Self-Ordering Kiosks: One Solution to the Current Labor Shortage
4 Min Read By Dinesh Saparamadu
The food and beverage industry is on a hiring frenzy. With pandemic-related restrictions being eased and dine-in being allowed again, restaurant owners are in need of a lot of staff. The April 2021 Job Openings and Labor Turnover summary issued by The Department of Labor showed that restaurants added almost 350,000 new job openings since March, bringing the sector’s total number of job openings as of April to 1.34 million.
However, finding people to fill these vacancies has been exceedingly difficult, creating a severe labor shortage in the restaurant world. A recent study by The Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that, despite regular hiring since this spring, the food and beverage industry still remains 1.5 million jobs (12 percent) short. According to a National Restaurant Association study done in April, 84 percent of operators surveyed said staffing was lower than required, with 47 percent stating that their staff numbers were more than 20 percent under the pre-pandemic levels.
In order to meet this massive shortfall, restaurants have had to up the ante on their recruitment drives. Some have been giving a special, one-off payment to new recruits, while others have provided free starters or drinks to those who sign up for interviews. Most restaurateurs have increased the wage for their staff, in the hope that they can retain both current and new employees. There are even those who have added bonuses and perks on top of the increased pay.
Needless to say, the higher wages and extra benefits offered to staff has increased restaurant operators’ costs, cutting into profit margins. Some establishments are trying to pass on these costs to customers by increasing their prices, causing disgruntlement among their long-standing patrons. Given the financial battering that they have already suffered due to the pandemic, there are quite a few outfits, especially the small-scale eateries, that simply cannot afford these additional costs and face the very real threat of being out of business soon.
Self-Ordering Kiosks to the Rescue
One of the most efficient ways to overcome the labor shortage problem is automation. Self-ordering kiosks dispense with the need for humans to accept orders and process payments. A slight tweak in their functionality makes them adaptable to any categories of restaurant. For self-service set-ups, diners can place their orders at the kiosk, make payment and then collect their trays or parcels from the allocated counter or window. If patrons are dining in, they can simply include a table number when they place their order so that the food can be brought to where they are seated.
Added Benefits to Boost Business
Self-ordering kiosks can in fact be a lot more advantageous than having a person manually accept orders. These machines do not get tired or sick, functioning at their optimum even during the busiest times. They also eliminate human error, facilitating more accurate orders and less food wastage. Over the decades the technology involved has matured significantly, facilitating a top-notch user experience.
Digitizing the order process brings speed to a restaurant’s operations. Without a human intermediary, the kitchen receives the order the instant it is placed at the kiosk. This cuts wait times and diners can get their food that much quicker. With customers being served faster it is possible to accept more orders, increasing a restaurant’s daily revenue.
Self-ordering kiosks are also known to generate orders up to 30 percent higher in value than orders placed in person. Customers revel in the privacy and freedom afforded by these devices and tend to select more items. Upselling and cross-selling are also more successful on self-ordering kiosks – another reason why order tickets are of a greater value.
The data produced by self-ordering kiosks gives restaurateurs important insights into their business. With this information planning becomes more sensible and projections more accurate. The figures can also guide menu tweaks and promotions. In general, decisions are more sound because they are based on reliable metrics.
Employees become more efficient once self-ordering kiosks are installed. A kiosk can generally take on the role of 1.5 cashiers. Once free of the duties of accepting orders and processing payments, staff can focus on other important tasks, including marketing, customer service and inventory. Because kiosks can take orders quickly, there is no need for extra staff during peak times.
A Long-Term Solution
It is going to take a while for restaurants to bounce back from the current labour shortage. According to The National Restaurant Association’s April study, 28% of restaurant operators who are currently understaffed believe it will take seven to 12 months for employee levels to get back to normal, while another 20% think it will take more than a year. Around 10% of operators have no hope, declaring that staff levels will never return to what they were prior to the pandemic.
The outlook is bleak and restaurants cannot afford to wait up to another year to become adequately staffed. If they are to make things work with a smaller staff base, then they must start automating. Self-ordering kiosks offer an immediate and practical solution to this pressing problem.
It is worth noting that, even before the onset of Covid-19, the food and beverage industry was experiencing a shortage in labor. The pandemic merely exacerbated an already existing predicament. This health crisis also brought to light just how vulnerable the food and beverage sector is to outside variables. Self-ordering kiosks can resolve the fairly long-standing difficulty of adequate labor, while also fortifying restaurants against any future threats.