- Technology can help restaurants optimize their menus based on sales and availability, empowering them to make better decisions.
- With online management systems, waitlist kiosks and QR codes for menus, operators can speed up table turns and free up employees’ time.
By Dirk Izzo, President & General Manager, NCR Hospitality
Americans love their pizza, and over the years, we have seen staple pizzerias expand their menus to satisfy diners’ favorite food cravings. However, with the U.S. consumer price inflation index hitting 7.5%—a four-decade high—pizza restaurant operators are struggling to keep their pizzerias adequately staffed and stocked with the right ingredients to toss a pie or serve up a helping of crispy wings.
From unavailability of goods to rising food prices to a shortage of workers, the COVID aftershock is pervasive. Still, with the right technology mix, pizzerias are pushing through challenging times and finding success.
Staffing Up During the Labor Shortage
The National Restaurant Association reports restaurants today remain 824,000 jobs below their February 2020 pre-pandemic employment peak.
Today’s labor market is cut-throat. It’s not uncommon for employees to quit when a neighboring pizzeria offers $1 an hour more or lets them choose their own shifts or tap into something like on-demand pay, which allows employees to access wages right after they’re earned rather than waiting for payday.
Attracting and keeping talent is key to providing stellar customer experiences and ensuring operations are efficient. Many restaurants use staffing companies to fill positions, while others are hiring gig workers—think Uber or Lyft for restaurants—to work shifts on short notice. These temporary team members allow pizzerias to scale up or down based on the day’s orders and enables you to provide the service your guests expect with less overstaffing.
Using technology can also help address labor issues and reduce costs. With online management systems, waitlist kiosks and QR codes for menus, operators can speed up table turns and free up employees’ time. Restaurants can also optimize table utilization with real-time information on what tables need to be cleared and put staff where they are needed most.
Creating New Menu Items
National ingredient shortages, coupled with an absence of truck drivers in the market, continues to result in significant delivery delays or a lack of certain foods in pizza restaurants. In fact, pizza joints are often having to get creative with their menus.
Technology can help restaurants optimize their menus based on sales and availability, empowering them to make better decisions. Having a consistent view of what items are selling and what is affordable and available allows operators to better understand how their menus are performing, know when to pivot, and, sometimes, when to “86” something that just isn’t working.
A creative menu can be a great thing, but marrying that creativity with data can boost success and maintain the bottom line.
Embracing Technology as Key to Future Success
Regardless of shortages, whether food items or talent, technology is no longer a nice-to-have—it’s a must-have for pizza restaurateurs. Automation included.
Let’s talk Domino’s. In the Houston metro area, the American multinational pizza restaurant chain has paired with Nuro to deliver pizzas and other menu items using autonomous robots. Another well-known brand, Little Caesar’s, has patented its pizza-making robots.
Aside from robots, in general, restaurant automation is becoming more common because it enables brands to rely less on humans and the up-and-down, dynamic job market.
Restaurant-specific point-of-sale (POS) systems can automate tasks throughout the pizzeria to allow employees to tackle customer-facing duties. Further, digital POS systems empower pizza joints to track customer spending habits and understand what they’re buying and what they’re not buying. It can reveal the best days of the week for delivery, pick-up, drive-through and dine-in sales. Armed with that knowledge, pizza places can make better decisions around ordering, discounts and staffing.
Making the Best of Inevitable Change
As the pandemic trails off into the distance in the rear-view mirror, new challenges will continue to emerge. They always do in the pizza business, but restaurant-specific tech solutions can make things simpler. They can help create flexible, scalable menus, gain a better grip on staffing issues, and assist with pointing out ingredient shortages so you can come up with replacements to help please your customers’ palettes for pizza.