Updated: Jul 11, 2022
4xi Global Consulting & Solutions is on a quest to identify best-in-class innovation that impacts the away-from-home market: people at work, in education, at rest, and at leisure. We call this our Explorers Innovation Lab & Directory.
How are organizations today tackling the issue of staffing shortages? Maybe technology has an important part to play.
As workplaces begin to open their doors again, and organizations try to woo reluctant employees back into the office, amenities like food service have become more important and more complicated than ever.
Returning employees want more than just their old cubicle back, they need a reason to return to work, a magnetic draw to help them overcome the often lengthy commute, leaving their home offices, and immerse them back into the work community. Food plays an important part in creating that magnet effect.
Meanwhile, amenities providers need to provide that experience while working around a workforce with unpredictable schedules, while at the same time navigating a massive labor shortage.
According to Catering Foodservice & Events,
"Foodservice businesses have taken drastic measures to survive (and, in some cases, thrive) under pandemic conditions. As events were canceled and demand dropped for catering services, businesses needed to consider changes to staffing levels and business models. Those hard choices led to a 32 percent decrease in staffing levels for catering and mobile foodservice businesses and caused over 20 percent of such businesses to shut down permanently."
To balance unpredictable throughput needs and limited staffing, it’s pivotal that businesses need to amplify the labor they have by improving their processes and stepping up their technology game.
Here are some of the opportunities:
Flow and layout
From a process perspective, the literal layouts of operations and flow are easily overlooked. Where you put stations and cashiers matters a lot in terms of how people move through a space and how quickly they can find what they want and get served.
Given there’s limited time or appetite to reconstruct cafe spaces, this should be the first thing you plan (along with taking some of our technology suggestions into account).
Beyond the flow of a cafe, menu choices greatly impact how many people you can serve with a limited staff. Many cafes put a hefty premium on having tons of menu choices and customization within those options.
While this is often something that staff flag as desired in surveys, it can actually negatively impact the overall cafe experience. The more options and customization, the slower people tend to be when ordering. This is due to having an overwhelming number of options and multiple decisions throughout an order - slowing down the process.
A greater variety of menu items and customization options also makes it harder for cafe staff to really master the dishes that they create due to the sheer variety they may be in charge of, lowering the quality of the end product and the speed they can prepare.
Instead, fewer total menu items and options allow your team to deliver the best possible quality of product and experience within the resources you have.
Beyond process improvements, there are a few technologies that were already gaining ground before the pandemic that can provide a lot of efficiency to operations. With the pandemic acting as a “reset” of expectations, all of these technologies have seen huge increases in usage and guest preference - making now the perfect time to integrate them into your operations.
Rather than making ordering dependent on staff taking each order, many companies install banks of ordering tablets. These can go either at the front of each station where people would usually order or as a large bank in a single part of a cafe where guests can order from multiple stations.
This frees up your team to focus on food prep as orders come through.
Mobile and Online Ordering
Similar to ordering from a tablet, having a mobile app or responsive website for customers to order from increases convenience and reduces the need for staff to use time taking orders directly from each customer.
An extra advantage of online ordering is that you can set up your cafe to deliver directly to customers - improving their experience and helping to drive sales during off-hours, thanks to the extra convenience.
One of the most exciting developments we’ve seen in cafe technology is using cameras and artificial intelligence to make self-checkout a seamless experience. The most popular system for this that we see in the field is Mashgin, whose Touchless Checkout System finishes transactions up to 400% faster than a typical cashier.
Essentially, a customer just grabs the items they want from different stations, puts them down on Mashgin’s tray, and the order instantly rings up! (See it in action here). This is an enormous amplifier since you can have minimal staff helping customers checkout, instead, focus your team on making food, cleaning up, and helping customers who need it. The huge increase in checkout speed also reduces lines dramatically, increasing revenues by as much as 300% in long-line environments like sports concessions.
While cafes have been out of commission for a while, Mashgin has seen phenomenal growth in the last year as sports returned in force and convenience stores faced a similar labor challenge to what the hospitality industry is going through now. The company reported that it grew sales by 300% in 2021, reaching over 1,000 locations and recently raising a funding round valuing Mashgin at $1.5 Billion.
Integrating It All Together
Any one of these technologies and tactics can help you get more out of the limited teams we’ll all be working with in the near future, but thoughtfully bringing them together can make a really compelling impact.
Finding vendors who are willing to (or already have) integrated their technologies with the others featured above can create a much better experience for your guests. They will also do best when paired with critical existing payments and perk structures like CBORD if you offer guests an ID-based stored value solution.
One of the reasons you’ll see us bring up Mashgin from time to time is that they already offer a complete ecosystem for all the technologies above.
While they started in the AI-checkout space, they’ve built those other amplifying technologies over the years to save managers the headache of building menus and managing sales across multiple checkout formats.
If you happen to be at National Restaurant Association Show this coming few days, we'd recommend checking them out - they’ll be at booth 5649.
Inspiring a brighter future, together.
4xi Global Consulting & Solutions is a team of talented leaders from both the client-side and service provider side creating an impact on the Human Experience (HX) for people at work, in education, rest, and at leisure.
We believe in a people-first, experience-led philosophy, whether client, employee, or guest – their experience is the fundamental foundation of success.
We work with corporations, service providers, and innovators:
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Headquarters Fractional Support On-Demand
Evolving Experiences© - Employee (EX) & Customer Experience (CX)
Design4Life©: Environmental, Physical, and Experiential Design
Global Amenities Strategy, Design & Operations
TRUE NORTH©: Strategic Partnership & Growth
Explorers Innovation Directory: Gateway to Innovation
Sustainability Simplified©: Supply Chain & Innovation
Market Research Reports & Benchmarking
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