How effective task management drives positive company culture

How effective task management drives positive company culture

We recently released our guide to retail task management – and now we’re taking a step back to explore why (and how) effective task management is so critical to the success of retail organizations. First up: we’re looking at how effective task management can drive positive company culture. 

The success rate and growth trajectory of any retail organization rises and falls with the performance levels of its employees. It’s a truth recognized by anyone who’s ever worked within the industry – one that’s been accepted since the earliest days of retail. It’s also recently become a relatively well-established fact that employee performance is strongly linked to company culture. 

And according to Stephen O’Keefe, industry expert and Founder of retail consultancy Bottom Line Matters, one of the most important ways to feed into the development of a positive organizational culture is effective task management.

“When all management and employees are on the same page, working together toward the same goals and objectives, a shared sense of pride results,” O’Keefe explains. “From the perspective of a team, if this is the case, with some focus and dedication, everything else follows.”

The importance of developing and maintaining a positive company culture in order to unlock retail success is not lost on O’Keefe, who believes that an organization’s culture permeates everything about the store and brand, impacting the experience and perception for both employees and customers.

Furthermore, O’Keefe believes that instilling a strong task management mindset among staff is critical as staffing issues, supply chain constraints, inflation and other challenges are impacting retailers’ ability to grow and thrive. 

And when they come together? Retailers are unstoppable. 

Here are 4 ways effective task management drives a positive company culture: 

1. Staff have a clearer understanding of roles and responsibilities (theirs, and others)

Defining employees’ duties and the behavior that’s expected from them in a clear and concise manner is the first step in organizing a team for optimized output and performance.

“Making sure that employees know what their individual roles and responsibilities are is an absolute must when it comes to overall retail success. Task management is really the only way to most effectively ensure that this happens, making the onboarding of fresh talent seamless and efficient,” explains O’Keefe.

Furthermore, a recognition of the work being executed by the entire team leads to better results.

“When you can organize your staff, getting them all on the same page with respect to the contributions of the entire team and how it all links together to produce positive outcomes, a greater appreciation for the work of fellow colleagues and associates is inevitable, and often results in increased performance and satisfaction.” 

2. Organizations see a boost in employee morale 

There’s no doubt that a happy employee is a productive employee. But their happiness in this sense is really only made possible through an understanding of their contribution.

“It’s rewarding for employees when they know how the task that they’re responsible for is contributing to the overall goal of the team and organization. To actively participate in achieving an objective, and to understand why their contribution is important, is critical and significantly increases morale among staff,” says O’Keefe. 

3. Workers are encouraged and empowered to drive collaboration and innovation

Effective task management empowers and enables employees, often eliciting significant discretionary effort from them. 

“Because task management re-enforces a culture in which everyone plays a part, it’s easier for everyone to see how their tasks and responsibilities impact the entire team,” says O’Keefe. “It leads to enhanced collaboration among colleagues and provides a catalyst for innovative thinking and problem-solving, encouraging staff to go above and beyond the requirements of their jobs.”

4. It provides a “roadmap” for coming together during crisis or challenging times

O’Keefe goes on to explain that in addition to the overwhelming benefits that organizations reap from the use and maintenance of effective task management and the ways in which it drives an engaged and inspired culture, it can also serve as a roadmap of sorts, helping retail staff avoid ruinous potholes.

“Effective task management actually goes a long way toward supporting risk management efforts. When you provide clarity and have removed ambiguity for staff, giving them visibility into the overall objective, their performance increases,” explains O’Keefe. 

“But where it becomes incredibly productive is when a variable is introduced into a timeline of tasks. These variables typically derail most retailers. But when everyone has visibility into the end-goal, they’re able to address the variable and overcome it as they would a small hurdle. Task management allows teams to adapt very quickly and still deliver positive results. If you’re following directions but don’t know where you’re going, it’s impossible to adapt to disruption. Task management provides that roadmap and visibility for teams to follow in order to arrive at their destination.”

When retailers leverage task management to drive company culture, it can result in myriad benefits. 

