As with many businesses, restauranteurs have come to accept that the last three years have transformed restaurant operations for good. As we face further uncertainty, many operators are looking to reduce costs and streamline operations, tightening the belt buckle in preparation for what may or may not come. As Wolfgang Puck said, “One thing I always say is being a great chef today is not enough—you have to be a great businessman.”
So, what are the great restaurant businessmen and women doing amidst these changing times? A few apparent actions are balancing off-premise dining with in-house, reducing menu sizes and keeping them simple instead of expanding them, embracing technology, and reinventing their supply chains. Let’s explore this changing landscape and how operators can successfully evolve in the coming year.
A Square survey of 500 restaurateurs found that 95% believe increasing automation will free up BOH staff for more important tasks, and 38% plan on implementing such a strategy. This boils down to enhancing efficiencies, including ensuring a POS system that seamlessly integrates the FOH and the BOH.
A survey of 300 restaurant operators by SpotOn found that 75% expect to add technology in 2023. Surprisingly, 81% reported using a traditional legacy POS system which is often incompatible with solutions like labor management and first-party online ordering software.
Advanced cloud-based restaurant POS systems create an end-to-end point-of-sale solution tailor-made to streamline operations and improve the guest experience. Scalable solutions let you add on as needed and may include server handhelds and kitchen printers that send orders to the kitchen and bar, pay-at-table card readers, and enrollment into loyalty programs. Integrated online ordering capabilities are also an in-demand service.
Operators have also accelerated investments in apps, inventory management software, and online training.
One of Your Most Important Relationship
For those without good supplier relationships, this last year has been a tough one. Mind you, even great supplier relationships didn’t get operators out of the supply chain upheavals. They did, however, make them a little easier to bear.
Chef Thomas Keller, the most honored American chef by Michelin Guide and the chef and proprietor of the famed The French Laundry, as well as others, shared this, “Let’s face it: if you and I have the same capabilities, the same energy, the same staff, if the only thing that’s different between you and me is the products we can get, and I can get a better product than you, I’m going to be a better chef.”
With the right suppliers, you can build a model that you can count on, complete with alternative products that are more consistent in costs and availability. One option growing in interest is working with local farmers. Another valuable source is joining a restaurant supplier group.
For instance, Consolidated Concepts leverages $20+ billion in annual purchasing power. By participating, you join the ranks of the large restaurant franchises that receive lower prices due to their immense volume. The result is reduced operating costs due to higher discounts that you would be unable to negotiate on your own. Their programs also include recipe costing, inventory management, contract management, and rebate and spend management.
Now’s the time to prepare for the unexpected. Make sure balance sheets are healthy, maximize efficiencies, and listen to guests—prioritizing what they value without heading into deep discounts that can ultimately lead to extreme challenges. Some other important considerations are controlling inventory, minimizing food waste, and optimizing employee scheduling.
In today’s world, it’s all about the customer experience. Your best chance of skirting around a challenging financial time is to give your guests an experience they’ll remember. And, as Anthony Bourdain said, “If anything is good for pounding humility into you permanently, it’s the restaurant business.”
How can restaurants prepare for a recession?
A few steps to recession-proof your restaurant include cutting costs, increasing efficiency, and adjusting the menu and prices (an excellent tool for this is F&B Insights Menu Pricing). And try to keep in mind that this too shall pass. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the average U.S. recession since World War II has lasted 10 months.
How can restaurant operations be improved?
A few proven means for enhancing restaurant operations include integrating technology, carefully managing food inventory and costs, and streamlining your menu.