by: John Self, The Service Doc

Labor shortage

  • It’s here and it’s changing the restaurant industry. Normally, employees just looked at other restaurants to see if there were better jobs, but today, they’re comparing their restaurant job’s pay and benefits with entirely different industries, such as retail (Target, Walmart, or CVS for example).
  • Wage differentiation. This means paying a higher wage for the less desirable shifts, such as those on holidays, weekends, or late at night.
  • Incredibly important to treat your employees well. Saying ‘thank you’ costs nothing.

Supply chain. Instead of relying on national distributors for all your food supplies, take a closer look at what is available from local vendors. Besides actually getting what you ordered, you’ll be able to advertise that you use local ingredients and will be fresher.

Paper menus will go away. Because you’ll be changing your menu often to adapt to what’s available, what’s freshest, and make price changes.

Menu simplification and smaller menus. Take a hard look at your menu. Can you eliminate any that use a ton of ingredients or are not selling? Great opportunity to make each menu item a signature item.

Going even more digital. Menus, payments, ordering, guest surveys, all digital. If you are not on board, get on board. If you’re still using a main POS system, consider some kind of tablet for order taking. Orders go directly to the kitchen and bar, greatly speeding up ticket times and allows servers to have larger stations, which reduces your labor (and increases their tips).

Might be coming: Restaurants might start to take a page out of the hotel and airline revenue management playbook. Having different prices or adding a fixed amount to the best tables and the best reservation times, just like airlines and hotels. When you think about it, it is weird that the worst table costs our guests the same as the best table.

To-go, delivery, and take out are here to stay. Since to-go orders are prone to a lot of mistakes and require a lot of labor watching over it, here is a way restaurants are starting to adapt.
Food lockers / pick up stations. These hold the orders waiting for pick-up at their ideal temperatures in separate lockers resulting in fewer order mistakes, better quality, and less labor needed. Hatco, Panasonic, and Grubbrr all make them.

FOH will get smaller. Usually about 70% of the entire restaurant is dedicated to the Front of House and 30% BOH. Because of dedicated to-go areas, restaurants will move closer to 50-50.

Make time to do some menu engineering. That’s just a fancy name to look at each individual menu item to see how profitable and popular each is. This takes a good bit of time, but is very worth it, yet many restaurant owners and managers never get around to doing it. It requires tracking each menu item’s sales (over 7 full days) and its food cost (you know this, right?).

Obviously, you want high profit and high sales for each menu item. But, if you find that an item shows low profit and low sales, get rid of it, and replace it. High sales, low profit means your customers like it, but you’re not making any money. For these, work on making this higher profit by reducing portion size or substituting a lower cost side. High profit, low sales means you want to try to market it better by doing server contests to push it or get more visible placement on the menu. I guarantee this exercise will pay for itself many times over and you’ll be surprised at some of the results.