First, it can drive increased customer satisfaction. Once a positive culture has been established through the organization of a store’s staff of employees, the influences that can result are extraordinary, allowing brands to strive for and reach the next level of performance. However, as O’Keefe points out, the benefits of achieving such a culture are not limited internally, adding that the potential impact that it has on the customer is remarkable.

“When a store and its staff are running like a well-oiled machine, when everyone is doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing, the experience that a customer receives when entering is taken to the next level. The service they receive is elevated, their satisfaction related to the shopping journey increases, their perception of the brand is strengthened, and their loyalty is enhanced. And, it starts by properly organizing and engaging with your staff.”

Second, it can attract and retain talent. “Internally, task management is a critical lever in helping to establish and nurture a culture of integrity, authenticity and respect. And when this is the type of culture that exists, people will want to come work for that organization, attaching themselves to the brand,” explains O’Keefe. 

“Those who are currently working there won’t want to leave. Why would they? What ultimately results is encouragement for employees and new hires to adapt their behavior in order to align to the brand that they want to be associated with, decreasing the learning curve involved.”

As we continue entering a post-pandemic environment in which customers and employees are seeking an elevated experience and deeper connection with the brands that they shop at and work for, retailers are exploring a number of ways by which they can make these things happen. And, it seems, the easiest, most efficient and rewarding way to do so is through the development and maintenance of a strong task management-driven company culture.

A guide to improving restaurant operations with effective task management

A guide to improving restaurant operations with effective task management

We talked about retail task management – now it’s time to delve deeper into the world of restaurant operations.

For anyone operating in the foodservice industry the past few years, it’s been a challenge. Maintaining profitability has been an uphill battle, with imposed closures and mandated social protocols prohibiting establishments from operating at full capacity, preventing them from providing the experience that many restaurants thrive on.

During this time, facilitated by impacts of the pandemic, a digital acceleration has occurred, forever transforming the way restaurants interact with their customers – and, potentially, their staff. If implemented thoughtfully, digital technologies can serve to support and streamline business processes and improve restaurant operations exponentially. And, given how important a prepared, organized, and motivated frontline is to the success of any restaurant, organizations will need to prioritize the digitization of task management processes as part of this digital acceleration, enabling their staff with the task management tools they need to succeed, resulting in more efficient task completion, safer food handling, increased performance, improved guest experiences, and so much more. 

With that, here’s our guide to improving restaurant operations through effective task management. 

 

 

What is task management?

Simply put, task management is the process by which foodservice organizations and operators can standardize and scale the tasks that need to be completed at their locations on a regular basis. Effective task management is crucial at any frontline organization, but given the foodservice world’s volatile nature and dispersed workforce – combined with the guest expectation for consistent, memorable experiences – it becomes particularly critical to successful restaurant operations. 

With the development and implementation of a strong task management system and processes, restaurant managers are provided greater oversight concerning the daily tasks related to running a successful restaurant, as well as those related to individual employee shifts.

In addition, effective task management procedures and protocol ensures that employees have a clear understanding of the roles and duties that they’re responsible for and the overall goals and objectives that the organization strives to achieve. This clear line of communication from the individual employee through the location, region, and overall brand, takes time and effort – but it’s the only way to maintain consistency and efficiency, ensuring that customers receive the same level of service and great experience, despite the location they visit. 

Task management will look slightly different at any foodservice organization, but a restaurant’s daily task list usually includes opening and closing tasks and procedures, as well as all other tasks that are to be completed by employees of the store throughout the day. These lists are often broken up between the front of house and back (or heart) of house staff. 

