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How Technology & AI can support restaurant operators overcome the labour crisis

How Technology & AI can support restaurant operators overcome the labour crisis

9th November 2022
7 mins read

I - What’s up with the market?

1) In numbers

Christmas is just 6 weeks away, and everyone is getting ready for what should be the busiest period of the year!

However, according to new research by Haysmacintyre, 81% of operators aren’t optimistic about the prospects of their own businesses due to various ongoing challenges.

The surge in energy bills and food price inflation, coupled with a severe labour shortage, makes the end of 2022 one of the most difficult periods to overcome for the industry.

A new Lumina Intelligence report suggests the UK restaurant market will recover 94% of its 2019 pre-pandemic value in 2022.

Despite this, many businesses have had to make harsh decisions to increase menu prices, downsize menu offerings, reduce opening hours and put projects on hold.

But how is labour shortage impacting the industry?

2) Labour shortage: one key challenge

Whilst operators can act internally to find solutions, it is difficult to be proactive on the labour issue.

According to the most recent Office of National Statistics numbers, there are up to 174,000 vacancies in the hospitality industry (source from July 2022).

The most affected roles are the two most vital in running a restaurant: chefs and front-of-house staff.

Of those operators with vacancies, the survey suggested that 81% are struggling to fill front-of-house roles, and 76% for chefs.

It seems that the staffing issue is not going away any time soon. And operators will have to be resilient in facing these challenges.

Chef Jason Atherton recently described the problem: “I can't open the Berners Tavern at lunchtime because I have no staff. I can only open for breakfasts for hotel guests. Social Eating House is on its knees. I just can't get any chefs for that kitchen whatsoever…"

3) The dilemma

Increasing costs have made running a restaurant very expensive, pushing operators to take harsh operating decisions.

At the same time - short-staffed - operators have prioritised front-of-house, customer-centric operations, making it harder for them to monitor and track the impact of their decisions.

This is creating a catch 22.

What if technology could be part of the solution?

It could act as the bridge:

  • Taking away some of the workload from the most affected members of staff (chefs and front of house).
  • Helping maintain smooth operations, keeping info flowing back to the management team.

So, how could this be implemented in theory? How could technology support key team members whilst keeping operations running well?

At the moment it is difficult for us to plan ahead, we just want to get through that period, and customers are our priority,’ said an Exec-chef who recently spoke with Mise En Place. He then elaborated on how this can affect operational monitoring
‘At the same time, we can hardly rely on accurate information [data] - I’ve got new staff starting every week, lacking training on our systems, and it requires so much data entry and monitoring to maintain smooth systems…. So unless we see big variances, we take it as good enough.’

This is an illuminating look into the ways in which these shortages are being experienced in operations and affecting key business insights.

II - Smooth operations VS short-staffed: the vicious cycle

Though our article will focus largely on optimising staff resources for enhancing back office tasks and operations, we do so with a keen awareness that staff are key to serving customers and are already stretched very thin.

We’ll draw a picture of how and where key staff members are involved across every part of the business.

Then, we’ll point out how technology & AI could be applied to maintain smooth data flow in order to track & optimise operations.

1) The flow of goods

Tracking the flow of goods (food & beverages) and the steps necessary to move them between each stage is a great way we used to understand where improvements could be made and how it would support teams.

Let’s take the journey of a burger patty:

A burger patty is (1) ordered and then received from suppliers. It is then (2) stored and later (3) transformed (prepared and cooked) by chefs, before finally being (4) sold to customers.

Each distinct step of the journey contains info that needs to be recorded through different platforms by different people:

a) From supplier to restaurant:

A PO (Purchasing Order) is sent to a supplier, who sends goods and an invoice in return. This needs to be approved by a team member, before being added to a back-office and/or an accounting solution, before being reviewed by a manager and an accountant.

At least 3 people (a chef, an accountant, a manager) need to be involved in the process, and 2 or 3 systems.

b) Inside the restaurant

Goods are received, stored, transformed and sold. It involves tasks such as:

  • Taking temperatures of goods on deliveries.
  • Checking deliveries and items
  • Storing these items
  • Creating preparations lists to transform the items
  • Recording processes
  • Conducting stocktake (if not sold)
  • Recording wastage and errors

…And of course, cooking food and serving it to the customers!

2) Supplementing the flow of your people

This is a simplistic model of some of the major tasks involved in the day-to-day running of a restaurant, and we can see that most of them are done by either chefs or the front of house team.

In this current climate, operators who have shifted the focus to customers, may have left aside some of these tasks that could be seen as secondary, to free up these key staff members..

Well, what if technology could alleviate some of these tedious tasks through automation?

