A sizeable 72% of hospitality and pub businesses face closure in 2021, according to research by CGA (the study was commissioned by UKHospitality, the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), and the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII)).
Why is that? A large part is due to cashflow. There are some significant costs lined up for food operators in the coming months. Postponed rents need paying, furlough payments are continuing and there’s a VAT rise looming. All in all, operators can expect above average outlay in the coming months.
Stats like these are worrying for businesses and naturally they want to counter financial challenges. Unfortunately, the way some are choosing to do this is risky. A number of venues are increasing their prices to cover the spiralling costs of operations. Others – in an attempt to protect themselves from excessive cancellations or table no-shows – are over booking table space. Still others, trying to keep costs low, are running with the minimum number of staff necessary and being cautious in stock management.
In each of these cases, there is risk. Inflated costs can be off-putting to consumers, over booking tables can backfire should guests not cancel, and keeping staff and stock low is dangerous during peak service times.
The goal for food and drink operators has to be to increase operational efficiency and minimise costs without causing significant risk to the customer experience. They need to turn tables faster while running as profitably as possible.
Preparing ahead of time
Nothing helps planning ahead like knowing what’s actually ahead.
Brands that make use of an order ahead technology – whether that’s ordering ahead for collection or ordering ahead for on-site dining – can offer such knowledge to the management and kitchen in order to aid pre-prep.
When customers are able to order as far in advance as they want, the kitchen will know what needs to be ready, and when. They can prepare elements of dishes prior to service, with the knowledge that these won’t go to waste, and can thereby reduce the volume of work during service. Being aware of what needs to be ready and timescales also allows the kitchen – and front of house – staff to streamline operations and cope better with real-time orders as they arise.
Point of Sale systems have come a long way in recent years. They have a clear, core purpose but many also boast other useful functions such as inventory tracking, sales and customer data analysis, even staff management.
A good POS system will speed up the order-taking process, sending each table’s order directly to the kitchen display system. And, vecause a digital POS can be integrated with a brand’s accounting system, operators are much better equipped to manage all restaurant operations, including staff communication.
We touched on it in the last section – but data is the key to so many areas of business operations. Yet, it is often under-utilised.
The data provided by a POS, by a kitchen management system or a digital ordering platform is essential for businesses looking to streamline their operations and reduce running costs. It can be used to identify favoured dishes, peaks and micro-peaks in service times and reveal which areas of operations – or individual servers – are not performing to standard. If there’s an area where service can be refined, it will identify it.
Once you have installed fresh technologies you can use data to see the improvements they’ve made. For instance, are in-store service speeds increasing now staff time isn’t taken up with telephone orders? Have customer pre-orders meant you’ve reduced waste?
On-premises digital ordering and payment, whether it’s kiosk, order-to-table or pay-at-table reduces the number of servers needed on a dining room floor. Working with the POS or as a stand-alone solution, the technology sends orders through to the kitchen and allows a business to send automatic updates to the customer.
Because this technology reduces waiting times dramatically, it leads to faster table turns and leads to much happier customers. What’s more, because guests have been proven to spend more via digital platforms, it results in stronger customer revenue streams.
We’d love to say that with the end of lockdown, the risk to businesses has dissipated. Sadly that’s not the case, although brands are certainly in a better position than they were over the Winter. Operational efficiency is key to survival. It will be tough, but by putting the right procedures in place and reviewing operations – without taking unnecessary risks – they can come out of the other side, profitable and with a strong, loyal customer base to boot.