 

Here’s an example of a front of house opening task list:

  • Conduct security inspection of premises
  • Activate lights and other devices and appliances
  • Perform opening housekeeping duties
  • Conduct and record cash count
  • Activate POS equipment
  • Launch POS software
  • Enter daily cash float
  • Conduct inventory check and restock, if necessary
  • Prepare dining area
  • Coordinate ‘specials’ with back of the house, if necessary
  • Open the doors for business

 

Here’s an example of a back of house opening task list:

  • Turn lights and kitchen appliances on
  • Perform opening housekeeping duties
  • Check cold table levels and replenish, if necessary
  • Conduct dry storage, fridge and freezer inventory and make order notes
  • Prepare soup of the day
  • Prepare specials and communicate them to front of the house staff
  • Conduct prep of items to be used frequently throughout the day
  • Open the kitchen for business

 

Task management: Supporting optimized restaurant operations

Why is foodservice task management so important? In order to ensure an optimized operation and the delivery of an experience that meets and surpasses the expectations of restaurant patrons, employees have got to be set up for success. They’ve got to be comfortable and confident within their roles and be armed with the right information to help them do their jobs to the greatest effect. And, if this is achieved, satisfaction within their roles will increase exponentially, helping to combat one of the biggest scourges within the foodservice industry today.

According to the 2021-2022 release of The Deskless Report: Foodservice Edition, turnover is the biggest challenge faced by foodservice leaders today. When combined with the report’s reveal that an alarming 38% of foodservice employees currently want to quit their jobs, there’s a very obvious issue to address. However, when analyzing some of the top reasons for workers to want to leave their jobs – poor management or working environment, staffing issues, overworking and burnout – it becomes just as obvious to understand the ways in which an effective task management system can help to alleviate the current employment dilemma. 

With the right strategy and tools, the implementation of a smart task management system can help restaurant owners and managers align their staff with the right executables. It can help to create a winning, team environment that’s rooted in accountability and cooperation, and provide their staff with the motivation and encouragement to go above and beyond, expending discretionary effort that ultimately benefits their progression, the experience enjoyed by patrons, and the profitability of the business.

Other benefits resulting from effective task management include:

  • Clearer understanding among staff of goals and objectives
  • Greater awareness and appreciation for the roles and responsibilities of others
  • Increased morale among an empowered group of employees
  • Greater innovation and willingness to go above and beyond requirements of job

 

The importance of scaling task management

Running a successful restaurant can be complicated. The speed at which service is required to move throughout the day can lead to a level of volatility that other industries can’t even imagine. As a result, it can prove to be incredibly difficult to ensure that all staff are moving in the same direction toward the attainment and completion of the same goals and objectives. 

However, when you multiply the challenges within a single restaurant across a national (or global!) brand, the job of uniting and aligning staff becomes that much harder. And, if communication is an issue, as the Deskless Report suggests that it might be for many, managing consistency across stores is nearly impossible. The report reveals that 94% of foodservice leaders feel that they’re sending meaningful, quality communications to their employees. Yet, 54% of their workers say that the communication they receive is only somewhat to not at all useful.

When organizations enhance their communications through the development and leveraging of effective task management systems and processes, engagement among employees increases. And, anyone who’s ever worked within the fast-paced foodservice industry knows, an engaged employee is a motivated and productive employee. By ensuring the same consistent message across multiple locations and groups of employees, foodservice district and regional managers responsible for networks of stores are better equipped to align their staff’s efforts and elevate the experience offered to customers and employees, resulting in success for the business.

 

Digitally enabling foodservice staff with the right task management tools

With the right tools in place, the implementation and maintenance of a task management process at scale becomes infinitely less daunting. 

Using the latest in digital technologies to support an effective task management system allows for a number of powerful outputs. First and foremost, the right digital solution provides restaurant owners and managers with the ability to consolidate and track information related to tasks and performance for individual locations as well as across entire networks of stores. And, by leveraging mobile devices to communicate messaging to employees concerning tasks and performance, restaurant operators are enabling their staff and empowering them to excel within their roles. 

