80% of restaurant businesses in the U.S. cease trading within their first 5 years of business, according to a study from Ohio State University. One reason for this is the high costs associated with running a restaurant. As a restaurant owner, you’ll know that rent, wages, marketing, supplies, and machinery all take up a large chunk of your annual budget. But by opting to automate these 7 things, you could potentially save thousands of dollars.
It’s recommended that you have one waiter or waitress serving 3 to 4 tables per shift. So, if you’re operating a medium-sized business with 30 tables, you’ll need a minimum of 8 members of staff on the floor at all times. But this can soon add up as the medium salary for a waiter is $21,780. You can eliminate much of this cost by opting for a self-ordering system where your diners order their own food and drinks electronically. This could be via an app that they need to download on their phones, or you could install ordering kiosks, similar to the ones that McDonald’s use.
Not only does this system mean you can have fewer waiters and waitresses in the dining area, but it also improves accuracy, which can save on costs too. For example, when a diner wants to remove or add certain ingredients from the dish they are ordering, a waiter or waitress might make a mistake when writing it down and this can result in the meal being returned, binned, and a new dish cooked. By putting the customer in control, the order will be accurate and less likely to be wasted.
2. Payment systems
When you’re introducing a self-ordering system, it’s also worth utilizing an automated payment system at the same time, so that the customer pays at the point of ordering. Research shows that it takes up to 12 minutes between a diner requesting the bill and them leaving the premises. This is costly to a business as it means tables are unnecessarily occupied and are potentially driving other customers away as many diners aren’t prepared to wait longer than 15 minutes for a table. By automating your payment system, diners will quickly pay up and vacate, meaning you can get your next set of diners seated quicker.
3. Food preparation
Nestle Professional suggests having between 6 and 7 back of house staff preparing food for every 50 customers. If the high cost of having so many kitchen staff concerns you, then it’s worth considering automating some of your food prep. Systems such as Picnic, an automated pizza platform, can produce 180 18-inch pizzas or 300 12-inch pizzas every hour, which is far greater than the number any human could do by hand. Many fast-food restaurants are using robots and similar automation tools to prep food faster and to keep costs down. Caliburger uses Flippy to flip its burgers and Arby’s avoids having early morning staff in by using an automated meat roaster that switches to a holding mode after cooking.
4. Customer reservations
72% of diners make reservations with restaurants by phone rather than online. But there are still plenty of customers that make reservations online via online booking systems and by email. The risk with accepting reservations from several different methods is that overbooking occurs and you end up compensating diners to avoid them leaving a negative review. Companies such as CoreTech can streamline this process as they can integrate your in-house systems, including your email, chat, and voicemail, to ensure that booking errors don’t occur. When all your systems are interlinked in such a way, it will eliminate the number of freebies you have to offer your customers as sweeteners and will keep your books in good order.
5. Digital menus
It’s recommended that restaurants refresh their menus between 3 and 4 times per year. This can be costly though as inflation means the cost of printed menus has gone up by as much 2.5% in recent years. Opting for a budget-friendly digital menu is, therefore, the way to go. Digital menu boards are ideal as they can be updated at any time, meaning when you’re excited to launch a new dish, you haven’t got to wait until your next menu print to introduce it. Plus, if you run out of an item, you can highlight this on your digital display, to avoid customer disappointment. Digital menus also help to keep costs down as there’s no need to have staff members remove and replace menus throughout the day, such as to switch from the breakfast to lunch menu.
6. Automated inventory
All restaurants should keep an inventory of their stock and aim for a turnover of 4 to 8 times per month. However, taking an inventory and re-ordering stock is a timely task that takes a lot of man-hours and, in turn, costs money. Automating your inventory means there’s no need for someone to track and record exactly what’s in your kitchen’s stockroom. Such systems can also be set up to restrict the amount of food waste that the business produces and can be tailored to the time of year to predict what food and drink items will be big sellers in the coming weeks. By using an automated inventory system in such a way, QSR Magazine states that restaurants could see savings of up to 4%.
7. Computerized training
Any staff member that you employ to work in your restaurant will require training. But the big problem restaurant owners and managers face is the high turnover in the restaurant industry. Figures from The National Restaurant Association show that employee turnover in the industry is 61% and that restaurants financially lose $150,000 as a result.
By adopting automated training systems, such as online games, interactive programs, and virtual reality software, you eliminate the need to take existing staff members away from their mainstream job to train an employee that may not stick around. When you automate your training, you also ensure that all employees receive the same training which helps to streamline your business and the service that customers are provided with.
Automation in the restaurant industry is a growing trend that is only going to get bigger and better. Not only does automation enhance the customer service that a restaurant provides, but it also makes life easier for business owners and helps them to keep their costs as low as possible. With this in mind, now is the time to automate these 7 things in your restaurant to see the difference it makes to your profit margins.
Author Bio: Amy Fletcher is a freelance writer and researcher with a keen interest in business management. In recent years she has written for various online magazines, journals, and blogs. When she's not writing she enjoys long walks with her daughter and two dogs.