Restaurants continue to struggle to recruit and retain frontline workers amid nationwide staffing shortages. Restaurant workforce shortfall by 6.1% compared to pre-pandemic levels, which translates to approximately 750,000 open positions. Staffing shortages not only place a huge burden on managers and employees, but they also have a significant impact on the customer experience, threatening operations, customer loyalty and long-term growth.
To overcome staffing shortages, quick service restaurant managers need to focus on cultivating a technology-driven employee experience. Adopting centralized, user-friendly workforce technology can provide support to your employees while streamlining operations, benefits that help you retain employees and create a better customer experience (CX).
Why Small-Staff Restaurants Affect the Customer Experience
Nearly 70% of restaurant employees feel they don’t get enough hands-on training from managers. Employees who do not receive adequate training may not develop the skills necessary to perform the required tasks, and this lack of training may cause them to lose interest in their role. In reality, more than 60% of restaurant frontline workers cite lack of training as the main reason for leaving a job.
When employees don’t receive enough training or support, the customer experience suffers. Stressed employees are slower to complete tasks and, therefore, quicker to ignore customers. A 2022 Yelp study found that reviews mentioning labor shortages increased by more than 200%. These negative customer experiences translate into fewer repeat customers and more bad reviews, ultimately jeopardizing a restaurant’s long-term success.
By investing in better in-house workforce technology, restaurants can better train and support their staff. Technology improves the employee experience and can increase operational efficiency, benefits that can trickle down to improving the customer experience.
3 Considerations for Improving the Employee Experience Through Technology Adoption
When frontline workers have the tools they need to track their time, communicate easily with each other, and develop their skills, they’re better equipped to do their jobs and stay present when helping customers. The right in-house technology can give your employees the information and support they need, and that’s especially crucial when your workforce is dispersed.
Here are three considerations to keep in mind when evaluating whether a technology provider can bring benefits to your frontline:
Identify gaps in the employee experience. Don’t just adopt technology for technology. First, take a step back and look at current workforce processes, such as internal communications and employee training. Throughout your analysis, identify employee concerns, such as lack of opportunities for upward mobility or compliance with new policies. Ultimately, ask yourself (or better yet, ask your employees) where technology can fill operational gaps to improve the employee experience.
For example, you may notice that employees refer to old menu options despite the fact that you provide regular menu updates on the break room bulletin board. It’s frustrating for customers when employees talk about items not on the menu or have no idea about new options. When you ask your employees why, they say they’re too busy on their shift to pay attention to all the new flyers popping up on the bulletin board.
By equipping your workforce with the right internal technology, you can bridge the information gap. Employees can view announcements while commuting and learn about new arrivals before their next shift. With knowledgeable staff, you can reduce friction between management and frontline workers, help workers feel prepared before their shifts, and improve customer service.
Digitize and automate when possible. Most frontline catering employee processes, such as incident reporting and HR tasks, are still analog. But manual reports are cumbersome, time-consuming, and often error-prone. For example, if someone has illegible handwriting, it could easily be misinterpreted and create friction. However, digitizing and automating these responsibilities can increase employee productivity, which is especially useful when you are short-staffed.
You might want to consider investing in in-house technology that increases efficiency, knowledge sharing, and performance. A frontline digital workplace does just that. Digital workspaces are all-in-one virtual workspaces that can create a seamless work culture with closed-loop communication, online training modules, and team and task management. This technology can also improve compliance with food safety processes through the management and execution of critical tasks.
In addition to benefits, a frontline digital workplace provides managerial support. For example, restaurant managers waste valuable time on tasks such as scheduling and finding replacements for last-minute shifts. Adopting an automated system can streamline the process and increase managers’ availability for other tasks such as supporting employees and responding to customer needs.
Make sure technology makes the job easier, not harder. While workforce technology can support frontline staff, too many disparate systems can interfere with worker productivity and cause confusion or frustration. Learning several different apps and having to switch between them at work can be challenging, especially for team members who aren’t tech savvy.
Determine if your employee-facing technology solves multiple problems or one at a time. By choosing options that target multiple concerns, you can reduce adoption time and avoid overloading your employees with an extensive technology stack. Your solution should make the job of frontline workers easier, not harder.
Finally, make sure your technology works with mobile devices so employees can view their schedules, complete training modules, and access payroll information when it’s convenient for them. With in-house mobile-friendly technology, frontline workers can easily access information while on the clock, on their commute, or anywhere else they are.
When employees have access to strong workforce technology, it allows them to do more with less, countering the effects of labor shortages. By focusing on improving and streamlining the employee experience, you create opportunities for your customers to benefit from operational efficiency, reduced waiting times and well-trained staff. Investing in your people now can lead to a higher return on investment in the future, helping you grow your business and delight your customers even in difficult circumstances.
As a dynamic sales professional with experience in building strong solutions for customers by working hand in hand with the product, Does Eadie excels at developing client relationships and brings fifteen years of deep expertise in the areas of strategic workforce management, human capital management and employee engagement to WorkJam. Prior to joining WorkJam, Will held roles at Kronos for 10 years, serving as National Account Manager and Director of US Retail and Hospitality Sales. While at Kronos, Will’s leadership enabled his team to significantly exceed sales targets and drive organizational growth. As Director of Revenue at WorkJam, Will is responsible for marketing, sales, building partnerships and nurturing customer relationships.