When you enter a new restaurant, you can tell what kind of experience to expect before you’re even seated. There’s a feeling in the air, and, like a well-thought-out choreographed dance, a seamless interchange occurs between the BOH and FOH staff. No one’s rushing or yelling; they simply brush by each other as they move from one area to another, it’s the restaurant workflow.
How do restaurants achieve this type of seamless operation? For some, it’s simply an impeccably detailed workflow that’s been adjusted and readjusted until it flows effortlessly. It involves understanding capacity, the exact number of staff needed at certain times of the day and week, and a firm hold on inventory. It’s a company culture that brings joy into the workforce and strives to maintain open and honest communication.
At least, it was.
Then, our world turned upside down and has never quite recovered. Now, there simply are not enough employees to join the dance, and customers are feeling the effects.
Restaurants are turning to automation to help them through.
When you mention the word “automation,” people often think of robots lined up in the back of the house prepping or flipping hamburger patties. One day, they envision their server may be pulling up on wheels. While some quick-service restaurants may ultimately go this route, there are operators and owners whose restaurants are all about the personal connection—the heart of the matter.
For those restaurants, automation looks much different. Even small independent restaurants can embrace automation within their budgets and skillsets.
The Repetitive Task
Automation is really about using technology to automate repetitive, labor-intensive tasks. It’s well-received by staff who often fulfill more than their previous job description in the current work environment. Ideally, it boosts productivity, lowers operational costs, and increases customer satisfaction.
And it’s on the rise. The global food automation market is expected to reach $29.4 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 9.5% from 2020 to 2027.
An automated restaurant workflow can help in several key areas.
- Inventory: There’s nothing worse than heading to your favorite restaurant only to find out the meal you’d been mentally salivating over isn’t being offered due to a missing ingredient. Of course, it takes more than a good inventory count to minimize this type of customer disappointment.
Today’s technology maintains a solid and reliable inventory count and predicts future orders based on past history. Do you know your most popular dishes on Friday nights at 8 p.m.? An automated restaurant workflow system will, and it will also make sure you have enough stocked ingredients to make it happen. In automating inventory, you’ll also reduce waste, an important contribution to your bottom line.
- Capacity and Reservation: Managing capacity levels is one of the hallmarks of successful FOH staff. We’ve all witnessed the host that greets you with calm certainty. You have a reservation- right this way. You don’t have a reservation- I’m sorry, it will be a 47-minute wait. They are cool, calm, and collected.
And then there is the host that looks a little like a frightened rabbit under attack. Another party walks in the door, and their eyes reveal a feeling of despair. You can almost be certain that this employee does not have the benefits of automated capacity and reservation management.
Reservation automation offers online booking systems where guests can see real-time availability. They optimize table allocations and seat guests automatically. A restaurant management software can also help create a floor plan and manage capacity in real-time. The system makes important judgment calls when capacity reaches its limits based on the number of employees and available tables. Your operations continue to flow seamlessly instead of being harried and stressed.
You’ll know the number of employees you need based on your history and your restaurant’s capacity for each service. You’ll walk the fine line between an overbooked restaurant that results in increased wait times and stressed-out staff and an under-booked restaurant that leads to missed potential revenue. You’ll create a seamless guest experience while keeping labor costs in the sweet spot.
- Menu Pricing: In today’s world of rising inflation and supply chain disruptions, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to keep your menu optimization and pricing up-to-date. It takes a watchful eye on market trends that change daily and can feel like a full-time job. Fortunately, today’s automated technology can help that. It’s called Somm Menu Pricing, and we’ll be covering its remarkable features in an interview with Mathew Focht, CEO of EMERGING.