Forecasts of the quick-service industry’s future sometimes make it seem like robots will soon be flipping burgers nationwide. While that would be a great help to the many restaurants currently suffering from a lack of available employees, it is going to be a long time before technologies like robotics achieve ubiquity, says Chris Lybeer, chief strategy officer at Revel Systems. But the good news is that there are relatively affordable technologies available to be implemented right now that can help begin to remedy the ongoing labor shortage.
“The labor shortage is the number one challenge facing operators right now, and I don’t really think there’s a close second,” Lybeer says. “Why is that such a problem, beyond the obvious headaches it causes? We could probably make a list as long as our arm about how being tight on labor rolls downstream and affects the customer experience, but suffice to say being short staffed makes restaurants slower at what they do, and slow is bad.”
So which technologies are helping mitigate the labor shortage now and into the future? Lybeer says a great place to start is with a kitchen display system (KDS) that helps back-of-house employees operate more efficiently and keeps them organized in preparing orders. Incoming orders instantly populate on the KDS whether they are entered through a traditional POS, a kiosk, or online. Color-coded directions help even the most unseasoned workers determine what should be cooked and when.
“The pandemic pushed front-of-house efficiency to the forefront, but I think there’s a real opportunity to use better technology to help with the back-of-house labor shortage and change the way your kitchen works,” Lybeer says. “Advanced KDS systems put intelligence into the kitchen to help coordinate everything, and that cuts down on mistakes being made in the kitchen and increases diner satisfaction.”
In the front of house, self-service kiosks are helping offset the need for multiple order takers. This can be a great solution for fast casual operations in particular, says Lybeer, and points to a case study his team conducted with 16-unit, North Carolina-based fast casual Rise Biscuits, which now does 80 percent of its transactions via self-service kiosks and online orders. That’s helped the brand go from several down to zero cashiers at most locations.
“Our goal was to get as automated as possible and that meant embracing as much technology as we could,” says Ken Priest, chief financial officer and co-owner of Rise. It has worked: When the pandemic swept across the country, within just a few weeks, Rise’s sales were back to pre pandemic norms thanks in part to the self-service kiosks that guaranteed a contactless transaction.
A final technology that is helping combat the labor crisis is the tableside payment solution, which Lybeer thinks will become the norm in the industry.
Lybeer says the solution first and foremost helps with efficiency: it’s the quickest way to process a payment, eliminating the need for guests to wait for their payment to go through and their card or change to come back to the table. But this approach also helps protect against fraud, as the diner’s card never leaves their sight. That gives consumers peace of mind in an increasingly digital landscape.
All of these solutions are unified by Revel’s cloud-based POS interface, which helps seamlessly integrate technologies. Lybeer says that Revel’s ease of use separates it from the competition.
“We have few competitors out there who are purely cloud-based like we are,” Lybeer says. “That’s significant because it means that our system makes it easy to seamlessly add new capabilities. Some restaurants haven’t adopted advanced technology, but now, in the face of an unprecedented labor crisis, it’s become very important. And our POS system is a truly modern platform that plugs into digital ordering channels that are the way of the future.”
For more on circumventing the labor shortage by leveraging technology, visit the Revel Systems website.