Restaurants continue to struggle with recruiting and retaining frontline workers amid nationwide staffing shortages. The restaurant workforce is short 6.1 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels, translating to roughly 750,000 open positions. Staffing shortages not only place a tremendous burden on managers and employees, but they severely impact the customer experience as well—threatening operations, customer loyalty, and long-term growth.
To overcome staffing shortages, quick-service restaurant managers must focus on cultivating a technology-driven employee experience. Adopting centralized, user-friendly workforce technology can provide support to your workers while streamlining operations—benefits that help you retain employees and create a better customer experience (CX).
Why short-staffed restaurants affect the customer experience
Nearly 70% of restaurant employees feel like they don’t receive enough hands-on training from managers. Employees who don’t receive proper training may not develop the necessary skills to perform required tasks, and this lack of training can lead them to lose interest in their roles. In fact, more than 60 percent of restaurant frontline workers cite lack of training as the main reason they left a job.
When employees don’t receive enough training or support, the customer experience suffers. Stressed employees are slower to complete tasks, and in turn, quicker to ignore customers. A 2022 Yelp study found that reviews mentioning labor shortages increased by more than 200 percent. These negative customer experiences result in fewer repeat customers and more bad reviews, ultimately jeopardizing a restaurant’s long-term success.
By investing in better internal workforce technology, restaurants can better train and support their staff. Technology enhances the employee experience and can increase operational efficiency—benefits that can trickle down to improve the customer experience.
3 considerations for improving the employee experience through tech adoption
When frontline workers have the tools they need to track their time, easily communicate with one another, and develop their skill set, they're better equipped to do their jobs and remain present when helping customers. The right internal technology can empower your employees with the information and the support they need—and that’s especially crucial when your workforce is spread thin.
Here are three considerations to keep in mind when evaluating whether a technology vendor can provide benefits to your frontline:
Identify gaps in the employee experience. Don’t just adopt technology for the sake of having tech. First, take a step back and examine current workforce processes like internal communications and employee training. Throughout your analysis, identify employees’ concerns like 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, maybe you notice 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 that aren’t on the menu or have no clue about new options. When you ask your employees why, they say they’re too busy during their shift to pay attention to all the new flyers that appear on the bulletin board.
By equipping your workforce with the right internal technology, you can close the information gap. Employees can check the announcements during their commute to work and learn about new items before their next shift. With a well-informed staff, you can decrease friction between management and frontline workers, help workers feel prepared before their shifts, and improve customer service.
Digitize and automate when possible. Most frontline restaurant workers’ processes—like reporting incidents and HR tasks—are still analog. But manual reporting is tedious, time-consuming, and often error-prone. For instance, if someone has illegible handwriting, it could be easily misinterpreted and create friction. However, digitizing and automating these responsibilities can increase employee productivity, which is especially valuable when you’re short staffed.
You may want to consider investing in internal technology that increases efficiency, knowledge-sharing, and performance. A digital frontline workplace does exactly that. Digital workplaces are all-in-one virtual workspaces that can create a transparent work culture with closed-loop communication, online training modules, and shift and task management. This technology can also improve compliance with food safety processes through essential task management and execution.
Along with employee benefits, a digital frontline workplace provides managerial assistance. For instance, restaurant managers waste valuable time on tasks like scheduling and finding people to fill in for last-minute shifts. The adoption of an automated system can streamline the process and increase managers’ availability for other tasks like supporting employees and addressing customer needs.
Ensure technology makes work easier, not harder. Even though workforce technology can support frontline staff, too many disparate systems can interfere with workers’ productivity and cause confusion or frustration. Learning several different applications and having to switch between them on the job can pose challenges, especially for team members who are not tech-savvy.
Consider whether your employee-facing technology resolves multiple problems or just one at a time. By choosing options that target multiple concerns, you can reduce adoption time and avoid overloading your employees with an extensive tech stack. Your solution should make frontline workers’ jobs easier, not harder.
Finally, make sure your technology works with mobile devices so employees can check their schedules, complete training modules, and access payroll information whenever it's convenient for them. With mobile-friendly internal technology, frontline workers can easily access information while on the clock, on their commute, or anywhere else they happen to be.
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 efficiencies, reduced wait times, and well-trained staff. An investment in your employees now can lead to a higher return on investment in the future—helping you grow your business and delight customers even during difficult circumstances.
As a dynamic sales professional with experience driving strong solutions for the customers by working hand-in-hand with the product, Will Eadie excels at developing customer relationships and brings to WorkJam fifteen years of deep domain expertise in Strategic Workforce Management, Human Capital Management, and Employee Engagement. Before joining WorkJam, Will held roles at Kronos for 10 years, serving as Director of National Accounts and Director of Retail and Hospitality Sales in the U.S. During his time at Kronos, Will’s leadership enabled his team to significantly exceed sales goals and drive organizational growth. As Chief Revenue Officer at WorkJam, Will is responsible for marketing, sales, forging partnerships, and cultivating customer relationships.