June 27, 2022

How the staffing shortage is changing the way restaurants and hospitality businesses operate

Experts predict that summer and fall of 2022 will look like the roaring 20s. Ok, they’ve said that before, but this year, analysts have projected that dining, travel, and hospitality will see record-high numbers that surpass pre-pandemic numbers. 

But what does this mean for business owners in the middle of a labor crisis in restaurants, hospitality, and travel? Job vacancies are the highest in the restaurant industry, leaving managers and business owners to explore creative options for staffing, retention, and operations. 

If restaurant and hospitality staff simply aren't as available as they used to be, what are businesses to do? After all, you can’t get blood from a stone. Or make staff appear out of thin air. 

…or can you?

With some creativity and the right tools, businesses are completely changing the ways that they operate. Largely accelerated by the pandemic, but proving extremely useful when operating with a lean restaurant or hospitality staff, tech-supported solutions like digital checks, automated waitlist tools, and AI-powered phone answering systems, are perfect for today’s modern, efficient consumer. And they maximize your staff’s time, cutting out manual tasks that robots and technology can do just as well (if not better). 

Travel + dining stats for 2022-2023

How the staffing shortage has impacted travel, restaurants, and hospitality

In a recent survey, more than 50% of restaurant owners said that it will take a year or more for their restaurant management and operations to return to “normal”. Business owners are being impacted by inflation, supply chain disruptions, staffing shortages, and environmental factors like the pandemic. 

These service-based industries are experiencing:

  • High demand for online ordering, delivery, and online reservation management
  • Unpredictable surges in customers 
  • Maxed out customer service teams
  • Trouble keeping up with orders and requests
  • Difficulty hiring, managing, and retaining staff

As a result, restaurant, hotel, and travel company owners are turning to technology and automated business processes. While automation may seem at first like it’s less personal, when done correctly, it actually improves the customer experience and the employee experience. Rather than customers waiting on hold for hours, with automated systems and self-service portals, they can get the help they need right away, increasing the likelihood they’ll choose your company again and again.

Ways to keep service operations running with less staff using AI and technology

Here’s how smart business owners are streamlining their restaurant and hospitality operations using technology. 

1. Online ordering in advance

With an online ordering system, businesses can save time manually taking and entering orders, and ensure that orders are accurate. Online ordering systems have the added benefit of providing data on dining trends, and the ability to personalize orders or offers to individual customers. Online ordering ahead of time reduces the amount of staff needed to operate and improves the customer experience, allowing people to quickly grab their order without having to wait in lines.

Online ordering platforms include Toast, BentoBox, ChowNow, and SquareUp.

2. QR code apps and digital receipts to check out at restaurants

Digital receipts are becoming the standard for restaurants. At the end of the meal, staff can either deliver a receipt with a QR code payment option, or diners can start a tab and pay directly from a QR code on the table. Contactless payments through QR codes are supported by Toast, Sunday App, and Barpay

Digital receipts help the customer as well, especially for diners who need to expense their meals. They can always find their receipt, and it saves paper.

Source: Restaurant Dive

3. Using automated waitlist and reservation technology

With apps like Toast and Resy, you can automatically manage your waitlist and reservation system. Instead of depending on an already busy host to manage calls, reservation updates, and cancellations, you can let your reservation system manage it electronically. Recent data shows that the #1 reason guests call restaurants is to make a reservation, and the second and third most common are to place orders and update reservations. When digital systems manage these tasks, restaurants can improve their customer service and better serve their customers with less staff.

4. SMS or email-based feedback can replace manually entering customer comment cards

If your restaurant or business is short staffed, you don’t want your customer experience to suffer. Restaurants can expect to get an influx of calls on weekends and holidays, and many guests want to provide feedback after their meal. This can cause bottlenecks in returning calls, leaving customers to seek out other restaurants with more responsive teams. Using technology like GetFeedback, EZ Texting, and Qualaroo, you can keep an eye on any gaps in service, and gain valuable feedback at scale. Customer experience apps can help service businesses grow and expand their customer base without burning out staff.  

5. Automated answering service for customer support

Automated answering services save significant amounts of staff time, and are far more effective than automated voicemail systems of the past. When customers call your restaurant or business, they can speak to an automated assistant who knows your business well. Then, more likely than not, their questions can be answered, and your in-person staff can focus on customers who are there, too. AI-powered virtual assistants like Slang.ai are designed for restaurants with limited staff and high customer demand. The platform takes a few minutes to set up and saves businesses an average of 200+ hours of staff time each month. Use automated answering services for customer support, FAQs, reservations, online ordering, and more.

It’s hard to do more with less, but when you have the right tech stack and know how to use tools to your advantage, you can improve your customer service and staff experience while boosting profits. Once your systems are automated, you can tweak them over time and optimize, using customer feedback and rich data and analytics to guide your strategy. 

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Alex Sambvani

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