The State of Foodservice Labor on Labor Day 2020

We all know about the challenges the foodservice industry has faced in 2020. No matter what segment of the industry, it appears the way all operators provide service is changing.

In schools, K-12 nutrition directors are pivoting to things like classroom foodservice or individually wrapped foods provided for pick up. In colleges, dining service might shift to a reservation model. And in restaurants, more and more operators are looking toward other models like ghost kitchens to maintain revenues.

These changes have certainly impacted the entire landscape of labor and staffing in the foodservice industry, as well. While some of these changes have been challenging, there are also many positives we can take away from the overall trends we’re seeing, and they can be boiled down to two main areas.

The rise of technology in foodservice

The first thing anyone needs to consider in 2020 is the safety of both staff and customers. By reevaluating the methods of delivery, operators can better prepare employees to provide safe service, and this can ultimately lead to what is arguably the most important factor of all — consumer confidence. The more guests feel safe and confident in how an operation operates, the more guests will frequent an establishment.

Technology is playing a huge roll on this front. By outlining and automating processes, operators can utilize tools like connected kitchens and POS systems to help streamline efficiencies, eliminate points-of-contact, and ultimately enhance safety. In the recent Technomic 2020 Foodservice Technology Consumer Trend Report that was summarized in an article from Restaurant Business, technology will help evolve operators’ relationships with consumers in many different ways:

* Well-designed app-based ordering and payment to reduce friction and increase touch-less service capacity

* Streamlined, in-store ordering capabilities and risk-reduced systems for picking up to-go orders

* Increased use of data and the ability to control all aspects of commercial kitchens remotely with smart, connected commercial kitchens

* Smarter ways to provide delivery service that is safe and efficient while preserving quality

These are just a few examples. And as the report concludes, “Technology is becoming more ingrained in the foodservice industry, transforming concepts, operations and the customer dining experience for on- and off-premise occasions. Technology is also rapidly evolving, forcing brands to constantly innovate existing technologies and/or implement new technology.”

As it pertains to evolution, nothing is more telling than the growing trend of ghost kitchens. While this was a trend even before the outbreak of COVID-19, the current pandemic has fast-tracked many efforts for restaurants to provide service in new ways, and in many cases, those efforts are driven by technology.

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The redistribution of labor

In a recent article from Winsight Grocery Business with the same title of “Redistribution of Labor,” we’re experiencing a shift in how labor was organized across all segments of the foodservice industry. In grocery and retail, for example, there was an immediate cessation of self-serve options, and as we’re seeing on college campuses, in corporate dining, and in the hotel and hospitality segments, buffets are currently on hold.

Things are shifting. According to the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association, there’s been a 50 percent increase in pre-sliced products like meats and cheeses. According to Research and Markets, global food delivery is expected to grow at 3.61% and grow at even higher margins before 2023. This, of course, also ties back in to the first section of this article with technology. Food delivery software is steadily increasing in usage.

Another example is what’s happening to the pizza industry. As the pandemic began, global pizza chains like Pizza Hut and Papa John’s were hiring to help meet demands. In comparison with other segments, the pizza industry saw the lowest declines in sales during those initial, shutdown phases in March.

The bottom line is this, too, shall pass.

Labor and staffing have certainly been impacted in foodservice, but our industry is evolving and adapting to meet changing demands. And when things change, we’ll change again.

Middleby and our family of brands were assembled to provide support no matter what types of services are provided. Our global team of experts can help you find the solutions to help you evolve and adapt, as well.

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Topics: Foodservice Industry Trends, Ghost Kitchen