Staff, new technology, and changing business practices: the tides of change in the restaurant industry are ironically consistent. And the restaurant manager is tasked with monitoring all of this change while managing the present state of the business.
In the next three years, restaurateurs and their managers will face more change than ever – the industry is on the precipice of disruption. What does this disruption look like?
A new generation will hit the workforce
Integrated technologies will manage restaurant operations more efficiently
Raw data will become easier to visualize and interpret
Customers will expect environmental awareness
Tipping culture may change or disappear
To handle these changes, the restaurant management role must adapt, diversify, and solve problems, fast. Here are five ways restaurant management will change by 2020.
1. A new generation entering the workforce requires a new management style
It seems like just yesterday we were up in arms about how leaders needed to adapt to the Millennial workforce. Less money focused, more cause focused. Less bossing, more coaching. Less company, more team. Just when we thought we nailed it with managing Millennials, the rug is about to come out from under us again.
Enter Generation Z, born between 1996 and 2010. In 2020, they’ll be ripe for the restaurant industry’s picking, the oldest being 24 years old. Unlike Millennials, who, if reports are right, will still be on their parents’ couch, Gen Z is focused on “adulting.” This intensely connected, digital generation is a unique case.
What defines this generation? According to a survey conducted by Monster, the majority of the Gen Z demographic believes they are responsible for driving their own career. They are more motivated by money, but they believe that work should have a purpose beyond earning a salary.
Okay, cool. So they’re technology focused, money focused, and concerned about the big picture. What does that mean for you as a restaurant manager?
It means you need to be these things, too. As Booth Company reported, “Gen Z might prefer a culture that enables change and the need to lead toward a technology driven atmosphere, automating processes and utilizing technology in every aspect of the business to optimize results.” You need to be a manager who’s open to new technologies so that your staff can feel empowered to do their jobs.
2. Integrated technologies will help restaurant managers operate more efficiently
Mobile POS, waitlist apps, delivery apps, pickup apps, mobile ordering, and mobile wallet: as much as restaurant management is focused on people, managers are forever juggling an increasing amount of digital solutions that are supposed to make work easier.
While new technologies are positioned to improve sales and processes, the dance of fragmented systems can get twisted up quickly. If each solution remains self-contained, two issues emerge:
From the waitlist app to the payment app to the delivery app, valuable time is wasted juggling technologies that have no way of talking to each other. The result is a smorgasbord of confusing processes.
Data is fragmented and therefore useless. When systems aren’t speaking the same language, restaurant managers will be stuck comparing apples to chocolate bars to pasta.
The solution: restaurant managers need to make sure their technology solutions integrate with each other. For example, TouchBistro integrates with apps for online ordering (Just Eat), customer loyalty (Smooth Pay), staff scheduling (7Shifts), payment processing (Square, Cayan, Vantiv and Moneris), and accounting (QuickBooks) so that managers don’t waste time manually rekeying information from one app to the next.
3. Raw data will be easier to visualize and interpret
Restaurant managers are now often asked to identify inefficiencies and opportunities in real-time – but the data available to allow for these predictions have been hieroglyphic at best. But there’s good news: automated, visual reporting has improved to the point where they can now be a standard, reliable tool for restaurant managers to make decisions.
Acting on data is now possible, and restaurant managers will be expected to make decisions based on analytics, not pure instinct. This expectation will extend to ordering inventory, anticipating busy nights, identifying best sellers, scheduling staff, catching theft, etc.
Raw data might lead a horse to water, but without the tools to understand and analyze that data, no one will be drinking a sip. Managers will have a responsibility to keep up with data analysis by working it into their day-to-day.
4. The “local movement” will move from nice-to-have to must-have
The consumer penchant for all things local (or “farm-to-table”) has grown alongside the organic, gluten-free, dairy-free movement. The success of apps like the Humane Eating Project are revealing a customer base that is devoted to sustainable, ethical dining practices.
While sourcing local ingredients supports local communities and positive environmental practices, the emphasis on local also places a greater responsibility on management to foster local relationships and change the way they allocate funds. The local movement may also require managers and chefs to reconfigure menus based on available local ingredients.
A number of apps have emerged to help restaurant managers navigate the complexities involved in farm-to-table:
Farms2Tables.com (NYC): This app allows farmers to post products for sale, while buyers can search for products based on farm source, farming method, quality, price and availability. Farms2Tables takes care of all the delivery and billing logistics as well.
Farmstand: Wishing you could search for community farmers markets in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand? The Farmstand app can help you out.
Managers should keep their eyes open for emerging farm-to-table tech, as where there’s a need, you can bet there’s an app on the horizon.
5. Tipping culture has reached a tipping point
Could the longstanding tradition of the tip be cast aside for a wage-based compensation model? Restaurant managers should keep this question in mind as the world’s economy continues to evolve to include discussions of equitable pay.
The trend began in 2015. Restaurant managers have always struggled to adequately compensate kitchen staff, which has ultimately affected their ability to hire and retain them. One solution was to hop aboard the tipless train in an attempt to even out compensation between front-of-house and back-of-house staff. The challenge is to ensure labor costs are balanced.
Some restaurant managers are massaging the disparity by including a 20% service fee on all bills, while others are folding the cost into the price of dishes on the menu. Both have pros and cons: the former risks ruffling customers’ feathers, while the latter risks placing the restaurant at a higher price point in the eyes of the consumer.
Some restaurants who have gone tipless have sought alternative measures to cut costs. The New York Times reported that, “At Huertas, the kitchen staff has shrunk from six cooks to four or five per shift. At Roman’s in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, the bar is no longer always stocked with organic lemons. The Union Square group, with its deep pockets, has begun buying more items in bulk, like paper towels, laundry services and software.” While the jury’s still out, and so are many undecided restaurant staff, tipless might make restaurateurs and staff nervous, but it’s definitely a conversation worth having.
With the rapid onset of change, the restaurant manager role is shouldering more responsibility at a faster rate than ever before. It’s not enough to keep up with the Joneses – surviving this particular tsunami of change means restaurant managers need to become the Joneses.
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