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Nick Henderson Apr 13, 2022 3:00:00 PM 8 min read

5 ways to streamline restaurant operations when costs are rising

Economic forces are biting into the restaurant industry on three different sides. The big question for managers is: how to do more with less? This blog looks at five ways to streamline restaurant operations and maximise efficiency savings.

Restaurants should be getting back on their feet after the blows dealt by the pandemic. But economic forces are conspiring against a straightforward recovery. Three challenges stand in the way of a return to growth.

  • Rising costs are putting pressure on balance sheets. According to one survey, 90% of hospitality businesses have been impacted by higher costs. Salaries, food and drink prices, energy bills and taxes are all creeping up.
  • Customers are hesitant. Covid restrictions have put safety at the forefront of consumer consciousness. In addition, the pandemic pushed people towards home delivery, which looks like an enduring trend, reducing restaurant footfall. According to a survey by the global health and safety organisation NSF International, Covid-19 regulations and the rise of home delivery are two of the biggest challenges cited by restaurant industry leaders.
  • Labour shortages have left a hole in the workforce. According to one estimate, there are now one million fewer workers in the US restaurant industry than in 2019. In the UK, the hospitality workforce has shrunk by 12% since before the pandemic. This is leading to burnout among the overstretched staff who remain. In a survey, 58% of hospitality workers said a shortage of colleagues was their biggest concern.

The combined effect of these challenges has pushed many restaurant businesses to breaking point. Some have closed down. The US National Restaurant Association said nearly one in six restaurants – around 100,000 businesses – shut down at the beginning of the pandemic. Others have stayed afloat, but often with reduced hours or complete closure on certain days of the week.

The challenge for restaurant leaders in the post-pandemic world is coping with stretched resources while offering sufficient quality and differentiation to attract customers. In other words, how do you do more with less?

Forward-looking leaders are implementing solutions to streamline restaurant operations. The use of automated monitoring and workflow technology enables them to uncover efficiencies that ensure high standards while reducing the burden on staff.

1. Streamline restaurant operations by saving staff time

Busy restaurant staff typically spend hours every week performing regular temperature checks on fridges, freezers and hot-hold equipment. Staff at an average site with ten fridges and freezers spend an estimated 1.5 hours conducting and recording three temperature checks per day. The task can be significantly streamlined by using wireless IoT sensors that constantly monitor temperature 24/7 and automatically stream data to a central dashboard. This adds up to a significant time saving over the course of a month across a network of restaurant locations. The result is that staff can spend more time on the direct interactions that are important to customer experience instead.

2. Monitor your equipment

The unexpected failure of essential kitchen equipment can be both disruptive and costly. According to research by NSF International, 27% of quick-service restaurant (QSR) teams simply switch off kitchen equipment that isn’t performing correctly. They lack either the time or expertise to fix the problem. Within an intelligent operations platform, wireless sensors monitor storage temperatures and provide an indication of equipment health. Monitoring data goes into an artificial intelligence layer that provides managers with a view of trends over time. Temperature variation can indicate equipment ageing or an underlying technical fault that needs attention from engineers. This form of predictive maintenance means failing equipment can be identified early for repair or replacement, reducing and streamlining restaurant visits for engineers. 

3. Streamline restaurant operations by reducing food waste

The failure of fridges and fridges can put large amounts of stock at risk of spoilage, as food exposed to an unsuitable temperature for too long needs to be thrown away. Lost stock has a significant cost impact on restaurant businesses that may already be struggling with their balance sheets. Automated monitoring alerts managers when a temperature variation occurs. Checkit goes one step further with mobile alerting, which delivers notifications directly to the mobile devices of nearby staff, along with step-by-step instructions on what to do next, which is particularly handy if the manager is working remotely or the fault occurs overnight but needs immediate attention. Food can be quickly moved to adjacent storage units before spoilage occurs, with repairs happening faster. This can help reduce restaurant food waste. Industry analysis published by WRAP  found that restaurants saved $7 for every $1 invested in reducing food waste.

4. Digitise food safety with sensors and software to save precious time

The amount of management time spent compiling and analysing paperwork for food safety audits is a huge source of inefficiency in restaurant businesses. In some cases, managers will travel between restaurants to collect records and check on local performance standards. By swapping paperwork for a digital system that collects and stores data on adherence to standard operating procedures, hours are saved every week. Digitising food safety helps streamline restaurant processes. It frees time across the board and creates a better colleague experience. One of the UK's largest leisure groups has saved around 20,000 hours of staff time each year by digitising compliance checks. An intelligent operations platform like Checkit also incorporates digital workflows, whereby a digital assistant, in the form of a mobile device or app, continuously prompts, guides and captures best practice to ensure safety is maximised and avoid duplication of effort.

5. Find new routes to save energy

Energy bills are soaring. According to UK Hospitality, average energy price increases of 95% are putting significant stress on businesses. As a result, 76% have increased menu prices, and 38% have reduced their trading hours. Automated monitoring, using IoT-enabled sensors, helps to highlight inefficiencies. Failing fridges and freezers must work harder to maintain correct temperatures and consume more energy. Early identification of an issue reduces over-consumption of energy. The problem could be something as seemingly minor as a fridge or freezer door left open, but the effect on energy consumption can be significant. By pinpointing the issue quickly, it can be corrected. At the same time, data from digital workflows provides managers with insight they may not have had before. Inefficient processes can be identified and addressed by rolling out new procedures. For example, staff may be turning on lighting, heating and ovens before necessary. As restaurant sustainability becomes increasingly important, data-driven insights are vital. 

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Photo by Drew Gilliam on Unsplash

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Nick Henderson

Content & Communications Manager at Checkit

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