III - The solution

Ultimately, keeping information flowing back smoothly is the key to monitoring actions put in place to overcome rising costs. Making informed changes is the best way to keep afloat during these difficult times.

So, let’s uncover 4 ways technology and AI could be leveraged to take away some of the workload from staff members whilstkeeping healthy data flowing back.

1) Supplementing workloads

💡 Digital ordering & payment

Digital ordering & payments come in many different forms: kiosk, mobile, QR code, online… they are a great way of leveraging technology and shifting some of the front of house team’s workload - letting the customers do the heavy-lifting.

While these settings cannot be applied the same way to every business model (no one would expect a kiosk in a fine dining restaurant), it can still be creatively applied: for example, a fine dining restaurant using a QR code menu to offer a video note from the chef - wouldn’t that be nice?

💡 Forecasts

Forecasts can cover many things: Labour forecasts, Sales forecasts, Procurement forecasts, Production forecasts…

While these types of data are usually used at the management level - giving some visibility to team members can help them be better prepared and alleviate stress. A runner doesn’t have the same mindset for a 10 km and a 40 km - the same applies for a service or prep day.

💡 Suggestive functionalities

These are functionalities that rely on past data and variables OR rules set by the operators. They can include Suggestive procurement, Suggestive production lists and Suggestive tasks.

Ex: Suggestive procurement - ordering can be quite time consuming and quite hard, even more when teams are bigger. But technology can offer support by letting you know that there are 5 burgers left and can expect to sell ~20 tomorrow.

Should someone order 20 / 30 / 70? A good suggestion would be to order 35 or 40 just to have you covered!

A similar process can be followed with Production lists or Tasks lists - technology can support teams in their day to day jobs by suggesting what needs to be done.

2) Self-maintaining solution powered by technology & AI

Or how our self-maintaining databases solution helps operators save 20+ hours of admin per month per location.

We’ve spoken about how technology can be used to alleviate some of the workload for your team members.

However, two keys elements in an optimal solution remain:

  • How to make sure information flows smoothly between systems.
  • How to ensure the accurate information is flowing through your systems.

Let’s explore how technology & AI can enable a high quality flow of information, without overburdening your staffing resources:

2.1) Single Source Of Truth

What is SSOT?

💡 Did you know?
The recent two-way integration between Misenplace & Deliverect allows users to:
- Manage and push products on Misenplace to Deliverect
- Pull sales data from Deliverect to Misenplace

SSOT is a concept that an organisation can apply as part of its information architecture to ensure that everyone in the organisation uses the same data when making business decisions.

The benefits of this architecture are:

  1. Increased efficiency
  2. Improved communication
  3. Better reporting

Every organisation should ensure and optimise the flow of info between different systems.

2.2) Your data: Self-maintaining solutions powered by AI

What do we mean by self-maintaining databases?

Over the course of rolling out our platform, we realised two things:

  • Our onboarding time was between 4 to 8 weeks, which included a lot of back and forth between users, suppliers and countless hours of data entry on both ends.
  • Once the data was uploaded to Mise En Place’s platform, maintaining these databases was time consuming and usually done by chefs or front of house staff, who, in all honesty, didn’t have the time or the desire to do so.

These two issues, particularly database maintenance, had a big impact on running operations and producing reports.

Over the past year, we’ve developed a solution to supplement our user’s workforce in this regard, allowing them to:

1. Be self-onboarded and access all their supplier items
Our solution, powered by AI, learns from your purchasing habits and automatically builds user databases for each supplier.

2. Match POs & Invoices
Lastly, one job that everyone hates is going through invoices and making sure the accounting team has all the data on time!

3. Have self-maintaining databases
Once up and running, our solution is able to keep up-to-date information on variables including items, quantities and at all times, making sure you are updated on all your suppliers.

4. Integrate with accounting solutions.
Send approved invoices directly to your Accounting solution such as Xero, Quickbook or Sage and save tim

Here are the 3 major benefits:

  • Reduce admin time by up to 20 hours per month per site.
  • Connect departments and speed up process: reduce human-error, improve communication and efficiency between team members.
  • Improve decision-making by allowing managers to rely on accurate data.

Our solution is just one of various ways that technology & AI and can help you improve your information and data without sacrificing valuable time and staff resources.


The future of hospitality will be made up of:

  • A mix between human resources and technology, where both work in harmony.
  • Data at the centre of every-decision.
  • Flawless connectivity between systems.

Getting a head start now in these areas could not only help you to take the edge off during these times of staffing crisis, but will also position you perfectly for the hospitality industry of the future.

If you think your business could benefit from our solution, let’s have a chat at contact@misenplace.ai