The pandemic has drastically altered the way in which restaurants operate. This has become visibly apparent to restaurant guests with the introduction of servers in masks and hand sanitizer stations at every turn. The less visible, but equally important, change restaurants are facing is the shift in how kitchen staff now work together. 

What was previously a bustling back of house space is now a high-risk territory within restaurants, and mandatory safety requirements have skyrocketed beyond any level seen before. This drastic shift is accelerating the demand for high-tech kitchens, as restaurants rapidly adopt technology to accommodate staff shortages caused by the pandemic while keeping guests and employees safe.

With an increase in new COVID cases being traced back to restaurants and hospitality venues, restaurants are facing more pressure than ever before to increase safety protocols. But this turn to technology is proving beneficial to more than just appealing to health inspectors.

What’s happening in the hospitality industry?

Having faced ongoing labour shortages since well before the pandemic hit, restaurants must now leverage technology to address pandemic-related shortages and optimize kitchen operations — or risk permanent closures. While technology isn’t being adopted to replace staff entirely, digitizing kitchens is necessary to fill the gaps as the industry shifts toward the ‘new normal’ of the restaurant experience.

Maintaining social distancing for the back of house proves challenging in kitchens known for their chaotic and crowded nature. While sanitation and food safety have always been of utmost importance in kitchens, the need for enhanced safety measures is amplified by the pandemic.

Considering the current climate, digital solutions are imperative to the health and safety of restaurant cooks, and the survival of their restaurants. Implementing contactless technology like kitchen display systems (KDS) enhances kitchen safety by their very nature — the order appears on a digital screen, replacing the archaic system of passing printed chits down the line and completely negating the need to hand a chit over from the back to front of house upon order completion.

Adopting technology now is crucial to restaurants’ ability to successfully reopen and drive sales, but the right technology could determine the longevity of a restaurant — and the future of restaurants is looking mighty digital.

Of course, even in a pandemic, cooks don’t have the option of slowing down service in favour of additional elbow space. Rather, closed or limited indoor dining has spurred a rise in take-out orders, keeping cooks busy and restaurants in business. This spike in take-out is redirecting dependence on servers to online ordering systems. Taking it a step further, entirely replacing phone orders with online ordering systems can streamline the order-taking process when systems are integrated and orders are sent directly to a KDS. This not only increases the efficiency of the order fulfillment process, it also helps reduce the risk of food waste caused by server errors. This streamlined service provides franchisees with the necessary tools to maintain consistent and reliable service that guests expect across all locations.

How are restaurants coping?

Whether guests are ordering take-out or feeding their isolation fatigue with a dearly missed meal at their favourite restaurant, meeting these demands requires a number of bodies on the line. With cost efficiency and health protocols top of mind, digital solutions can fill the gaps to streamline kitchen operations without needing to increase the number of cooks in the kitchen. Providing consistent, efficient service while adhering to heightened safety measures is a restaurant’s only chance at survival.

The benefits of adopting innovative technology will be seen in a restaurant’s ability to efficiently operate despite major pandemic-related setbacks. Facing low profit margins long before the pandemic, restaurants that have been hard hit by recent closures are leaning into technology as a saving grace. Digital tools like kitchen display systems are already having a drastic impact on restaurants’ bottom lines.

Digitizing operations reduces costly server errors, removes any risk of communication errors between the front and back of house, and ultimately reduces food waste. But this improvement in food preparation efficiency will be most felt on the chaotic back of house kitchen lines where this technology helps ease communication in a traditionally loud kitchen, and provides some relief to what’s typically a stressful job.

As the guest experience continues to shift and kitchens embrace the new normal, successful restaurants will be those that are quick to adopt innovative technologies that improve the kitchen experience.

The pandemic has just served as a wake up call for many restaurants but the changes implemented now are far from short-term. Looking forward, restaurants will continue to rely on kitchen technology long after the pandemic. The restaurant experience is transforming, and digitization is here to stay. As kitchens face the ongoing challenges of meeting new safety standards while keeping up with evolving guest trends, technology is proving to be necessary in restaurants’ survival.

BRITTAIN BROWN – PRESIDENT, GIVEX

Since joining Givex in 2003, Brittain Brown has held various managerial roles in the National Accounts and Operations divisions and has been responsible for some of the company’s largest client successes. As President, Brown has driven Givex’s international expansion efforts and overseen the successful acquisition of new additions to the Givex family of companies. His leadership and passion for people have been instrumental in the company’s explosive growth.

High Tech Restaurants: The Future of Kitchens is Digital

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