Although operational challenges are tougher than ever, operators still have sights set on growth, according to a Crunchtime research study, which revealed that 96% of respondents were planning unit expansion over the next 12-to-18-months. Conducted by EnsembleIQ from May to July of 2023, the study was based on an anonymous survey of restaurant industry professionals operating a minimum of 10 locations. The pool of 202 respondents included owners, c-suite executives, senior managers and directors with decision-making authority or influence across full-service, fast casual and quick-service restaurants, according to a company press release.
In order to expand, operators said the needed to:
- Reduce food costs: 74% of operators said they were aiming to reduce food costs in the next 12-18 months. Strategies for reducing food costs centered around inventory-related processes, including but not limited to, recipe management, vendor relationships and menu optimization.
- Improve employee scheduling: Nearly 40% of shifts are insufficiently staffed, underscoring the growing complexity of labor scheduling. Four out of 10 respondents were looking to improve sales forecast data to optimize staff scheduling. Operators said employees and their managers spent nearly eight hours each week per location creating and managing schedules, which creates a drag on productivity.
- Execute tasks and procedures in stores: Operators estimated that improving operations execution could increase sales by an average of 22%. Another 53% panned to add or upgrade food safety and operations execution technology.
- Accelerate employee proficiency: Operators want employees trained one week faster. It currently takes new employees an average of 19 days to become shift-ready, and operators want this reduced to 12 days. . Less than half of the operators strongly agreed that they had a good handle on training and development, and 53% will invest in training programs or technology in the next 12 to 18 months.
“To be positioned for future growth, restaurant brands need to focus on two key operational levers — getting a tight handle on profitability and creating a great guest experience–across every location,” John Raguin, CEO of Crunchtime, said in the release. “The research findings show there are still tremendous opportunities to improve operations in terms of food cost, staffing, task execution, and training.”
Fewer than one-fourth of operators self-identified as “advanced” in their use of tech across key tasks/functions. On average, respondents use an average of six different back-of-house operations-related software solutions/tools/apps regularly. Half or more planned to add or upgrade back-of-house restaurant technologies, including business intelligence (63%), inventory management (60%) and labor scheduling (56%).
“It’s clear that multi-unit restaurants are poised for growth, but they are still juggling a variety of challenges that need to be addressed,” Beth Brickel, VP of Research, EnsembleIQ, said in the release. “Leveraging technology continues to be a key strategy for overcoming obstacles to growth.”
Crunchtime software is used in over 125,000 locations to manage inventory, staff scheduling, learning and development, food safety, operational tasks and audits.