How Restaurant Automation is Transforming The Industry (And For The Better)

How Restaurant Automation is Transforming The Industry (And For The Better)
D. J. Costantino

By D. J. Costantino

When we think of automation, burger-flipping robots and salad machines come to mind. As exciting as robotics technology is, we're not quite at the point where it will replace human staff in the restaurant workforce. We are, however, at the point where there are a number of exciting tools that use automations to help make the lives of restaurant employees easier and more efficiently.

Technology helps restaurants operate much more efficiently, from intuitive point of sale solutions to mobile scheduling apps and ordering apps that eliminate wait times and improve delivery.

Restaurant staffing is right in the midst of the tech takeover. Restaurant automation has helped, and will continue to help, restaurants improve staff communication, and help employees earn better tips.

Benefits of Automation For Your Restaurant and Staff

Self-ordering kiosks will improve your staff structure

Self-ordering kiosks help quick-service restaurants save on front-of-house labor costs by complementing in-person customer service staff, not by replacing them. Self-ordering kiosks help quick-service restaurants offset rising labor costs with increased revenue.

Often, restaurants forget that self-ordering kiosks increase ordering throughput, which then piles stress onto the back-of-house staff in order to keep up with demand.

Similarly, some restaurateurs assume that self-ordering kiosks will allow them to shrink their workforce on a one-to-one ratio—one kiosk equals one staff member replaced. However, the reality is that they may need to increase back-of-house staff to handle more orders...not a bad problem to have!

The takeaway? Test your restaurant's input and output capacity after installing a self-ordering kiosk so that your kitchen staffing situation stays balanced with the influx of orders.

Automated Scheduling Tools

Making a schedule is a balancing act. With factors like labor costs, time off and availability, sales forecasts, overtime, labor compliance, and staff preferences. If you're making schedules manually on Excel or pen-and-paper, we're talking about hours of work to put together. With scheduling tools like 7shifts auto-scheduler, you can let software handle all of these variables for you.

With automated scheduling tools, all of this information can be used to create schedules that fit the needs of your business—and all you have to do is approve it. Auto-scheduling tools can free up manager time so they can focus on growing their business and working hand-on with their teams.6

7shifts Restaurant Scheduling Dashboard
7shifts restaurant scheduling dashboard

Restaurant Reservation Systems Save Staff Time

In the past, a member of your restaurant team would have to sit on and off the phone all day to receive calls and take down reservations. Thankfully, we're past that phase, and new apps have enabled diners to make reservations right from their phones or laptop.

Beyond saving time, restaurant reservation software prevents human error that may lead to overbooked seats, allows for automated confirmation texts, and helps keep your restaurant full. When you can automate the logistics, you can direct all of that attention towards making the guest experience the best it can be.

Staff communication will free up your manager's time

Here's a scenario you're likely familiar with: It's Saturday night. Your best server calls in sick. Your manager starts calling other servers to see if they can take the shift, but it's taking a long time to find an available substitute. Dinner service is approaching quickly, and it seems that your restaurant is going to be short-staffed for the night. Better get ready to start comping some unhappy customers.

It doesn't have to be that way. Restaurant scheduling software lets servers pick up and trade shifts with nothing more than a tap of a phone screen, which allows your manager to focus on other things, like going above and beyond for your customers.

7shifts mobile app notifications for a new schedule
7shifts mobile app notifications and shift view for a schedule

Restaurant Inventory Automation Can Increase Profits

The restaurant industry is notorious for operating on razor-thin profit margins. Inventory management software is one great resource to help cut down on food waste, food cost and ensure that everything in your back-of-house is streamlined for transparency and profitability.

Restaurant inventory management software digitizes your invoice and purchases, allowing you to better compare costs and make more informed purchasing decisions. Many services also allow you to add your recipes in and calculate actual food costs. Some software will even learn your ordering habits and place orders for you when you're low on something, eliminating guesswork and helping keep your cost of goods sold down and profits, up!

Data dashboards will save you more time and money

Restaurateurs who don't create data-based schedules miss out on money-saving opportunities. Even so, in the past, diligent restaurateurs who loved digging into data had to sift through piles of spreadsheets and spend hours with their accountants to understand the status of their restaurant. Now, your POS should have a comprehensive data analytics dashboard that reports on crucial information at a glance.

Today's POS dashboards allow you to check your labor reports against seasons, holidays, and more, which helps you schedule the right amount of staff at the right time. For example, you may have over-projected your staffing needs during last year's Super Bowl event, and your labor report from that exact day can remind you not to schedule as many bartenders this year.

Data can also help you save in smaller ways that will build up over time. Consider the long-term impact of a leaner staff schedule at 5:00 p.m., when your reports show that your guests are just starting dinner and only ordering drinks. Scheduling the bulk of your kitchen staff just an hour later can save on labor costs in the long run.

7shifts Actuals Report for Restaurants
7shifts Actuals Sales & Labor Dashboard

Kitchen automation for Back of House

Automation doesn't just help the front of house—the kitchen can benefit from modern technology, too. One of the most common and effective ways to modernize your line's workflow is with a Kitchen Display System.

Instead of paper chits piling up, a KDS displays active orders on a screen as they come through the front of house. More than just digitizing paper, many kitchen display systems can help time out courses, display recipes, letting your team of cooks focus on feeding hungry customers.

Increase Tip Amounts—and make managing tips easier

When people go out to eat, they want a great meal and a memorable experience. Technology helps servers fulfill their end of the customer-experience bargain in a few ways:

Upselling

A pen and paper won't do much to remind your server to ask customers to add cheese to their burger. A mobile POS, on the other hand, will prompt servers with pop-up modifiers and tempt customers with tantalizing images. Suggestive selling is also a powerful profit-generating activity that employees can engage in with customers.

Speed

Mobile technology sends orders directly to the bar and kitchen faster than you can say "order up!" Technology cuts down on the trips your servers take across the restaurant, meaning your customers are served quickly and with accuracy.

More Face time

An overtaxed server might struggle to find time to charm customers with a cheerful chat. Technology can help servers work more efficiently, plus it can free them up to enjoy face time with the diners who like a side of friendly conversation with their meal.

A happier customer means a bigger tip for your server, which ultimately equals a happier server. And when your staff are satisfied by the money they're making, they'll be more likely to continue their careers at your restaurant, which translates into lower turnover costs for your business. Everyone wins!

Easier tip pooling

If your restaurant pools tips, tip pooling automation software can make that a lot easier, too. No matter how you divide it up, manual entry is no longer needed—especially when it syncs right from your POS and goes to payroll. No more human error, and hours saved each week!

Restaurant Automation Success Stories

The team at Fresh restaurants was able to use 7shifts sales forecasting to automatically build schedules to 95 accuracy, saving them 12% on labor costs.

Investing in new technologies for your restaurant is an essential part of running your business. Automation offers restaurants an operational edge that can mean the difference between closing up shop within a few years and surviving in a super-competitive market for years to come.

Start using 7shifts today

7shifts is the all-in-one labor platform built for restaurants to simplify employee scheduling and labor management. Easily manage your teams’ schedules, timesheets, communication, tasks, tips and more– all in one place with 7shifts.

Start FREE Trial.

D. J. Costantino
D. J. Costantino

Hi! I'm D.J., 7shifts' resident Content Writer. I come from a family of chefs and a background in food journalism. I'm always looking for ways to help make the restaurant industry better!