Other benefits that rise from the centralization of information include:

  • Head office can manage and direct SOPs, opening and closing checklists for different shifts and staff, pre-shift team huddle agendas, and any other messaging that might benefit employees and the organization as a whole
  • All employees, despite the location they work at, have the same access to the same information, ensuring a deep understanding among workers and enhanced operational consistency
  • District and regional managers are better able to monitor at scale, resulting in a clear understanding of the performance of each store across the network
  • Operators can cultivate and develop a culture of cooperation and teamwork, guaranteeing a clear and collective understanding among all employees concerning the tasks that need to be completed in order to achieve success
  • Head office can easily source feedback and facilitate best practice sharing to better understand the employee experience as it pertains to restaurant operations – and quickly identify ways to improve it

 

3 restaurant challenges that task management can solve for

Scaling task management to reach your entire foodservice workforce can do wonders for driving efficiency, safety, productivity, and more.  Here are some of the common remedies provided by an effective task management process:

1. Scaling onboarding 

With one of the highest turnover rates of any industry, restaurants need consistent onboarding processes that ramp up staff quickly. When restaurants leverage digital task management tools, new hires are more easily and seamlessly onboarded and can hit the ground running in less time than by using conventional tactics, providing them with a clear understanding of the standards and processes of the brand and the expectations of them as an employee and ambassador of the restaurant.

2. Addressing knowledge gaps 

When task assignment is executed through more traditional or legacy approaches (like clipboards or word-of-mouth) there are less (or no) opportunities to identify completion barriers or knowledge gaps that are preventing staff from executing on their daily tasks. Digital solutions provide the analytics and supporting resources to identify and remedy this challenge.  

3. Reducing manager burnout

Managers wear many hats. When task management is executed manually by the managers, it needlessly increases the workload, while also increasing the chance of inconsistencies. On the other hand, when employees are empowered with the information they need through a scalable digital solution, managers can focus on higher level responsibilities with greater focus and intent.

 

Choosing a restaurant task management tool

When exploring potential digital task management solutions to implement with in your locations, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Enable staff with Nudge task management

Consider the user experience 

Make sure that any tool you’re considering is suited to your staff. Keeping the tool mobile-friendly with an easy to navigate interface for ease of use is a safe bet. 

Make it compatible

It’s critical to consider solutions that are part of a larger frontline enablement suite of tools and services, which may include communication, feedback, training, and other functions. This enables centralization of information for the organization as a whole. 

Future-proof your technology 

Let’s face it: the foodservice world is evolving at a rapid pace. Make sure that the technology explored is adaptable and has the ability to evolve with the changing digital needs of the business. 

Psst… Did you know that Nudge’s guided task management feature provides everything you need to keep your foodservice staff focused on the right tasks – and get oversight into what may be at-risk? Learn what Nudge can do here.

 

Tips for leveraging task management to improve restaurant operations

The ways in which restaurant owners and managers establish and implement solutions to help organize tasks and manage and support employee performance vary. However, in seeking to receive their greatest benefits, they should always be used with the goal of setting employees up for success and enabling them with the digital tools they need to perform to the highest standard.

In order to achieve this objective and optimize the effectiveness of task management tools, operators will want to look beyond the rudimentary and utilitarian functions. To engage and empower staff and begin nurturing a culture of teamwork and performance, consider the following tried-and-tested tips:

Focus on clarity

Properly engaging and enabling foodservice staff means providing them with clear and concise direction, and sharing how proper completion of their tasks contributes to the overall success of the team. Be clear and concise to get your message across.

View performance holistically

A task management tool is all about guiding and informing, not auditing. With that in mind, avoid jumping to conclusions as a result of an incomplete task or two. Rather, use the information long-term to identify trends around locations or regions that might require additional support or resources to succeed. 

Celebrate achievements

Digital task management tools allow head office to track and monitor real-time performance, which means they can easily celebrate achievements reached by individuals, stores, or the entire network, making it an incredible team building tool.

Make it fun

If you want your foodservice staff to stay engaged and loyal, you want them to enjoy their work – finding ways to make the process fun is always win-win. So, consider ways to implement a scoring system for points that can be applied to staff discounts or gift cards, turning mundane duties into opportunities to excel.

There’s no doubting the fact that the foodservice industry and restaurant experience has changed dramatically as a result of impacts related to the pandemic. And, the changes that have occurred have likely left indelible marks. However, with the right strategy, task management system and processes, as well as the digitally-enabling tools to help support it all, restaurant operators will have the opportunity to realize a number of different benefits that provide the power to raise the bar concerning the experiences received by both patrons and employees, and to increase the success and profitability of their establishments.

