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Using tech to fill the talent gap

By Graham Campbell

Canada has the second largest franchise industry in the world, with a franchise market that grows about 4300 new franchise outlets each year.1 Unsurprisingly, owners are constantly looking for ways to accelerate business growth and support franchisees through innovative solutions to market challenges.

Challenges

Canada is in one of the tightest labour markets the country has seen in decades. Storefronts and restaurants countrywide are putting up ‘now hiring’ signs, but record unemployment rates mean  there are not enough people looking to fill those vacant roles. It is increasingly difficult for employers to find and retain top talent—particularly in Canada’s hospitality industry which typically sees high turnover rates. Franchises are seeing a loss of talent as employees chase higher pay or better roles. This trend is particularly damaging within smaller establishments that do not have the resources to offer the competitive pay that larger chains can offer.

Unfilled roles in restaurants have created a pressure for staff who are being inundated with tasks. With pressure on staff to work on more tables, customer service is suffering. On top of which, the labour shortages for back of house (BOH) create increased wait times and a decrease in food quality. In an industry where the customer is deemed a priority, the risks of poor dining experience can be catastrophic. In the country’s more extreme cases, some restaurants are having to temporarily or permanently close due to staffing shortages.

It is these obstacles and challenges that have spurred owners, who have heavily invested in their business, to turn to innovative solutions that help fill the gaps and combat labour shortages. In a role that requires a franchisee to wear many hats, proprietors understand the value of identifying and implementing solutions to help streamline operations.

Filling the skill space

How are franchisees tackling these hiring challenges? In a climate of seemingly unlimited employment opportunities, it is the technology industry that is providing answers. By tackling the traditionally unplugged elements of restaurant operations, technology companies are providing solutions that allow eateries to focus on what matters—food and service.

In front of house (FOH) roles, restaurants are adopting handheld tablet and tableside technology that puts the power in the customer’s hands. More restaurant owners are replacing the notepad and pen with intuitive devices. These products are transforming the dining experience.

With tablets, servers are able to take drink orders at the table and send them directly to the bar. With the support of runners, diners can even receive their drinks before they are finished ordering their main courses. A recent innovation in tablet technology is conversational requests. This new approach to the order interface allows servers to customize demands as guests talk through what they want, mimicking the ease of jotting down orders on paper with the benefit of streamlined technology. This innovation further enables the ability to drastically reduce server errors, along with the wait time for food. With time saved, servers are focusing more on the guest experience rather than logistics. This decreases a kitchen being overwhelmed with orders all at once, as requests are sent to the kitchen as they are entered.

Tableside and phone ordering

Offering digital menus and ordering capabilities at the dining table gives guests the ability to order at their own pace and customize requests to meet their specific needs. This is another way restaurants are adopting innovations to check in on guests, make menu recommendations, suggest wine pairings, and more. This not only enhances the guest experience, but also increases revenues and tips.

Further, devices can have dual capabilities that allow diners to play games and interact with the tablet once their order has been entered. This is an increasingly popular pattern among outlets geared toward families with young children.

The tableside ordering tablets also give diners the power to request their bill when they are ready to pay and leave. Reducing wait time for the bill leaves guests happier and allows servers to turn over tables more quickly. Despite hiring challenges, these tech solutions allow restaurants to boost their bottom line while enhancing the guest experience.

Another trend is the implementation of tabletop Quick Response (QR) codes that allow diners to use their phones to view the menu, place an order, and pay the bill. Removing the added hardware while offering the same service is becoming a preferred option for casual dining restaurants.

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