Streamlining Bar & Restaurant Operations: Tips from Tech & Software Experts

The labor shortage and the impacts of inflation will continue to hold a significant influence over the bar and restaurant industry for the next several years. Restaurant operators who provide the best team member and customer experience will win the largest share of customers. Of course, beating your competition by offering heightened service quality is more important than ever in today’s climate, where customer expectations continue to increase.

Below are some tips from technology experts in the field on how restaurant operators can best streamline their operations. Adopting more robust labor management platforms, using a virtual waitlist, and outsourcing redundant back-office tasks are just a few of the suggestions from our experts.

Invest in Mobile-First Technology

With staff capabilities and dedication to providing exceptional service at the core of meeting customer expectations, attracting and retaining talent should be the highest priority of any business.

“Continuously working to understand and measure your engagement regularly will help you identify what operational areas require improvement, what are the leading concerns or challenges of staff, as well as whether you are improving or declining in performance,” said Dave Gates, senior VP of restaurant development at UniFocus, which offers a comprehensive workforce management software suite.

Forecasting business volumes at the shift level is complex and has a lot of variabilities, yet it is essential to maintaining high service quality. However, managers are frequently expected to forecast and optimize schedules without giving them the proper tools to make significant business decisions that ensure a consistently positive experience for both customers and employees.

“Many of the available tools only focus on a weekly schedule, but managing a schedule is a daily process in today's environment,” said Gates. “Balancing the needs of our team members and our business requires mobile-first technology that provides a platform for communication, flexibility and simplification to get the right people in the right place at the right time.”

Become More Proactive vs. Reactive with Agile Processes

To stay a step ahead of competitors, restaurant operators need to adopt newer and more robust labor management platforms that staff according to projected service demand. “This not only ensures that employees have the support they need when they need it – to continue delivering exceptional experiences – but also minimizes the potential for burnout that can cause significant damage to workplace cultures and a business’s ability to maintain the loyalty and dedication of their employees,” added Gates.

A key aspect of streamlining bar and restaurant operations is keeping your kitchens and bars stocked with fresh food, drinks and other supplies, while avoiding spoilage, minimizing inventory and controlling overall food costs.

Mike Liebson – VP at New Horizon, which offers end-to-end supply chain software – said that keeping things stocked up has been particularly difficult the last two years during the pandemic because of unpredictable swings in demand, labor shortages and ongoing supply chain disruptions. “The key to success is having agile processes and systems that can adapt to changing business conditions. And you need to do this in a way that improves productivity so you can grow revenues faster than headcount,” he said.

Prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, innovative bar and restaurant operators have been adopting such processes and systems to deal with the current business environment and provide a source of competitive advantage in the future.

Liebson said such processes include:

  • New processes adopted by independent and small chain operators
    • Precise forecasting by day to optimize replenishment, and by day part to optimize restaurant and bar labor scheduling
    • Closely monitoring supply and demand so you can expedite or delay orders to align with changing demand
    • Automated inventory ordering so restaurant employees spend less time on managing inventory and more time serving customers
    • Use of alternate products and suppliers to mitigate the impact of shortages and price spikes
  • Additional new processes adopted by large chain operators involved in the distribution of supplies to their individual units
    • Improved demand forecasting using artificial intelligence and machine learning
    • Transshipping of products from warehouses with excess supply to those with insufficient supply
    • Automated truck loading optimization for the most efficient distribution of food and supplies

Automate Feedback

Restaurant managers are expected to work both behind the scenes and in front of customers. While conducting satisfaction checks during service is customary for managers, it doesn’t necessarily give you a candid look at guest feedback.

“Direct feedback collection in the form of post-meal email surveys can give you insight into guests’ honest opinions,” said Kinesh Patel, CTO and co-founder at SevenRooms, a guest engagement and retention platform for the hospitality industry. “With a guest experience platform like SevenRooms, diners automatically receive a survey after each dine-in or takeout meal. Instead of constantly being pinged whenever a new response comes in, managers receive a daily digest of summarized sentiments and can view individual responses in the platform dashboard.”

Use Guest Profiles to Personalize the Dining Experience

When diners make reservations or put themselves on a virtual waitlist, you can save information about their dietary preferences, allergies, special dates and more to guest profiles. “When guests come back, you can also see what they ordered on previous visits in their profiles. While in the past, a maitre d’ would’ve been responsible for knowing everything about guests, now every server has access to this guest information at their fingertips,” said Patel.

Your front-of-house staff can use this guest data to personalize the dining experience. For example, servers could reference past orders to tailor recommendations that will wow diners. Or they could place a candle on a dessert when a guest is celebrating a birthday. Another way to provide first-class service is to point out allergen information on the menu before being asked. Personalized dining experiences will make your restaurant stand out and keep guests coming back.

Avoid Losing Customers with an Interactive Waitlist

Imagine this scenario: it’s a busy Friday night and your wait time is over an hour. Walk-ins who just want to grab a beverage may put their name on the list but may feel like their turn will never come and thus find a less busy restaurant to enjoy a drink. “With an interactive waitlist, guests can add their names before they head over to your bar, which will cut down on their wait time. Plus, they’ll receive automated SMS updates to let them know their position in line and can check their wait in real-time in your digital waiting room,” added Patel. “When guests see their progress, they’ll be less likely to give up their spot on the waitlist, which means more sales for your business.”

Elliott Brown – director of marketing for OnPay, an online payroll service – advised restaurant owners to outsource redundant back-office tasks. “It's already hard to get everything right in the kitchen and on the floor, but small business owners spend almost a quarter of their time on back-office tasks like payroll and HR,” said Brown. “To have more time to focus on what's important, consider software or services to help with time consuming activities like bookkeeping, payroll, HR, and scheduling.”

For example, switching from doing payroll manually to using an external service saves the average business owner 17 hours a month. Gustav Anderson, communications officer for said workforce management is critical. “It means creating weekly schedules with a single click. Or letting employees swap shifts with a tap of a thumb. Or even auto approving hundreds of timesheets in seconds,” he said. “Excel spreadsheet wizards in the bar and restaurant industry HATE him!” is the "him." is a cloud-native workforce management SaaS that specializes in streamlining bar and restaurant operations.

Erin Flynn Jay is a reporter and publicist based in Philadelphia. She’s a Bar & Restaurant contributor, and some of her other writing credits include Next Avenue and Woman’s World, among many others.

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