Technology is playing a huge role in helping restaurants bounce back during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s not all third-party delivery and online-ordering apps carrying the weight. With an influx of new protocols and procedures—ones that may vary across different states and in some cases by city—designed to keep a restaurant safe, communication and training are more important than ever, and technology is helping in a big way. Education and training new and returning employees are critical to ensure adherence to the myriad of new regulations. In addition, the demands by customers for restaurants to be safe places to eat is key in this current climate.
“It is critical for operators to establish trust with their customers right now,” says Haroon Elsarrag, founder and CEO of Mr. Tomato. “We believe the best way to do that is to increase transparency. You have to show your customers that you care; show them your cleaning checklist, and how often you are completing it.”
The app also helps operators disseminate and communicate the flood of new COVID-19 safeguards and regulations to their staff and connects that information to their customers in order to make them feel safe. With the Mr. Tomato platform, operators can share COVID-19 updates, news, daily specials, notices via management-to-staff, and staff-to-staff chat. By leveraging the flexibility of QR codes, restaurants are able to not only show a digital, fully-branded menu, but they can also show a version of the cleaning checklists along with a digital log of the cleaning procedures.
Mr. Tomato is also helping the industry fight against the constant struggle with turnover. The software gamifies the training process, making it appealing to younger employees that are used to learning on a screen. The app helps drill down memorization to the ingredient level in a fun, lighthearted way, all the while alerting managers how much time their new hires are actually learning via the app.
“One of the things we are very proud of is the fact that the average user session on our app is 14 minutes,” Haroon says. “Think about how hard it is to get a 20-year-old to do anything for 14 minutes these days. But with our app, they love it, and they’re learning your menu that much quicker. ”
Operators that have adopted Mr. Tomato report very strong metrics. One restaurant used to spend 20 days training employees, and can now train them in just 5-10 days. The restaurant’s HR team used to spend between 100-to-120 minutes onboarding an employee, but now Mr. Tomato helps streamline that into a 15-30 minute process. The same restaurant reports that their turnover rate went from 18 percent to 13 percent after the implementation of Mr. Tomato, and employees’ new knowledge adoption level shot up from 80 percent to 95 percent.
“Training and engagement are the biggest challenges in the industry, and I’ve always thought communication is the most pivotal aspect of running a restaurant,” says one European operator who has been using Mr. Tomato for over a year. “Mr. Tomato has been an amazing corporate communication tool for us, and we’re already seeing its effectiveness in making our guests feel safe.”
Another key component that will help promote a safe restaurant environment is its ability to provide digital menus for all tiers of restaurants. Haroon says, "Mr. Tomato is designed to help all categories of restaurants, from nationwide fast-food chains like Chick-fil-A, most favorite casual dining eateries like Cheesecake Factory and Outback Steakhouse, family chains like Denny's and Marie Callender's, the growing fast casual sector like Panera Bread and Shake Shack; along with regional chains such as the Huddle House and Islands Fine Burger and Drinks." The app can seamlessly integrate a POS system’s data and a customer can view a fully branded menu on their phone just by scanning that same QR code.
“The US adoption rates to QR codes is behind the way consumers in other countries have embraced them, but we really believe that is going to change as a result of COVID-19—in fact, it already has,” Haroon says. “It is the only way to have a touchless menu experience. There is no other way around it.”
So while it’s a given that operators are looking for efficient ways to train employees and always have been, a training app that integrates other capabilities and helps restaurants come back stronger after COVID-19 is a huge plus for the industry. Even more, the app also provides management with the ability to directly message their employees. This only enhances the Mr. Tomato experience and its ability to onboard and educate employees in a hurry.
To find out how to train your employees quickly and make your guests feel safe, check out the Mr. Tomato website.
By Charlie Pogacar