Restaurants are still trying to fill 2 million jobs, and with a near 10% increase in the cost of food, 92% of restaurant operators are justifiably worried.
It’s been a couple of years since the peak of the pandemic, the state of emergency is over, and it is no longer saturating the news cycle. And while there was no structural damage as a visible reminder of what the world endured, social anxieties, economic upheaval, and a general haze of uncertainty serve as conspicuous reminders.
Worldwide industries were brought to a standstill, and those that had to persevere did so with one arm tied behind their backs. Socializing became public enemy number one, and because the hospitality industry, by its nature, brings people together, it was hit particularly hard. And although eating and drinking establishments are rallying, staffing shortages and prohibitive operational costs due to merciless inflation are causing restaurant owners and operators to pinch pennies in order to keep their doors open and stave off what will most likely be the next great recession. And as simple as it sounds, investing in technology reaps substantial rewards. QR code scan-order-pay unburdens a lean staff, generates revenue and redefines efficiency.
Assessing the damage
The National Restaurant Association, which keeps tabs on the industry, revealed sobering statistics; restaurant and food service sales fell well short of their 2020 pre-pandemic projections by $240 billion. Over 110,000 restaurants closed, either temporarily or permanently. Approximately 2.5 million jobs were lost. And as 2020 came to an end, sales volume dropped to 2014 levels, undoing six years of progress.
In 2023, over 450,000 jobs remain vacant, giving the restaurant industry the dubious distinction of having the largest employment deficit in the United States. And retaining current staff is challenging, to say the least. The average employee turnover rate of 23% has climbed to 32%. And with one dollar now worth 85% of what it was three years ago, employees are demanding higher wages.
Promising predictions and current challenges
On the brighter side, the 2023 State of the Restaurant Industry report forecasts renewed growth and is looking forward to a more profitable status quo. Sales are predicted to reach $997 billion in 2023, with a little help from inflation. And the workforce will grow by 500,000 jobs, reaching 15.5 million by 2023, exceeding pre-pandemic levels.
While most people realize that higher menu prices are a sign of the times, it does little to take the edge off a shockingly high bill. One seemingly surefire method to increase foot traffic is time-tested coupons and promotions. However, there is no unanimous verdict on their effectiveness. A significant 60% of consumers say they are more likely to try something new if they have a coupon, and 46% report they would forego their originally planned purchase to take advantage of a discount. The potential downside is that regular customers may wait for a coupon or promotion before returning to a restaurant they regularly visit.
Some critics hold the opinion that deals and coupons can devalue a restaurant’s brand image. Customers may think twice if coupons seem too desperate by offering too steep of a discount, which may lead them to believe that the regular prices are inflated, in essence, devaluing the typical cost of a meal. Offering “perks” is a better strategy because they are seen as a reward for repeat business, which naturally encourages customer loyalty.
When it comes to the bottom line, coupons and promotions may chip away at profits. It’s all about driving foot traffic and appealing to new customers; if discounts aren’t producing the desired result, it’s time to rethink the strategy.
It’s simple: Scan, order and pay
While blue skies are on the horizon, restaurants must deal with their current reality; an overworked staff and narrowing profit margins. Why not use technology that is already in the hands of 6.92 billion people, 86% of the global population? Smartphones are so ubiquitous that people are left scratching their heads if a business isn’t in some way on board with everyday tech. The restaurant industry is notorious for its slow adaptation of innovative technology, entrusting its success to pen and paper, which is always susceptible to human error.
It’s incredibly simple. Diners scan a barcode at their table using their trusty smartphone, after which they can enjoy an interactive menu, complete with pictures and descriptions of menu items; they place their orders, and upon completion of their dining experience, they pay with one click using a wide variety of payment methods. The virtual menu provides a more synergistic dining experience. It facilitates upselling, offering suggested pairings, specials, and premium cocktail options, which increase the average check amount, leading to larger tips for servers and more revenue for the business. Customers order at their leisure and are able to reorder drinks without having to wave down their server.
Restaurant owners can create tailor-made menus, track customer dining trends, and offer specialized loyalty programs to generate repeat business. Traditional menus have limited information and can be perceived as susceptible to cross-contamination by a post-pandemic customer base. QR code technology minimizes human error, increases order accuracy, and mitigates the potential risks of revenue-leeching fraud and chargebacks.
Leveraging the efficiency of QR code at-table ordering, managers can maximize the number of tables servers can cover while reducing the workload at the same time. Servers can do what they do best and spend more quality time with their guests, improving the overall dining experience for servers and their customers.
Restaurants can realize multiple benefits by integrating technology into their restaurant operations. QR code scan-order-pay technology can support employee satisfaction and wage growth, improve revenue and efficiency, and offer guests a one-of-a-kind dining experience without compromising quality or the personal interactions guests look forward to when dining out.
Brian Duncan is the President of me&u USA. With over a decade of leadership experience in hospitality, Brian is a veteran in the industry with an unrivaled resume that demonstrates disruption through technology. He holds a strong passion for the industry and is determined to build a better future for hospitality.