget to allocate support to areas where actual guest experiences are created. Often, the gap between the kind of guest experiences being advertised is different from the experiences provided. Not only does this create disappointment for guests, but it also ruins first impressions. Marketing is not magic. Spending on a fancy marketing campaign does not guarantee success; it is an instrument to advertise your business, not to advertise what you cannot deliver.
So how do we close the gap?
While there are a number of ways to close or minimize the gap, there is no secret formula. It must be evaluated on a case by case basis. One way is to make sure that the experience we provide as F&B professionals remains consistent. Once that level of consistency has been achieved and is maintained, the relevant marketing strategy and content development can apply. If you have already applied a specific marketing approach, analyze it. If it is true to concept, determine if your messaging hits the right targets at the right time. Or measure its impact to see how your business can provide the kind and quality of service you are advertising – or go beyond it.
The less popular, but more effective method, in the long-term, is managing expectations instead of setting them (i.e., under promising and overdelivering). By doing this, some owners seem to think that their business will not be represented the way they have envisioned it. All owners and leaders want to show their restaurants in the best light possible. However, that may not always be the case.
As F&B changes, achieving better results means integrating the right talent into your operation in less time and at less cost in a way that shows that you understand the dynamics and direction of the industry. But more importantly, you might even be ready for expansion, and/or setting contemporary trends in management.
And while unexpected disruptions to the food supply chain may emerge, implementing changes to your staffing and recruitment strategy can futureproof your organization, thereby maintaining the same or better quality experiences for guests and owners alike.