Year of the Smarter Kitchen: 5 Concepts to Future-Proof Your Labor Strategy
Unless you’ve been living underground the past few years, you’re no stranger to hearing (and even dreaming) about the latest innovations that could someday trick out your restaurant. Well, technologically advanced kitchens are no longer a thing of the future, but a must-have to survive the current climate. This year, kitchens are flipping on their “smart” switch to proactively combat rising labor costs and changing industry policies. Here are five concepts you must consider now to future-proof your labor strategy during this year of the smarter kitchen.
- THE COST OF LABOR
Labor costs are, and will continue to be, a major pain point that foodservice operations face. How do you create an optimal, safe work environment for employees and maintain rising minimum-wage demands? Being smarter with your labor and kitchen operations can be accomplished in three ways: Use data to help identify key labor costs, invest in equipment that aids in labor efficiencies and keep track of accident hot spots.
- INDUSTRY POLICIES
While the mandates for minimum wage vary by state, future enacted increases range from $0.50 to $1 per hour – placing some rates as high as $15 per hour by 2020. It’s on you to prepare (immediately) so you can comply with new regulations and avoid incurring fines. How will you adapt? Some restaurants have already implemented a wage strategy by adopting automated technologies, authorizing no-tipping policies and increasing menu prices.
- KITCHEN INEFFICIENCIES
The hurdles truly plaguing kitchen operations include manual oil management, inefficient appliances, poor scheduling, dangerous working conditions and lack of formal training. Smarter kitchens can help restaurant managers sidestep costly pitfalls and retain a stronger workforce year over year. But more important, technology is your friend in improving these hot spots and boosting efficiencies.
- SMART SERVICES
Consumers and employees expect connectivity in their dining and work environments, but only 12 percent of operators consider their operations on the leading edge of technology. Four trends making waves in the kitchen include digital assistants for voice-activated ordering, bring-your-own-device concepts for logging hours, robotics for taking over dishwashing and food prep, and smart operations for automating laborious tasks in the back of house. How have you upgraded your experience with smart services?
- DATA-DRIVEN OPERATIONS
Surprisingly, operators have not fully implemented and leveraged the technology that delivers data. Using data analytics alongside employee-focused technologies is the key to bringing your restaurant up to speed. Data can help increase efficiencies, from reducing the amount of used cooking oil to better managing employee schedules. With the Internet of Things, devices and equipment are able to communicate in real time, providing clear measures that can cut costs. Inventory management software, connected kitchens and software hubs are among the top tools you need for a smarter future.
It’s all about balancing the demand for better technology with the rising cost of labor. What managers might not know is that technology not only adds a competitive edge, but it also helps minimize the strain of affording and retaining labor. The combination of smart appliances, restaurant technology innovations and data-driven systems is sure to support a future-proof labor strategy in 2017.
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