A guide to retail task management

A guide to retail task management

It’s time for retailers to re-think their approach to task management. Why? 

Retail is ever-evolving. It’s an industry whose players are used to shifting and pivoting with market conditions, consumer preferences and behavior, and just about everything in-between, in order to remain viable and successful. However, the changes that have occurred as a result of impacts influenced by the pandemic have turned the industry upside-down. Driven by an accelerated digitization of the world around us, the retail landscape has altered. So, too, has the physical environment and the subsequent experiences enjoyed by both customers and employees of the store.

In order to navigate this change and to continue meeting and exceeding the needs and desires of customers while equipping their employees to excel at their jobs, retail organizations are increasingly exploring the adoption of digital tools. If implemented thoughtfully, digital technologies can serve to support and streamline business processes and achieve greater operational consistency and efficiency. And, given how important a prepared, organized, and motivated frontline is to the success of any retailer, organizations will need to prioritize the digitization of task management processes, enabling their employees with the task management tools they need to succeed, resulting in higher task completion rates, increased performance and happier, more engaged employees.

With that, here’s our guide to task management for the ever-evolving world of retail.

 

 

What is task management?

Task management is one of the more critical cogs within the retail operations machine. Yet, it’s traditionally also one of the most overlooked layers contributing toward operational consistency and efficiency and, as a result, the overall customer experience.

If implemented and maintained properly, task management is often defined by organizations within a set of processes and procedures that allow store managers to organize their staff, providing them with greater oversight concerning the daily tasks that need to be executed while ensuring a clear and collective understanding among employees of the goals and objectives set out by the organization.

For district managers, effective task completion enables greater consistency across multiple stores, resulting in the same level of customer service and experience provided across an entire network.

Though it can become complicated depending on the retailer’s level of internal organization, task management is, in essence, a store’s daily task list which includes opening and closing tasks and procedures, as well as all other tasks that are to be completed by employees of the store throughout the day.

Here’s an example of an opening task list: 

  • Conduct security inspection of premises
  • Activate lights and other devices and appliances
  • Perform opening housekeeping duties
  • Activate POS equipment
  • Launch POS software
  • Enter daily cash float
  • Check all merchandising displays and signage
  • Restock shelves, if necessary
  • Conduct inventory count, if necessary
  • Open the doors for business

 

Task management: the backbone to operational success

There’s no question that it’s been an incredibly challenging time of late for retailers with respect to attracting and retaining the right talent to their organizations. In fact, according to the 2021-2022 release of The Deskless Report: Retail Edition, turnover is the number one challenge identified by retail leaders. The second biggest concern, which often directly influences the first, is communication. 

According to the report, 37% of retail employees don’t feel heard by the organizations they work for, while a whopping 68% say that communication and feedback from their managers is extremely important to them. In short, in order to attract and retain top retail talent, organizations have got to increase communication with employees, thereby deepening engagement and enhancing productivity. And, at the heart of this engagement is effective task management.

In addition to supporting increased operational efficiencies and consistencies across networks, the proper use of task management enhances employee satisfaction, loyalty and retention, and decreases absenteeism, lending toward the cultivation of a culture of cooperation and teamwork. And, as a result of motivated, inspired employees, the customer experience is elevated, ultimately benefiting the organization by way of an enhanced reputation among customers and increased revenue.

Other benefits resulting from effective task management include:

  • Clearer understanding among staff of goals and objectives
  • Greater awareness and appreciation for the roles and responsibilities of others
  • Increased morale among an empowered group of employees
  • Greater innovation and willingness to go above and beyond requirements of job

 

The importance of scaling task management

Although it may seem complicated enough to organize a group of frontline employees and guide them in the same direction toward a common goal each shift, it’s critically important to ensure the success of any store. For retailers that operate multiple locations, however, the importance of scaling task management across their network to ensure alignment and consistency can not be overstated.

