As businesses all over the country are discovering first hand, quickly rising inflation impacts everything from inventory costs to employee wages to utility bills — in an industry where low margins are common even in good times, the impact can be devastating.
It can feel daunting to figure out a plan for survival, but there are strategic steps QSR and fast casual restaurant operators can take to not only survive, but thrive, even in a challenging economy.
These four tips will inspire you to take a fresh look at a few high-impact operational approaches.
1. Provide online order and delivery.
Over the past few years, diners have flooded restaurants with online orders. While third parties like DoorDash and Uber Eats have emerged as dominant delivery partners, savvy restaurants are bringing these services inhouse.
QSR and fast casual owners can tap into a whole new channel with an automated, first-party ordering and delivery hub while eliminating third-party fees that deeply cut into profits. Plus, when orders are handled in house from first click through delivery, restaurants retain much more control over the customer experience.
2. Optimize your menu.
Supply chain woes on top of inflated ingredient prices means it’s time to get a little creative with your menu and to pinpoint the menu items that are delivering the best return. Here are three ways you can take a fresh look at your menu:
Tap into your POS, online ordering interface, or other resources that detail expenses and purchases and remove menu items that aren’t selling well. A leaner, more streamlined inventory will cut down on expenses immediately.
Analyze your most expensive ingredients. Could you replace any with cheaper alternatives? Reserve them for once-weekly specials instead of keeping large stores on hand?
Consider cutting some meat from your menu. Plant-forward options are becoming more popular due in part to the supply chain issues that have plagued the industry since 2020, as these products are generally more sustainable and require fewer environmental resources.
Not only are there supply chain benefits for introducing plant-forward menu items, but there has been a marked increase in consumer spending on plant-based meat alternatives — by some accounts, demand has grown more than twice as fast as overall food sales.
3. Leverage technology.
Online order and delivery hubs and POS systems can give operators access to sales and inventory analytics and reduce many front- and back-of-house stressors. For example, investing in self-ordering technology reduces the need for cashiers and order takers.
These systems can also improve accuracy and guest experience thanks to less time standing in line and more customer control over order customizations.
An inventory management system is another investment that can help shore up costs, especially when it is integrated with other restaurant technology. Having a clearer picture of your stock can be the difference between throwing out expired, unused ingredients and incorporating them into menu specials before they go bad.
Better inventory management can also help you eliminate menu items that are leading to more waste.
4. Adjust labor and operating hours.
Just as it’s key to keep a keen eye on inventory management, your big picture view should include a close look at labor and open hours. You can analyze sales data to adjust staffing needs and to determine how your peak hours ebb and flow. Shaving off unprofitable hours can add up quickly.
A bloated staff might be adding stress in the form of reduced hours across the board, too. Consider whether a leaner staff where employees have more hours might be more productive (and happier) than a larger staff of employees who only work a few hours and supplement with additional part time jobs. Sales data can help you with these decisions, as well.
Who says you can’t thrive in the face of rising inflation?
Take back control over QSR or fast casual restaurant operations with the Onosys in-house ordering platform (and stop handing over commissions to third parties who don’t know or care much about your customers).
Onosys will give you more control over branding, guest satisfaction, inventory management and more, all while delivering data insights you can use to improve customer loyalty — even when the economy is tough.