Quick-service restaurants face a range of challenges, from staffing shortages to rising food costs to increased competition. The pressure is on to do more with less, while keeping employees happy, retaining them, and creating a positive customer experience that keeps consumers coming back to generate more revenue.

Where can restaurants find a competitive advantage and stay ahead of all these challenges? Automation of back-of-house functions, such as temperature monitoring, can benefit employees, customers, and management, helping restaurants to survive and thrive in current industry conditions. Here are five reasons why an Internet of Things (IoT)-based temperature monitoring solution can benefit quick service restaurants.

Automation Saves Valuable Time for Employees

One of the most noticeable benefits is the time savings from automating temperature monitoring. Most restaurants have about 12-15 cold storage areas which need to have their temperatures checked multiple times per day. During a panel discussion at the National Retail Federation Big Show, Starbucks executives stated that each of their U.S. company-owned stores spent an average of 25 minutes every day manually checking and logging temperatures. Considering that they have 9,500 company-owned locations nationally, that adds up to approximately 85.5 million minutes yearly spent on a single manual task.

Now, an IoT-based monitoring system tracks the temperature of their refrigerators, freezers, and cold storage areas every 15 minutes and can send an alert if the temperature rises to an unacceptable level. Alerts are also triggered if a refrigerator lost power during a blackout, allowing employees to take corrective action quickly.

Eliminating the need for manual temperature checks removes a mundane task and gives employees time back to do more purposeful work, like focusing on interacting with customers and providing exceptional service.

Food Safety and Compliance

In addition to time savings, automated temperature monitoring can help ensure food safety. Unsafe food can be identified and discarded immediately, ensuring that it does not get served to customers. And the real-time data generated by an automated temperature monitoring system ensures accuracy of data – manual logging is prone to human error, which creates more risk— and makes it simpler to report for inspections or to comply with food safety regulations.

Reduced Food Waste

According to the National Restaurant Association, a restaurant—on average—loses 4 to 10 percent of the food they purchase. And reducing food waste could cut a restaurant’s costs by 2 to 6 percent.

Therefore, the ability to monitor temperatures on a 24×7 basis and enabling corrective actions to prevent food spoilage and waste can have big implications to a restaurant’s thin margins.

Actionable Data that Improves Operations

Another valuable benefit of IoT-based, automated temperature monitoring is the data it collects—and how it can be used for planning and improving restaurant operations. For example, the system could track when refrigerators fail across hundreds of stores, giving a restaurant chain data to help predict how long (on average) a refrigerator will last. This data can help restaurants know when they should replace a refrigeration unit before it fails, allowing organizations to take remedial action to prevent a problem before it happens.

Also, proactively monitoring the performance of a refrigerator, fans, or other equipment over its lifetime can help predict when it might need routine maintenance, which could prolong the lifespan of equipment and provide valuable estimates on annual maintenance costs. And as mentioned earlier, having finite data on maximum temperature levels enables restaurants to determine when food needs discarding.

Cost Savings

The time savings and reduced waste mentioned above can lead to reduced costs. As the saying goes, “time is money,” so having employees spend less time doing manual tasks like checking refrigerators multiple times per day can help quick-service restaurants save substantial money.

In addition, it eliminates a mundane and tedious task from an employee’s “to-do” list, which could help make their jobs more enjoyable, and less stressful during busier and peak shift times. It may even help to reduce employee turnover, which in the long run helps reduce the time and cost of hiring and training new employees. A 2021 Workpulse article states that a single employee turnover costs a quick-service restaurant an average of $5,864, according the Center for Hospitality Research study at Cornell University.

While quick-service restaurants operate in challenging times, the industry can adapt and evolve by utilizing new technologies and automation tools to improve operations. Automation has many benefits, and temperature monitoring is one example of the impact this innovation is making today. Those who embrace IoT solutions will see multiple benefits today and well into the future, while getting a leg up on competitors that stay behind with dated, manual methods.

Tom Woodbury is an IoT Solutions Consultant at MachineQ, a Comcast Company. Tom brings his extensive background in food service and IoT to this role. He advises companies on how to maximize their ROI by understanding their use case and providing a holistic IoT solution. Tom also serves as a committee member with the Conference for Food Protection. 

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