by Paul Damaren, Executive Vice President, Business Development at RizePoint and Francine L. Shaw, President of Savvy Food Safety, Inc.
As the restaurant/hospitality industry has been struggling with ongoing labor shortages, other industries (including tech, real estate, and more) have been experiencing massive layoffs. In fact, some of the biggest tech companies have recently laid off more than 150,000 workers. Therefore, it’s likely that people leaving other sectors will enter (or re-enter) the hospitality industry.
Amid this influx of new employees, restaurant brands will rely on tech tools to build (and reinforce) cultures of excellence. To accomplish this, restaurants should:
- Modernize training. Training is one of the most critical things that restaurants can do to elevate their culture of safety, quality, and excellence. A few quick reminders, though. First, training is not a one-time endeavor, but should be an ongoing effort. Secondly, it’s not enough to just tell employees what to do. When you explain why the rules are so important, they’ll be more likely to comply. Tech tools – including gamification, AI, microlearning platforms, and learning management systems – can take your training efforts to the next level, making lessons more interesting, engaging, and memorable. Add in sessions with live trainers, who can offer key insights, answer questions, share best practices, and supplement online training.
- Improve safety and quality protocols. Each year, 48 million (1 in 6) Americans get sick from contaminated food or beverages, a problem that costs more than $15.6 billion annually in the US alone. Not only could a foodborne illness outbreak sicken (or even kill) your customers, but it could also destroy your restaurant, with negative press, diminished sales, and potential litigation. Don’t let this happen to you! Establish and maintain a best-in-class food safety culture, starting from the top. Company leaders can’t just “talk the talk,” they have to “walk the walk.” Your restaurant’s leadership team must lead by example. This is non-negotiable.
- Leverage integrated tech solutions. As restaurants onboard new staff in the coming months, they should leverage integrated tech solutions to boost safety, quality, accuracy, transparency, consistency, and compliance – all factors that contribute to brand excellence. Unfortunately, many restaurants are still relying on antiquated paper and pen systems or Excel spreadsheets, which simply can’t provide the huge benefits and value that tech can. Tech solutions allow brands to see more holistic views, track and analyze critical data, and use these insights to make more informed business decisions. Restaurants that don’t leverage tech tools will undoubtedly get left behind.
- Understand where your food comes from. It’s not enough just to follow proper food safety protocols in your restaurant – you must be sure that all your suppliers adhere to the strictest food safety standards, as well. You could be doing everything right, but if your suppliers deliver contaminated lettuce, proteins that were improperly held in a hot truck, or past-its-prime milk, your guests (and your business) are at risk. Food safety and QA must be followed from each product’s point of origin until it’s prepared and served at your restaurant. Audit all suppliers regularly and be certain that they have proper, up-to-date safety certifications. When you have multiple suppliers – as most restaurants do – it can be overwhelming to track and organize these important safety certifications manually, but tech tools make it a breeze to manage this important task.
- Boost employee loyalty. Even though the labor shortage is easing, staff retention remains critical, so prioritize employee satisfaction and loyalty. Turnover can be extremely expensive, with the average restaurant losing $150,000 yearly in staff turnover. Since the COVID pandemic, hourly restaurant employee turnover is higher than usual, around 194 %. So, how can you retain employees? Pay them well and offer appealing benefits, including tuition reimbursement, advancement opportunities, mentorship, and more. Provide tech tools to make tasks like line checks, inventory, purchasing, etc. easier and more efficient. Use digital scheduling solutions to make sure employees are getting their preferred shifts – and aren’t being overutilized, which can result in burnout. Give rewards (like gift cards, cash bonuses, etc.) to employees that exceed expectations. And if your restaurant is experiencing a high quit rate, use technology to determine if there are commonalities around why employees are leaving (and then fix those problems!).
- Elevate transparency. FDA recordkeeping requirements go into effect in 2026, so it’s smart to begin preparing now. Restaurant brands are increasingly using tech to boost transparency. For instance, digital temperature monitoring systems can record and manage data in real time, so your team is immediately alerted to any issues – like if the temperatures of your walk-ins, refrigerators, or freezers drop below safe levels – so you can take corrective actions before they become huge liabilities. Also, moving forward, many businesses will require safety documentation and certification, and tech tools make it exponentially easier to simplify and automate this important task. Increased transparency leads to consumer trust, satisfaction, and loyalty, so rely on tech tools to boost transparency (and related metrics).
- Be inspired by what innovative restaurant brands are doing. White Castle is using Flippy the Robot to automate their fry station at select locations. Starbucks uses AI and IOT to remotely monitor and fine-tune its espresso machines for a consistent coffee experience. Chipotle is using radio-frequency identification (RFID) label systems to optimize operations and trace ingredients. Increasingly, we’ll see restaurant brands adding tech innovations to serve food faster, more efficiently, and more accurately. Be inspired by these restaurant trends and adopt tech solutions in your restaurant, as well.
While some industries are downsizing significantly, this represents a great opportunity for restaurants to staff up in the coming year. As restaurants work to onboard new employees, they should embrace tech tools to amplify safety, quality, accuracy, transparency, consistency, and compliance. Not only is boosting safety and quality the right thing to do, but it will also improve other key metrics – including customer loyalty, sales, and profits – for your restaurant.
Paul Damaren is Executive Vice President, Business Development at RizePoint, a technology leader in the food safety, quality management, compliance, and social responsibility space. RizePoint’s quality management software solutions help companies, including Starbucks, McDonald’s, Marriott, and more, keep brand promises through their quality, safety, and compliance efforts. Customers gather better data, see necessary actions earlier, and act faster to correct issues before they become costly liabilities. To discuss RizePoint’s solutions, please contact Paul at email@example.com.
Francine L. Shaw, CEO of Savvy Food Safety, is a successful entrepreneur, author, podcast host, and speaker who spent 20+ years working in the foodservice industry. Her career has included performing services (operating partner, corporate/private trainer, health inspector, 3rd party inspector, adjunct professor) in various sectors of the foodservice industry. She has written 200+ articles for national trade magazines and appeared on Dr. Oz, the BBC World Series Radio, and iHeart Radio as a food safety expert.