Using Technology to Combat the Labor Shortage

Every industry felt the impact of the labor crunch during the pandemic and now, as recovery efforts are underway, businesses are struggling to recover employees quickly enough to meet the rise in demand. Particularly impacted by the staffing shortage, restaurants are struggling to beat the labor crisis, with staffing shortages felt in both back-of-house and front-of-house staff. Although employment numbers are on the upswing, employment at eating and drinking establishments was still 1.5 million jobs below pre-pandemic levels in May, or down about 12 percent, according to the National Restaurant Association’s summary of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics. 

However, consumer demand is only increasing. Without enough workers to meet diner demand, many restaurants have reduced operating hours and rely on overburdened staff, harming employee satisfaction and reducing critical staff loyalty. In the National Restaurant Association’s report, 75 percent of restaurant operators identified recruiting employees as their top challenge this summer, above all other difficulties experienced in the industry’s recovery.

But not all hope is lost. Advancements in AI-driven labor management solutions, accelerated by the pandemic, can not only help alleviate overburdened employees by streamlining operations, but it can also transform the service industry’s labor approach beyond the current shortage. 

Addressing Staff Concerns 

Jobs within the restaurant industry are widely available, but the number of workers willing to fill open positions is dwindling; with 78 percent of workers reporting that their mental health had been negatively affected in the past year, many leaving the industry say restaurant jobs aren't worth the mental stress. When using the right technology, however, operators can begin to address common concerns like understaffing, employee burnout and common wage concerns. 

By leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced forecasting algorithms, labor management technology can tailor schedules to the needs of individual employees while still aligning staffing levels with demand. Using real-time variables to make precise adjustments to demand forecasts, automated scheduling can accurately staff a flexible workforce and allocate hours to high demand periods to meet demand, ensuring customer needs are met while simultaneously reducing employee burnout.  Further, this technology can help organizations apply different staffing standards to various day parts, taking advantage of a wider variety of skill levels to meet service demand needs.  

Labor management solutions with multiplatform functionality can also equip tech-savvy workers with mobile capabilities, allowing employees to clock in/clock out, adjust schedules, communicate with managers and complete training programs from their mobile devices. In addition, managers can use mobile technology to distribute digital employee surveys that collect feedback on staff morale and workplace to address — creating staff-wide transparency that helps maintain high levels of employee engagement.

Offering a Competitive Edge Over Other Employers

Many restaurant workers are moving to new industries, citing benefits and wages as a key factor in their decisions. In a recent study by Black Box Intelligence and Snagajob, about 87 percent of employees leaving the restaurant industry said that they would rather have a set livable wage than tips, and 51 percent of workers said restaurant work lacks the consistent shifts and pay they want. 

Industry-leading labor management technology can address this by placing consideration on employee preferences. With younger generations veering away from the traditional eight-hour-per-day, five-days-per-week schedule to experimental shifts, such as four 10-hour shifts or three 12-hour shifts, offering flexible solutions is vital to recovering the workforce. Operators can use labor management technology to develop a cross-utilization staffing approach that leverages flexible shift times and durations, offering employees their desired flexibility while still maintaining operational efficiency. Integrations with workforce management solutions that include early wage access can address employee pay concerns by equipping them with the ability to withdraw wages and tips ahead of scheduled paydays, affording them greater financial flexibility.

A dynamic, technically driven approach to labor will be essential for the restaurant industry to overcome the staffing challenges of the current environment. Post-pandemic recovery requires a satisfied, well-rounded workforce, pushing restaurants to embrace innovative digital solutions and create a flexible workforce that fosters sustained success.