Four Technologies Grocery And Food Service Businesses Should Be Using In Today’s Labor Market

Chief Technology Officer at CBS Northstar, overseeing technology and product for our global restaurant and retail customers.

The distinction between grocery and food service is shifting. These days, it’s not uncommon to find a full-service pizza parlor, sushi bar or even a steakhouse located inside your favorite supermarket. This is because consumer demand, combined with rising costs and worker shortages, is driving a change in the way grocery stores do business. To stay competitive, grocers are getting creative. The adoption of a hybrid grocery/restaurant (“grocerant”) model is one way retailers are successfully tapping into new markets and attracting new crowds.

But amid the labor shortage, how do retailers attract and retain the staff needed to serve their new guests? How can they provide the level of service required to ensure that customers have a great experience? 

One answer is to take advantage of modern technologies that will boost satisfaction and retention among employees and guests. To that end, here are four technologies that grocery and food service businesses should be considering in today’s labor market.

1. Labor-Management Mobile Technology

One of the simplest and most immediate ways retailers can insulate themselves from the labor shortage is by doubling down on their employee retention efforts with the use of labor-management mobile apps. Times are changing. Today’s workforce expects to be able to do almost any employment task from a mobile device, and that includes the ability to check time cards, pay stubs and work schedules on the fly. Some mobile apps also facilitate shift swaps and time-off requests. In general, employers who offer these conveniences are more likely to attract and retain talent than employers who still rely on older methods for communicating work schedules.

Benefits of labor-management mobile apps include:

• Improves employee satisfaction and retention.

• Makes the business look professional.

• Facilitates self-service, which reduces burden on managers.

There are a wide variety of labor-management mobile apps available to choose from, and most are advertised as being user-friendly. Don’t be overwhelmed. Look for an app that already integrates with your existing point-solutions, such as your scheduling, timekeeping and payroll platforms. This will help you narrow down the list of potential apps for consideration and will save your business time and money by ensuring that you don’t have to pay for costly professional development services later.

2. Labor Optimization Technology

Another way businesses can avoid understaffing is by using labor optimization technology, such as sales-driven scheduling software, to ensure that all available staff are scheduled efficiently and according to anticipated demand. This is possible through the use of cutting-edge machine learning algorithms and predictive analytics. With computers doing the heavy lifting, retailers can quickly build efficient work schedules that include adequate rest breaks and periods of time off. Adequate breaks are not only mandated by labor laws in many areas but are important for preventing staff burnout and turnover.

Benefits of labor optimization technology include:

• Decreases labor costs through efficient use of available resources.

• Helps prevent employee burnout and turnover.

• Keeps customers happy through adequate service levels.

Although labor optimization technology can be a game-changer for many businesses, buy-in from management is often a difficult hurdle. Store-level managers, especially those with years of intuitive scheduling experience, may be reluctant to trust such an important aspect of the business to AI. For example, they may feel that software can’t handle the day-to-day effects of weather on sales. To set them at ease, look for a labor optimization system that is proven to account for weather effects, seasonality, holidays and other factors that impact sales figures.

3. Gig Economy Technology

Technology can help businesses with multiple locations stay flexible during changing labor market conditions. By creating an internal “gig economy,” retailers can quickly and easily share labor between units without incurring overtime and labor law penalties. This not only improves customer service across the business but also balances staffing across the organization — be it a small chain, large franchise or market banner. With very little cross-training, grocerants can share resources across different restaurant concepts using this tech.

Benefits of gig economy technology include:

• Balances staffing across multiple units.

• Keeps the business flexible during changing labor market conditions.

• Allows employees to opt into more shifts where needed.

However, to create a localized gig economy, retailers do need a labor-management platform that allows employees to pick up shifts from nearby stores. When shopping for a platform, look for one that provides robust permissions and access controls. This will make it easier to share resources without giving store-level supervisors access to information they don’t need.

4. Omni-Channel Ordering Technology

To perform at their best, restaurant concepts require restaurant ordering technology. This type of technology knows exactly how long items take to prepare and sends ticket items to the kitchen at the right times to ensure the best customer experience. Flexible ordering modes, such as the choice between a self-service kiosk or a server tablet, can help grocerants adapt their restaurant concept according to current staffing conditions.

Benefits of omni-channel ordering technology include:

• Keeps the business flexible during changing labor market conditions.

• Requires minimal staff training and allows for guest self-service.

• Improves customer experience and satisfaction.

With fewer training requirements, businesses can focus on hiring for the right attitude instead of hiring for prior foodservice experience. However, not all omni-channel ordering systems offer the same features. To maximize revenue opportunity with minimal training, some specific capabilities businesses should look for in an ordering software are 1. upsell suggestions at time of order, for both staff-facing and customer-facing modes, and 2. ingredients list printed for each menu item at time of order.

These are just a few of the technologies that grocery and foodservice businesses should be using in today’s labor market, but they’re also some of the most important. Every business needs satisfied employees in order to have satisfied customers. By improving employee satisfaction and retention, preventing burnout, scheduling labor more efficiently and reducing training requirements, businesses can do more with the resources they have available.

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