Three ways to ease the adversarial relationship between your staff and your technology.
There’s a feeling of tension and anxiety among many restaurant workers these days.
Interestingly enough, the very source of a lot of this tension — technology — can also be the solution. When thoughtfully deployed, restaurant tech can help make restaurants a better place to work, which is good for everyone involved: patrons, employees, and operators.
As a former operator myself, I spend a good chunk of each day chatting with restaurant owner-operators. Some folks sense the uneasiness among their staff.
News headlines give you a pretty good idea of what’s top of mind for employees at QSRs and fast-casual locations:
- Staffing Shortages: We’re still 14,000 restaurant jobs short of where we were in February of 2020. Employees are stretched thin and forced to do more.
- Robotics and Automation: As restaurant AI and robotics gain prominence, employees have to wonder: are robots going to take my job?
- Technology Fatigue: Many restaurants are using up to a dozen platforms per location, shining light on the “too much tech” debate. Learning and maintaining all of these systems can be difficult for time-strapped staff.
Lots of restaurants are already understaffed. These additional frustrations make it harder to retain employees — which can spell disaster for QSRs already operating on razor-thin margins.
So what is an owner-operator to do? The key lies in uniting staff with technology. Your goal is to ensure that two of your biggest resources – your people and your platforms – are operating in lockstep.
Three Strategies for Achieving Better Alignment
The staff vs. tech dynamic isn’t sustainable. We need to move back towards a staff supported by tech mentality. Let’s discuss how to make it happen at your locations:
1. Give staff input into technology decisions
As an owner-operator, it’s your job to make decisions about which platforms you’ll integrate. But that doesn’t mean you need to make these decisions in a vacuum.
I’ll put it simply. If you don’t ring up orders every day, why would you make the decision about which software your locations use to ring up orders?
I’ve heard of restaurant leaders setting up multiple POS demos with shift managers or front-of-house staff. Let them try out the tools before they get to work. This will help you achieve buy-in while also showing your employees that you value their input.
2. Provide better training for job roles and tech usage
“Better training” isn’t going to be groundbreaking for anyone. But I still think it’s overlooked.
It starts with more robust general job training. Help your staff understand each stage of the food service journey, so they’re not overwhelmed when they have to jump on the cold station in a pinch. There’s even technology that can help automate the training process.
Speaking of which, it’s essential to train your staff on the technology they’re being asked to use. This becomes easier when you’ve followed step one: letting them have input in selecting your systems.
3. Strike a strategic balance between automation and human touch
I think a lot of owner-operators run into trouble when they try to be all things to all people.
It’s important to know what type of experience you want to deliver to your customers. You should never automate just for the sake of automation. And you also shouldn’t lean into human service if your customers just want to get their food and leave.
Decide which parts of your restaurants you want to enhance with technology. Do you want to be like Mamma Ramona’s Pizzeria, which is building digital automated kitchens? Or do you want to be like Chick-Fil-A, where a human meets you in the drive-thru line?
There are no wrong answers. But it’s important to establish your vision and stick to it.
Let’s Make Your Restaurant a Better Place to Work
Imagine if you could eliminate some of the repetitive, monotonous, frustrating tasks that your employees face every day. Your staff would have more time to focus on delivering those magical meals and memories that their customers enjoy so much.
When things are right, a restaurant can be a pretty wonderful place to be.
That’s the future we can achieve when we unite staff and tech. It’s just a matter of empowering staff to contribute to tech decisions, making sure they understand the systems they’re required to use, and finding the right balance between old-school methods and new-school automation.
Sure, we might be at somewhat of a crossroads in the restaurant world. But with a little thoughtfulness and innovation, restaurant operators can keep their staff happy while still enjoying all the efficiency-boosting benefits of technology.