How Restaurant Kitchen Automation Can Optimize Labor and Improve Customer Service One of the biggest challenges since the global pandemic began has been the lack of available workforce, particularly in the restaurant and hospitality industry. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for the Leisure and Hospitality space, businesses have had to make up for this by increasing hourly wages by nearly 24 percent, or up to $5/hour, since July of 2020. According to most experts, however, there’s still a considerable lack of available labor as restaurants are faced with constant turnover.

While some foodservice businesses are adjusting by adding more automated solutions like self-serve ordering stations or robotic servers, it creates an inherent problem— hospitality is about human interaction and making customers feel like they are cared for. Implementing these programs takes away from that experience. Some of the most recognizable brands in the industry, whether it’s quick service and Chick-fil-A, full service and Ruth’s Chris, or hospitality and the Four Seasons, are all about the personalized interaction that only the human experience can provide.

By implementing back-of-the-house solutions that take away tedious and menial tasks, it can allow the staff to focus on more customer-centric tasks. Automating cooking oil and hood and flue cleaning can be two of the best ways to help optimize labor by reallocating talent and providing a better customer experience. It can also boost employee morale and, in turn, increase employee retention, and maximize efficiency in your restaurant.

Labor Satisfaction – Employee Retention Now more than ever, business owners and managers are putting employee satisfaction at the forefront of their goals and values, and one of the keys to business success has always been about finding the right people and keeping them, but it’s even more amplified now in the current labor market.

As a matter of fact, the National Restaurant Association reported that 78 percent of restaurant operators do not have enough employees with the industry having more than 1 million unfilled jobs (as of 2022), with 75 percent of employees planning to leave their job in the next year.

An unhappy employee means that one foot is practically out the door but eliminating some of the dirtiest jobs through kitchen automation, such as cooking oil or hood and flue cleaning, can increase employee satisfaction and keep them in-house. The implementation of such solutions is two-fold: increase job satisfaction and boost employee morale by sending a message that you’re an owner or manager (or corporation) who cares about them.

In an industry that is bleeding for good talent, every piece of the puzzle, no matter how big or small it may seem, can make all the difference—and that difference can often mean thousands of dollars.

Labor Availability – Safer Workplaces Mean Employees can keep working. There’s a common saying that the best ability is availability. Eliminating tough and dirty jobs like cooking oil management or hood and flue cleaning can, in most cases, also eliminate the most dangerous jobs which reduces the amount of workers’ compensation claims. This keeps your employees safer, can help lower insurance costs by reducing risk, and optimize efficiency by keeping the employees you have working.

The National Safety Council estimates that more than 25,000 slip-and-fall accidents occur every day in the U.S., with most occurring due to oil or a type of liquid substance on the floor. On average, there are four workers’ compensation claims per restaurant every year with the average claim costing nearly $60,000 (adjusted for inflation from a 2016 study). That’s a total of $240K per year, and that’s not even accounting for the loss of the employee while he or she is out on medical leave.

Additional risks to cooking oil management also include oil burns, which can be one of the biggest hazards in the kitchen and one of the worst injuries that can happen in the foodservice industry. By automating cooking oil management, business owners can all but eliminate the risk of employees receiving burns from handling cooking oil.

In addition, nearly 6,000 restaurant fires are reported annually to the US Fire Administration with cooking equipment accounting for 61 percent of those fires. With the power of hood & flue cleaning automation, foodservice businesses can eliminate the need for additional hood cleaning labor while also keeping your employees, customers, and restaurant space safer from fires.

In an industry where margins can often be razor thin, every dollar matters, and automating back-of-the-house tasks can add up to a lot of dollars both seen and unseen.

The Power of Kitchen Automation

Those who have gone to a recent National Restaurant Association show in Chicago will quickly come to realize that the industry trends are heading towards automation if they haven’t already. While automation can optimize efficiency with shortages in the labor market, it can also mean the loss of human interaction.

With back-of-the-house solutions, business owners and managers can allocate staff to customer-centric tasks and elevate service levels without it feeling like other responsibilities are falling by the wayside. Always remember the most important part of your business when looking at solutions for your business—your customers Source: FSR.


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