3 Ways to Protect Your Restaurant Against the Recession

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In times of recession, some chains still seem to be doing well. The combination of convenience and lower prices resonates well with financially stressed consumers.

Did you have a “recession” on your 2022 bingo card? You’ll likely find it alongside continuing labor shortages, rising wages, supply chain disruptions and rising food prices. Just as you cleared the “pandemic” from your map, another challenge came to claim your free space. But regardless of exactly when the next recession emerges — whether it’s weeks, months or years — now is the time for restaurateurs to prepare.

Here’s why: The “Great Recession” of 2008 showed us that when consumers’ pockets are tighter in times of economic instability, they gravitate toward value-based options. QSR chains like Wendys, Papa John’s and McDonald’s have thrived from a revenue standpoint, according to Seeking Alpha.

The combination of convenience and lower prices resonates well with financially stressed consumers. As a result, QSR restaurants can expect an increase in customers and order volumes. Increased volumes also bring more operational complexities, especially in an already tight labor market.

So, as you figure out how to recession-proof your restaurant, ask yourself how you’ll meet increased demand by handling higher order volume and fewer staff and ensuring consistency and quality with fewer convenient bridges.

Here are three key answers to these questions:

Step away from the “old way” of doing the job

Does any of this sound familiar to you:

  • Piles of paperwork, piles of binders, too few pens.

  • Field managers go back and forth to stores to identify and correct problems.

  • Pencil checklists and hours spent on mundane tasks.

  • Missing documentation, lack of compliance and makeshift process.

  • Unpublished e-mails, and telephone games between stores and head office.

If so, you risk falling even further behind as your competitors and the industry as a whole keep moving forward. A big step in the right direction is to stop doing things the way they’ve always been done simply because they’ve always been done that way. The old world of rolling out changes over time is no longer an option.

The restaurant technology landscape has grown rapidly over the past decade to help operators improve their operations, customer experience, and more. Being able to adapt quickly and effectively to a changing environment will allow you to find ways to provide a satisfying dining experience.

Higher prices, longer wait times, fewer options, and below-average service are a recipe for disaster — especially in an industry with the word “service” in the title. Higher prices may be unavoidable, but poor service is not an option. To streamline operations and meet growing consumer demand, it’s time to focus on technology that helps where the work really happens in stores and leave old habits behind.

Minimize wasted effort and increase consistency

Despite all that is happening outside the walls of each restaurant, you can still boost employee productivity in your stores and in the field, and improve work consistency across the business. To better prepare your restaurant for increased volume, review your operation and determine which tedious tasks can be automated.

Here’s what it looks like:

  • In your stores: Automated food labeling saves up to 30 minutes on food preparation time and reduces the likelihood of preparing and serving expired products to customers.

  • In the field: Even when they are not on site, field teams can monitor store performance and conduct audits more efficiently.

  • Across your business: Everyone in the organization, from head office to stores, always knows the status of work in progress with visibility into potential issues before they impact the business.

Automating processes and accelerating the flow of information improves efficiency and response times. Alerting the right people at the right time shifts everyone’s attention from reactive to proactive; from extinguishing the proverbial fires to preventing them completely.

Whether it’s digitizing paper checklists or automating food temperature monitoring, minimizing wasted effort allows your team to lend weight to big initiatives and more meaningful tasks, like improved customer satisfaction and interaction with customers.

Create a more attractive workplace

Fostering employee satisfaction is imperative in any economy, but it’s especially true in today’s particularly tight workforce, according to Business Insider. Reducing mundane and repetitive tasks makes work less stressful and more enjoyable, and increases job satisfaction. It also lets employees know they’re valued, which is a great way to not only retain the talent you have, but also foster a work environment that attracts a new generation of talent.

Millennials and Gen Z workers make up a growing portion of the eligible labor pool — and they’re all tech-savvy. Today’s teens and young adults are the world’s first “digital natives,” meaning they’ve never known a world without technology. They were practically born with a mobile device in their hands.

To attract and retain members of this younger workforce, you’ll need to meet them where they are with tools and apps that are as user-friendly and engaging as the ones they rely on for everything else. That means investing in digital tools and automation that boost productivity and help everyone work safer, smarter and more efficiently.

Operators who deploy next-generation tools differentiate themselves from other “old-school” employers by being forward-thinking and innovative. By investing in the latest technologies, you can create a safer and more attractive work environment, one in which employees can see themselves laying down roots and even building a career.

As we learned in 2008 and 2020, unexpected events can create opportunities for growth.

In times of great crisis: you pivot to survive, then reinvent what is possible to thrive. That’s exactly what restaurants around the world did when lockdowns and physical distancing requirements forced them to embrace new ways of doing business. And that’s exactly what restaurants can do now, if and when another recession hits.

Restaurant owners can’t wait any longer to have the processes and infrastructure in place to meet consumer demands. Regardless of the state of the economy, consumers want food that tastes great and is prepared safely in a clean environment with quality service. Teams able to operate with agility will win.

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