Innovative food trends aren't the only things changing the American food industry. Digital technology solutions are re-shaping food service at an unprecedented rate, giving restaurant owners and food entrepreneurs better efficiency, more accuracy and more reliable profit predictions.
By some estimates, tech-savvy Millennials will make up the majority of the quick-service restaurant workforce in as little as five years from now. Restaurants and food companies that are lagging behind their competitors on the tech curve risk losing not only revenue-boosting productivity, but also top talents at hiring time.
Paper tracking, hiring and training has historically been quite a time sink in the industry. Luckily, there are many digital solutions on the market that promise to make life easier for the harried food service manager. Let's take a look at how some of these tech products are changing operations.
Hiring Without Interviews?
Online hiring software is making life easier for restaurateurs and food service managers. Some products help managers to quickly rule out unsuitable candidates.
Skill-matching applications, for example, can scan a candidate's online application form for a set of necessary qualifications, then automatically forward applications that match or exceed a certain percentage of the skill criteria.
Another product helps managers get preliminary impressions of candidates without using up scarce time to conduct phone interviews. Online recruitment site Snagajob allows candidates to upload short videos of themselves answering an employer-determined screening question.
Hiring managers can watch the uploaded clips and form initial impressions about candidates' personalities, before scheduling initial interviews. This helps managers to avoid wasting time evaluating a candidate who might look like the right fit on paper, but who lacks, say, the extroverted, positive personality that a successful waiter or waitress should have.
It's not a far leap to imagine hiring managers conducting a series of remote interviews—over Skype or another Internet-based video chat service—saving even more time for themselves and for potential candidates.
Training And Scheduling Over A Tablet
Remember the days when onboarding new restaurant staff members meant bringing them in for a few days of video viewing in cramped in-store training rooms, then hours spent filling out repetitively checking the accuracy of paperwork? No longer.
Many of those functions are now handled over the web or on tablet-based programs. Many of these programs allow companies to upload their proprietary training videos and quizzes to a server that can be externally accessed; new hires can thus complete their required safety training, orientation, customer service training and corporate culture introductions at any time of day, at their own pace.
Some software now allows food service managers to fill out, post schedules and push schedule change alerts directly to employees' mobile devices. According to Fast Causal's Alicia Kelso, this has been estimated to save restaurant managers—those of QSR outlets, in particular—4 to 6 hours of work weekly. That's time that can be better spent monitoring operations, helping wait staff or kitchen staff who are "in the weeds" during a shift, interacting with customers in the front of house, or inventorying and prepping.
Imagine Running Your Franchise From A Remote Location
That's what at least one Papa John's franchisee is doing. 38-year-old Richmond, Virginia, resident Jamie Pickett owns and operates a Papa John's outlet hundreds of miles away, in Boston, right from her home.
When Pickett initially became interested in becoming a franchisee for the Louisville-based chain, she noted that it already had many locations in her home state, but lacked many outlets in New England. A trained veterinarian, Pickett already had franchise management experience with Banfield Veterinary Hospital locations. She saw an opportunity to move into a different line of business and took it.
How does she do it?
Papa John's utilizes three web-based management systems, which she can log into from any location, using a plug-in encryption key. She manages payroll, inventory and other operational tasks, and marketing with those applications. Start-up costs for procuring and leveraging the necessary tech might be prohibitive for some owners, but as a successful veterinarian, Pickett was lucky enough to be able to afford it straight off.
Digital Communication With Employees Could Help Restaurants And Food Companies Reduce Turnover
By making life easier for your associates, via remote training, scheduling and digital engagement efforts, food service ventures should be able to improve retention rates for their most-experienced staff. That's sure to improve productivity, overall service and (naturally) ROI.
Millennials are already a digitally-savvy generation. They're comfortable using tech. It may be a steep learning curve for older food service managers and entrepreneurs, but it's worth the time and the investment to start leveraging more digital solutions. Innovative food is only one part of the marketing equation—you need efficient, engaged and happy staff to keep the foodies coming in your door. Increasing your reliance on remote tech may help get your company to the next level.