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A combination of hardware and software will revolutionize operating protocols.

How Full-Service Restaurants Can Thrive in the Mobile Era

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A movement is afoot in the fast-growing sectors of the full-service space to upgrade operating technology.
By Aaron Cohen March 2018 Expert Insights

Hairnets and name tags will make a triumphant return to my household this summer. I have two teenagers and restaurant work beckons. But Generation Z runs their entire life—from homework to paying for movie tickets—on their phones. How will the restaurant industry, which counts millions of teenagers as employees, alter its workflow for a mobile generation?  

Grown-up technologies have penetrated the full-service market. We process reservations, assign seating, and manage take-out orders digitally. Strangely, to manage the kitchen and facility, restaurants use clipboards and manuals. My kids don’t read paper documents. They use apps.

No matter how much technology creeps into the core dining experience, millions of millennial and Generation Z employees will be handed paper-based materials to learn and manage the core operations of the restaurant. Doing a line check? Hand me the redbook. Checking the temperature of the chicken? Here’s a pen, write it down. Bathrooms clean? Mark a check on a paper chart. For most restaurant team members, the clipboard is so outdated that it might as well be an 18th century schoolhouse slate.  

A movement is afoot in the fast-growing sectors of the full-service space to upgrade operating technology. A combination of hardware and software will revolutionize operating protocols because the employees will be working with native digital tools. A new wave of enabling technologies provide continuous, collaborative mechanisms to ensure that every employee makes a perfect plate of spaghetti carbonara that tastes exactly as it should and was prepared under the safest of conditions.   

Sensors made by industry stalwarts Cooper Atkins or upstarts like Thermador can eliminate the problems of properly reading and recording a temperature log. Bluetooth thermometers already perform and WiFi will meaningfully arrive in market this year. A variety of companies are designing digital solutions to make the redbook a thing of the past. Now managers and line employees can use company-approved hardware to run store openings and closings. No more pencil whipping.  Data can be recorded digitally and stored in real-time, using the Cloud. A restaurant manager in Louisville, Kentucky, can know that the store closing check was done in Peoria, Illinois. And the franchisee can kiss the paper form and its accompanying printing and storage costs goodbye. And that’s important since my son, his friends, and your millennial and Gen Z workforce don’t file. They press save.

No industry suffers from greater turnover than our nation’s eateries. The never-ending struggle of training gets easier when you use workflow apps that reinforce the best practices of training. Place your training content (especially video) adjacent to your opening and closing lists. Take advantage of apps that let you create a multimedia training manual that every employee can have on their phone—and easily refer to, as needed. Require your teams to watch safety videos as refreshers when they are in the front of the house or on breaks. Measure those views and study if a correlation between guest satisfaction and additional video training exists.  With software on mobile devices, your training efforts become data points that can be measured and evaluated.

But perhaps the biggest opportunity that operating technologies can provide is to disseminate expertise. Let’s examine safety. Most of the industry uses two approaches for food safety. Chains typically hire third-party auditors to check their facilities and require management to conduct safety and quality checks at predetermined intervals. Employees rarely engage with safety procedures after their initial trainings. The industry uses a hierarchical approach to enforcing compliance. Continuous and collaborative technologies can expose the expertise within the safety community to many more employees by using apps on phones to teach and reinforce the best procedures. If a team member is on their way to work and you can nudge them with a notification to wash their hands before their shift, or make sure their colleagues are healthy, then we will experience fewer norovirus outbreaks and other foodborne safety issues.

Aaron Cohen co-founded CoInspect to make food safer and filing cabinets obsolete. CoInspect software powers food safety, quality assurance, and standards management for restaurants and food manufacturers. The company's obsession:  Make software that is fast, flexible, and easy-to-use.  For more information, visit www.coinspectapp.comor reach him at aaron@coinspectapp.com.