According to The Deskless Report, there is a general disconnect that exists within individual retail locations concerning communication – a disconnect which tends to become a divide between multiple locations. The report suggests that while 81% of retailers say they send meaningful communications to their employees, 59% of employees feel that the communications they receive are not useful. In addition, 54% of retail leaders say that they share information daily. Yet, only 27% of employees agree. As a result, just 58% of retail employees feel connected to the roles of coworkers outside of their location.

Enabling frontline staff with the same set of tasks management tools – and processes by which to complete those tasks – allows the entire organization to move in the same direction, providing not only the same experience for their employees, but the same consistent experience for customers of their brand. It also allows employees across the network to maintain the same messaging and efficiency of service. And, considering the volatility of the industry as we enter into a post-pandemic environment, the need to focus on providing a consistent experience is going to be paramount, and could very well be a key differentiator for the brands that can get it right.

 

The power of task management tools

Enabling task management solutions within retail operations to not only organize employees and productivity, but to integrate within an evolving technology-driven landscape as well, can seem daunting. However, with the implementation of the right digital tools, retailers can empower and enable their employees to excel within their roles.

Leveraging these tools and innovations to develop and maintain effective task management also poses tremendous benefits to the retailer in the way of consolidation of all communication and performance tracking for the store or stores. With the right task management tools, retail head offices are equipped with the ability to control and guide SOPs, opening and closing checklists, pre-shift team huddle agendas, and any other form of communication that’s important to the success of the overall team.

Other benefits resulting from the centralization of information include:

  • Tasks are accessible to employees across store networks, ensuring a collective understanding and operational consistency
  • Managers and district managers can easily monitor at scale, providing a clear understanding of the performance of each store
  • Every employee possesses a clear understanding of the tasks that need to be completed in order to achieve success, driving cooperation and teamwork
  • Task management tools can be leveraged to elicit employee feedback concerning their tasks and more efficient ways to complete them

 

3 retail challenges that task management can solve for

Scaling task management to reach your entire retail workforce can do wonders for driving support, success, productivity, and more.  Here are some of the common remedies provided by an effective task management process:

1. Streamlining the onboarding process 

Digital task management tools allow new hires to hit the ground running, bringing them quickly up-to-speed with the standards and processes of the brand and the expectations of them as an employee and ambassador of the store.

2. Filling existing knowledge gaps

Sharing communications and information digitally ensures that all employees are on the same page, filling any knowledge gaps that might otherwise exist.

3. Reducing the need for manager intervention

Providing centralized information for employees also removes the requirement for managerial intervention. When employees are empowered with the information they need, managers can focus on higher level responsibilities with greater focus and intent.

 

Choosing a task management tool

When exploring potential digital task management solutions to implement with in your stores, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Enable staff with Nudge task management

Consider the user experience 

It’s important to make sure that any tool explored is mobile-friendly and includes an easy to navigate interface for ease of use. Employees need to be set up for success. Any digital tool they’re armed with should support that success.

Ensure compatibility

It’s critical to consider solutions that are part of a larger communications enablement suite of tools and services. This enables centralization of information for the merchant. 

Plan for the future 

Make sure that the technology explored is adaptable and has the ability to evolve with the changing digital needs of the business. 

Psst… Did you know that Nudge’s guided task management feature provides everything you need to keep your staff focused on the right tasks – and get oversight into what may be at-risk? Learn what Nudge can do here.

 

Tips for successful task completion

Though there are certainly a plethora of ways by which retail organizations can establish, develop and implement their task management process, they should all be leveraged with the same objective in mind: to enable and support employee and store success.

In order to achieve this objective and optimize the effectiveness of task management tools, retailers will want to look beyond the rudimentary and utilitarian functions.To engage staff and begin nurturing a culture of teamwork and success, consider the following tried-and-tested tips:

Focus on clarity

Properly engaging and enabling associates means providing them with clear and concise direction concerning their tasks and the ways in which their proper completion contributes to the overall success of the team. 

View performance holistically

Be sure to leverage task management to guide and inform. So, avoid jumping to conclusions as a result of an incomplete task or two. Rather, use the information to spot worrisome trends or warning signs that might indicate that additional resources may need to be shared. 

