According to the National Restaurant Association, over 110,000 food service outlets in the United States closed temporarily or permanently due to the pandemic in 2020. Suffice it to say, food businesses have been heavily impacted by the subsequent shifts in employment patterns brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 and food service employment rates
With over 10 million US workers employed in food service roles, the pandemic-induced employment fallout has introduced even more challenges to an industry that already grapples with staff recruitment and turnover rates. Food service operators and companies need consistency in an environment that is marked by workforce volatility and impermanence.
With staff turnover impacted by a number of issues including compliance, policies, and wages, high churn rates are a hallmark of food service. Turnover numbers rose even higher during the pandemic as consumers remained at home, depending on food delivery and takeout orders as alternatives.
COVID 19 prompted changes in menu offerings with many restaurants adding or expanding dining options and introducing options like family meal deals, meal kits, and healthier alternatives. Food companies adopted digital ordering and technology solutions, and the use of online ordering platforms, contactless payments, and mobile apps surged as customers sought safer dining options.
Post-Pandemic Workforce Challenges
In the wake of COVID-19, digital monitoring tools and checklists have emerged as invaluable ways to maintain food safety standards. Automating routine functions can maintains safety standards with efficiency, but may help with employee retention. Tedious and repetitive tasks are handled by integrated technology meaning that staff hours can be redirected to more value-centric activities.
The pandemic's disruptive influence on the food service workforce has been underscored by staffing shortages, high turnover, and a pervasive sense of impermanence. Which has become the new norm for those operating in restaurants, bars, and other food outlets. As establishments work diligently to reassemble their teams, they must also ensure that food safety remains uncompromised, meeting regulations and maintaining compliance measures effectively.
With hiring challenges already presenting a number of problems, the issue is further compounded by Millenials and the younger Gen Z generation's entry to the workforce. Both generations expect access to technology in the workplace, believing that automation and digital tools promote better performance and efficiency.
Aside from the demands of the younger generation, food service jobs suffer from high volatility as they often attract more temporary or transient workers who are using the job to simply fill a gap before moving on to the next thing
Digital Monitoring and Checklists
Digital systems implemented across multi-site locations offer a modern solution to limited staff availability, removing the need for repetitive and time-consuming checks and removing dependence on human involvement. With an automated overview across food service buildings and locations, issues and problems can be managed proactively from off-site and temperature checks and logged data records up-to-the-second information.
Visibility into appliance failures, unexplained temperature increases and other issues can help organizations to manage costs, reduce loss from spoilage, and avoid compliance issues. As the food service landscape evolves in a post-pandemic environment, digital monitoring and checklists have emerged as an effective way to manage consistent food safety.
Automated tools and temperature monitoring systems offer food businesses a way to combat post-pandemic employment challenges while maintaining appropriate safety standards. With a 360-degree view into operations and the ability to send instant communications to key staff members, problems can be managed quickly and effectively.
Adopters of digital solutions to support food service processes may find improvements in the following areas -
Consistency in Training and Onboarding
As food service providers grapple with the need to recruit and train new employees swiftly, digital monitoring technologies can streamline the process. These tools provide a consistent platform for training, ensuring that new hires are well-versed in food safety protocols and understand safety requirements from day one. In an environment where staff transitions are frequent, this consistency in onboarding can be a game-changer.
Empowering the Workforce with Technology
The modern workforce, particularly Millennials and Gen Z, are extremely tech-savvy. As generations that gre up with technology like tablets and smartphones, they expect their place of work to be up-to-date and innovative. They understand that digital solutions not only make their jobs more efficient but also make the workplace more attractive. For example, they know that using automated digital checklists simplifies routine tasks, reduces the time spent on paper-based processes, and ensures greater accuracy.
Bridging Language Barriers
Many food service employees come from diverse backgrounds, and language barriers can sometimes pose challenges in tasks that involve complex procedures or reporting. Digital monitoring tools, with their intuitive interfaces and visual cues, transcend language barriers, making it easier for employees of diverse backgrounds to understand and adhere to food safety protocols. Presenting information in an easy-to-understand format minimizes the risk of misunderstandings or misinterpretations and helps employees respond quickly to needed actions.
Accountability and Accuracy
In a dynamic and sometimes transient workforce, ensuring accountability is of primary importance. While manual temperature logs will record information, they can be susceptible to inaccuracies or negligence, but digital solutions and technology-based monitoring can eliminate these concerns. Food service leaders receive real-time reports and temperature logs from multiple locations instantly, ensuring that food safety standards are met consistently.
Stability Amidst Instability
Even in a post-pandemic world with all its instability, food service businesses that adopt digital monitoring and checklists can provide their locations with a stable framework. From a compliance standpoint, it will help to ensure that food safety is not compromised despite changes in management or staffing.
Consistency in food safety practices remains a constant, and digital technology helps leaders and business owners to navigate the challenges of workforce variations. Consumer confidence in dining out has slowly returned; according, by April 2021, 60% of U.S. consumers felt comfortable dining in restaurants, up from 26% in December 2020. (source)
In life after the pandemic, food service providers are still facing significant challenges when it comes to recruitment, hiring, and navigating a shifting workforce. As many food service operators strive to uphold high levels of customer satisfaction and safety standards, digital monitoring tools and platforms are increasingly being used to support food service operations.
- Digital tools and food safety monitoring provide a stable foundation for food service providers
- Digital temperature reporting and checklists ensure that food safety activities remain consistent
- Food companies are able to view single or multiple locations with a 360-degree view.
- Instant communication features allow staff to respond to crises or emergencies with an agile response.
- Digital tools remove complexities or uncertainties from food operations and help staff to perform their duties with higher efficiency.
- Adopting technology solutions may improve hiring and reduce turnover rates with operations that are consistent and controlled.