Although the hospitality industry looks like it’s on the road to recovery, it’s predicted that most businesses won’t be back to their 2019 figures until 2023.
This rather grim outlook means we need to find ways to accelerate this recovery, and one of the best ways to do this is by investing in technology, says Jackie Middleton, Director at Melbourne eatery chain EARL Canteen.
Together with her husband, Jackie manages six EARL stores, with two new locations under development. They also run catering services and commissary kitchens and are in the process of launching a new brand, Dame, a premium cafe model.
Although their businesses have taken a hit during the pandemic, Jackie is optimistic about their road to recovery.
“Even though we’re in Melbourne, the most locked-down city in the world, we managed to bounce back quite well. Back in May 2020, we were back to 75% as a group,” she says.
This swift recovery is certainly due to a number of factors, but one of the most important is having the right technology in place to help streamline processes, automate routine tasks, and provide a better customer experience.
Here are five technologies that have helped Jackie and her team on their road to recovery.
1. EFT solution
Tapping to pay has become second nature today but it wasn’t long ago we were fumbling around with coins and notes.
“I remember when we started in business 12 years ago, 80 to 90% of our transactions were cash,” Jackie says. “The rest were credit card transactions but we didn’t even have a POS that was integrated with the machine. Twice a day we’d be going to the bank to get coins or depositing cash.”
After lockdown, some of Jackie’s sites have re-opened as cashless venues, others with very limited cash transactions. As well as minimising trips to the bank and eliminating the need for safe boxes, contactless payment is also an important health and safety measure.
“It’s really important for food hygiene. Being cashless is much more COVID-safe and that’s something we’re going to need to continue to focus on.”
2. Music streaming service
Music may be one of those things that can go unnoticed, but in fast-paced venues like EARL Canteen, Jackie says having the right music is incredibly important.
“Background music can take the edge off what can otherwise be quite an aggressively sounding space - with jarring bangs of coffee machines and grinders constantly running - good music can really take the edge off the whole queuing process.”
Instead of spending time putting together playlists, Jackie advises to either buy pre-made playlists or hire someone to help you develop some.
“For our new venues we’ve engaged someone to develop a playlist for us,” she explains. “They’re working with us to identify the right style and they’ll continue to update the playlists as new music comes out.”
3. Scheduling tool
Having a reliable scheduling tool has been one of the biggest productivity gains for Jackie and her team, who manage around 50 employees across their venues.
“Having a scheduling tool saves us a lot of hassle,” she says.
“When team members are starting and finishing, we don't have to deal with pieces of paper and managers checking things off. It helps minimise mistakes like staff logging in and out at wrong times. And if someone calls in sick, we can open that shift to see who wants to take it That saves our managers texting or calling people to fill that shift - sometimes it can just take care of itself.”
Looking at the businesses’ productivity percentages helps Jackie and her team gauge whether they're scheduling correctly.
“Through our POS system I can see transactions coming through and what the take for the day is,” Jackie says. “If I see a really high number, I know they’re probably short-staffed and can quickly adjust the roster to add more staff on tomorrow.”
It also allows her to look at sales trends and forecast predicted demand and staffing needs.
“At the moment with COVID, we’re finding Mondays and Fridays are less busy. In the past, if a Thursday was really busy we’d usually put extra people on for Friday - but now we can see these trends we can staff more accurately.”
“Our management team are able to make those types of decisions by looking at data. It’s much more sophisticated rather than just crystal balling,” she says.
4. Cloud-based accounting system
As a small business, having cloud-based accounting software has been essential for Jackie and her team to manage their finances.
“My husband and I run the business together without a lot of accounting support, so we need technology to help us cut down on the admin side of things and make sure people get paid,” she says.
“Using a cloud-based accounting system means payroll is just a couple of hours of work each week. It’s saved us from doing a lot of those repetitive tasks over and over again.”
5. Online ordering system
Not long ago, the majority of Jackie’s catering orders were emailed through. Jackie and her team soon moved to an online ordering system, but there was still data entry that needed to be done. It wasn’t until they implemented an integrated system that they started to see some real productivity gains.
“Once someone orders, the only thing that my team need to do is a quick check. The rest of it's all taken care of including payment which makes it clean for customers and limits data entry mistakes.”
“It also integrates with our ordering processes so the team can just print a report and we can see what the products we need which is normally an incredibly time-consuming process.”
And while it may seem like a big investment, for Jackie and her team it has paid off.
“It's one of those things that felt like a lot of money when we got the quote for it, but once we did the maths, we found that it’s saved us the equivalent employing of a full-time person.”
“Plus, the system never has a sick day!” she points out.
Enhancing the human connection
For Jackie and her team, using technology hasn’t meant taking away the human touch.
“I don’t feel like technology can ever take away what our customers enjoy about the business - which is that human connection,” she says
If anything, Jackie says, it’s strengthened it.
“Because things are automated I can actually spend more time talking to someone about a wine or I can have a nice chit chat with someone over a coffee machine because I don't have to worry about the dockets coming in for example.”
Using technology also means Jackie’s staff aren’t locked away in a back office, tied to a screen. “It’s allowing us to work smarter and focus on the important things like smiling and engaging with customers, and that’s something technology can never replace,” she says.
Jackie and the EARL Canteen team are one of 250,000 customers who use Deputy everyday to simplify shift work. To see if a scheduling tool could help you on your road to recovery, sign up for a free trial of Deputy.