Operator's Edge | 3 Smart Moves to Make in the Ongoing Labor Chess Match
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3 Smart Moves to Make in the Ongoing Labor Chess Match

The most successful foodservice operations think strategically when it comes to labor, attacking the challenge on fronts outside the most obvious and direct. Merging accrued wisdom with the latest ideas in recruiting, training, benefits, and other efforts to find and retain good employees is just the start. 

Here are three smart tactical moves a restaurant can make—independent of solving the actual personnel puzzle—to serve its brand and bottom line in the face of a tough labor market.

1. Streamline the Menu

Already a mantra in the takeout-and-delivery revolution, streamlining the menu—going to fewer items and shorter ingredient lists—has merit for any operation trying to maximize profitability, especially without a reliable, veteran kitchen staff.

At the table, when patrons are overwhelmed with choices, it can reduce turns and customer satisfaction.

In the kitchen, a simpler menu obviously supports a less experienced staff but, regardless of experience, it improves both meal prep mastery and speed. Moreover, by association, it streamlines inventory management, while also making evolutionary menu development—for the variety and fresh-idea foods consumers demand—much more efficient as well.

2. Specify User-Friendly Equipment

Just like streamlining the menu, insisting on user-friendly equipment is smart whether staffing a novice or seasoned kitchen.

Preprogramming, for example, doesn’t just optimize output consistency among a team of rookies. It expands multitasking for even the most seasoned pros. Equipment versatility reduces training and saves kitchen space. And intentional design for safety goes a long way to mitigate insurance claims and staff shortages.

Not all manufacturers are designing to these nuances of a business-successful kitchen, which makes it incumbent upon operators to be more discerning when buying equipment. But effective labor- and other money-saving solutions are out there.

3. Explore Automation (to Support, Not Necessarily Replace, Staff)

Before assuming that we’re talking about robotics—though, robots continue to make inroads among tech-aggressive chains and other early adopters—automation extends into many other corners of a restaurant business to improve efficiency without eliminating the creative and service benefits of the human touch.

Advanced software programs simplify all kinds of administrative and other business functions, from scheduling to payroll to compliance.

Meanwhile, web-enabled energy management (EMS) systems can deliver tens of thousands of dollars to the bottom line, while taking all kinds of mundane tasks off employees’ hands, from lighting to HVAC control, so they can focus on what matters—the food and the customer.

Content courtesy of Indiana Kitchen