Technology has emerged as a newly pivotal force in hospitality, but can it help save the industry from a massive labour crisis?
As the province has entered the next phase of its reopening plan, the hospitality industry is now grappling with its next major setback: a significant labour shortage, with over 40,000 B.C. hospitality staff lost over the past 16 months. Restaurants are facing an unparalleled shift in the labour market, but if recent trends are anything to go by, hospitality technology can be waged in the war for labour.
In 2020, contactless hospitality technology solutions were rolled out as a solution to an unprecedented public health and safety threat. The pandemic rapidly accelerated the demand for contactless technology, and implementation was widespread throughout the industry with QR code digital menus, self-ordering, and self-payment options accessed via smartphones. In a matter of a year, many traditional touch-points within the dining experience were completely transformed.
Not only have guests adapted to this new normal, but they’ve come to expect the convenience and control that consumer-facing technology gives them. Digital transformation has changed the way that we experience dining, but it also has the power to transform the role of the server – into one that is less frantic and more fulfilling.
Technology has demonstrated its value for guests and operators, now there’s a shift to making solutions that cater to servers’ interests as well. Recent stats have shown that a best-in-class digital strategy helps to streamline operations to such a degree that on-premise service is much less focused on pure logistics, and is less stressful and more rewarding for busy staff, which can help to compensate for a lack of servers. Innovative technology effectively gives guests the ‘remote control,’ and frees servers from some of their more time-consuming tasks like placing orders, printing bills, and taking individual payments.
In turn, servers have more time to spend building connections and adding meaningful value to diners which creates higher satisfaction for all parties involved. In fact, stats have found that venues that implemented next-generation technology see 26 per cent higher tips on average, with some seeing up to a 40 per cent increase. Even though restaurants are operating with a shortage of staff, the increase in tips can foster higher employee engagement and satisfaction, making it easier to attract and retain staff.
It’s been uncovered that adaptive menus, self-ordering and self-payment work together to drive unrivalled efficiencies. Fewer servers can take on more tables, more effectively than ever before, which is crucial when restaurants are operating at a reduced capacity. Tech has also been the key driver of faster table turns. Diners can now check the menu as soon as they sit down and place their orders without waiting for the server. This ‘dining on demand’ style of service means average bill sizes increase alongside guest impulse, adding a much needed boost to a restaurant’s bottom line. After months of reduced revenue brought on by indoor dining closures, and an over-reliance on third party delivery apps, this is a welcome outcome for many venues trying to reestablish their presence.
There are still many challenges when it comes to rebuilding the hospitality workforce, and this is a time of unrivalled reckoning for the industry—but by streamlining pain points through guest-driven technology, restaurants can put more energy into focusing on all of the other factors that contribute to a happy and engaged workforce.
In a time when attracting and retaining new staff is critical, this may just be the key to helping restaurants survive the next wave of pandemic-related impacts, and thrive in the longer term.