Technology | May 2016 | By Mary Avant

When Tech and Labor Collide

Restaurants are quickly discovering that technological and mobile advancements are changing every aspect of the quick-service industry—labor included.
Fast food chains invest in high tech labor operations to enhance employee work.
San Francisco–based The Lunchpad’s partnership with UberRush has streamlined delivery for both customers and employees. The Lunchpad

One glance at what a single person can accomplish using a smartphone—communicate in an instant, pay bills, order groceries, go shopping—is more than enough proof of just how dramatically technology has changed modern-day life.

What’s more, tech advances over the last decade alone have resulted in a monumental shift for the quick-service industry, leading to innovations like mobile and automated ordering and the development of more efficient tools in the kitchen, at the register, and beyond. 

And while advancement may come with opportunities, it also comes with challenges and risks, one of them being that automation and high-tech innovations may soon eliminate particular roles within the restaurant.

But as more quick serves and industry experts are discovering, technology isn’t so much eliminating the number of jobs as it is causing brands to reallocate their labor, evolve the roles that employees play, and shift the ways in which they find, hire, and train their employees in the first place.

Out of the dark ages

Long gone are the days when applicants would spot a “help wanted” sign on a restaurant window and fill out extensive paper applications before finally landing an interview. For many years now, brands and job seekers have been turning to online—and more recently mobile and social—recruiting platforms to post positions and apply to jobs in no time.

Not only has this shift greatly eased the stress of the hiring process for both restaurant applicants and hiring managers, it has also significantly increased the number of applications brands are receiving.

Eric Oppenheim, COO of Maryland-based Burger King franchisee Republic Foods, says his locations have received double the number of applications since using TalentReef, a social recruiting and talent management platform that gives Oppenheim’s hiring managers access to a bigger pool of more qualified candidates.

TalentReef in particular offers its clients a proprietary algorithm that scores applicants’ personality traits, skills, and integrity behaviors on a one-to-five-star basis, matching brands with employees who are the best fit for jobs they’re seeking to fill. This system increases the likelihood that a new hire will fit in culturally, have the skills necessary to excel in his or her role, and remain in a position longer, says TalentReef CEO John Raeder. It also saves time for hiring managers.

“It enables my managers to take a quick look, and anyone with a four- or five-star rating, they’re going to pay a lot of attention to them and filter out those who score lower,” Oppenheim says. “Managers are much more efficient in the hiring process, and they’re able to spend a lot more time working and taking care of the guests than sifting through papers to figure out who they can hire.”

Raeder says this type of technology can cut turnover rates dramatically—anywhere from 10 to 50 percent for TalentReef clients—and, in turn, allow staff at all levels to maximize revenue and create a more profitable business.

But technology-driven hiring methods aren’t just useful; they’re now essential for brands in the quick-service industry. “It’s really consistent with where the Millennial generation is right now,” Oppenheim says. “They want to be able to come in and apply on an app or a tablet.”

Not only that, but tech-savvy employees want to be onboarded and trained in the same manner, too.

“Companies that are able to do a lot of online training with mobile [technology] have found a real reception from the employees they’re hiring. It’s a more natural extension of the way they’re used to learning now,” says Lane Cardwell, director of the restaurant and entertainment group at Falcon Realty Advisors. 

“You hand somebody a large notebook filled with pages, many of which are probably out of date, and they’ll look at it like, ‘Now what?’” he says. “But hand them an iPad with some program learning, some test questions along the way that make sure they are picking up the information, some videos that reinforce what they’re being told—it just makes it so much better for everybody.”

The rise of high-tech delivery

While tech-driven hiring, onboarding, and retention systems are becoming more common for limited-service concepts, brands are also turning to more efficient delivery platforms that increase the number of orders their restaurants can receive, deliver, and profit from.

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