by Dallas Henderson, Account Manager at RizePoint
Our world – and our industry – has changed dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Before March 2020, masking was something our kids did on Halloween. We worked side by side without keeping a distance of 6′. Our dining rooms were packed and there was often a crowd waiting at the bar.
Many of the changes we have experienced have been difficult. It is now difficult (and expensive) to obtain the products we need. We have implemented a whole new set of COVID protocols. We continue to face staffing shortages and intense competition for talent. But some of the changes that will emerge from the pandemic are positive – and will likely be permanent.
Let’s celebrate these six positive and permanent changes:
- Our way of working. We’ll probably never go back to exclusively dine-in options, so it’s wise to “diversify” your offerings to maximize sales and profits. Many operators now offer dine-in, take-out, delivery, curbside pickup and/or drive-thru options in addition to on-site dining. As demand for takeout and delivery increased, some operators shifted to shadow kitchens, focusing on takeout and delivery offerings rather than on-site dining. Some savvy operators have launched (or expanded) online stores, selling branded products, such as shirts, hats, beer, sauces and other products, to increase their revenue streams. While a growing number of consumers are returning to dine in restaurants, others are still avoiding in-person experiences due to COVID concerns. It makes sense to expand your offerings to meet changing consumer needs and maximize revenue.
- The way we evaluate. Before COVID, restaurants brought third-party auditors onsite and inspected their facilities once or twice a year. Turns out that wasn’t an ideal solution. Traditional audits only provided a snapshot at a time, where it was impossible to determine if issues were resolved quickly or properly after the inspection. Auditors only reported issues, but did not work with brands to resolve issues or educate employees on how to prevent risks. Employees often dreaded audits, fearing punishment for any problems discovered. When pandemic restrictions halted in-person inspections, restaurants turned to virtual audits, where inspectors worked in conjunction with employees to inspect facilities. Employees were encouraged to ask questions, learn about the process, and feel empowered to resolve any issues. Brands have also adopted more frequent self-inspections to continuously monitor quality. This combined approach – onsite, virtual and self-audits – offers the best of all worlds, with continuous monitoring, greater oversight, increased employee engagement and faster issue resolution.
- The tools we use. Fortunately, restoration technology is now affordable and accessible to businesses of all sizes. Operators use integrated digital tools to optimize all facets of their business and make more informed decisions. These tools allow brands to improve safety and quality management, manage (or reduce) costs, and improve line checks, inspections, inventory, scheduling, and ordering. Critical tasks are much faster, easier and more accurate for employees compared to outdated manual processes or disjointed technology stacks. Using technology to access and analyze data is a great way to boost transparency and other key metrics.
- Data transparency. Mastering data is more important than ever as operators strive to address risk, employ smarter, reduce costs and increase efficiency. As supplies remain expensive — and difficult to acquire — leaders need to plan better to avoid food waste. Operators also need to staff smarter, so they aren’t overstaffed or understaffed for a given shift, and they don’t overuse employees to the point of burnout. In the past, many operators relied on their instincts to run their business, but as prices rise, margins shrink and employees become scarcer, this approach is no longer realistic. Using data to run your restaurant — and make critical decisions — is a much smarter way to go.
- Our security protocols. Before the pandemic, restaurants focused on “behind the scenes” food safety and customers didn’t think much about the protocols being followed. The pandemic has changed that, with consumers becoming hyper-aware that restaurant workers routinely sanitize high-touch areas, wash their hands, socially distance, and don’t work when sick. While food safety practices — like avoiding cross-contamination and cooking foods to appropriate temperatures — remain essential, there’s also high demand for new COVID-era protocols. Be upfront about how you prioritize safety, communicate your commitment through on-site signage, your website content, and social media posts. Recognize that customers and employees want constant reassurance that restaurants are doing everything possible to keep them safe in our new normal – a trend that will likely continue for the long term.
- Our culture. The culture of the food industry is changing towards more collaboration, which is a positive development. Restaurant brands are investing wisely in enterprise quality, helping their teams succeed by conducting more frequent and collaborative audits, identifying (and remediating) risks, and improving safety and quality protocols. New security models rely on employee participation, which makes teams feel more invested in and responsible for these efforts. Employees feel engaged and empowered when they are given responsibility for their restaurant’s successes rather than being blamed for its mistakes. Building a collaborative, supportive and respectful culture helps strengthen safety, while increasing employee satisfaction, loyalty and retention.
Many COVID-related changes have been difficult, such as quarantines, disrupted supply chains, inflation, and staff shortages. But these six positive changes provide some much-needed reassurance about the future. We’ve had to adapt out of necessity – transitioning our business models and auditing processes, for example – but these changes will stand us in good stead moving forward. Becoming more collaborative, adopting technology solutions, creating new revenue streams, using data, and prioritizing security protocols will improve the health and safety of our businesses, employees, and guests.
Dallas Henderson, a 25-year veteran of the service industry, is Account Manager at RizePoint. RizePoint disrupts traditional market software with its innovative new product platform Ignite™ Supplier Certification Management, which helps small and medium-sized businesses simplify the supplier certification and maintenance process. To discuss RizePoint solutions, please contact Dallas at [email protected].