Celebrate achievements

Because digital task management tools allow head office to track and monitor real-time performance, it provides them with the opportunity to celebrate achievements reached by individuals, stores, or the entire network, making it an incredible team building tool as well.

Make it fun

Wherever possible retail employees should be having fun. So, consider ways to implement a scoring system for points that can be applied to staff discounts or gift cards, turning mundane duties into opportunities to excel.

It’s clear as we approach closer to a truly post-pandemic world that neither the retail environment or experience will ever be the same. The technological shift that’s occurred, combined with the consumer behaviour and attitudes that it’s impacted and influenced, is forcing retailers to rethink they’re service and offering. And, to support their rethink, they’ve got to be empowering their employees and managers with the latest digital task management tools and solutions, enabling them to raise their individual and team performance and enhance the retail experience as a whole.

The role of DE&I in driving memorable foodservice guest experiences

The role of DE&I in driving memorable foodservice guest experiences

Communities across the country continue to approach something that seems like a return to “normal.” As consumer sentiment around a yearning for experiences mounts, the near-term may present foodservice organizations with tremendous opportunities to increase engagement and customer loyalty through the experience they offer. 

A strong guest experience starts with empowered and engaged foodservice staff. And, according to Sylvain Charlebois, foodservice industry expert and Senior Director of Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, foodservice staff engagement starts with a strong investment in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I).

“Restaurants and other foodservice establishments have, for a very long time, been hubs of the communities in which they serve,” says Charlebois. 

“They are places where family and friends go to enjoy themselves and each others’ company and to enjoy a memorable experience. And, they are places for all members of the community to gather. As such, it’s incredibly important for everyone involved in the foodservice industry to place greater emphasis and focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives within their organizations in order to reflect the clientele they serve and the workforce that they employ.”

DE&I is a movement of sorts within industries, institutions, and companies looking to focus on improving corporate and organizational cultures and creating more welcoming and supportive work environments. It’s a movement that has continued to gain significant momentum throughout the pandemic as societies everywhere pay greater consideration toward social issues and causes. And it’s one, says Charlebois, that presents foodservice organizations with tremendous opportunities if they can develop or enhance existing DE&I programs and initiatives within their workplaces.

“There are so many benefits available to organizations that implement this type of philosophy and approach to doing business,” he says. 

“For one, of course, it’s simply the right thing to do. Everyone deserves equal opportunity, compensation, and treatment, despite their race, gender, sexual preference or identification, or lived experiences. Nobody should ever be restricted within their careers or inhibited from growing for any reason. A dedicated and committed focus on DE&I within the workplace ensures equal opportunity and respect, posing potential human, organizational and financial benefits to companies who adopt this kind of approach.”

Here are 3 more ways DE&I initiatives can help drive memorable guest experiences

1. Highly engaged staff

According to the 2021 U.S. Department of Labor, 47.8% of all foodservice employees in the United States identify as part of a minority group. In addition, the 2020 State of the Restaurant Worker indicates that 54% of all employees within the country’s foodservice sector are women. In light of these numbers, says Charlebois, it only makes sense to ensure that policies, treatment and considerations are paid to each member of the workforce. That the return on this type of investment by companies is most noticeable in the impact that it has on employees.

“By ensuring diversity within your workforce and the staff that are servicing customers in your establishments, you’re ensuring a more accurate reflection of the communities that you operate in,” he says. 

“Most importantly, however, by treating your employees properly, you’re sending them an incredibly strong message of support and care. And when this message is delivered consistently in everything that you do, it results in a highly engaged staff of employees that are proud to be working their jobs and feel confident in the fact that they belong and are important contributors toward helping to achieve the company’s goals and objectives.”

2. Deeper brand connections

Charlebois goes on to explain that engaged employees exhibit heightened loyalty toward their roles and responsibilities, eliciting from them discretionary effort that, in turn, enhances the experience that restaurants offer guests.

“There is a very powerful correlation between the culture that an organization develops for its employees and the experience that the guest receives,” he says. 

“When employees are happy and engaged, they’re really invested in the jobs they’re doing and are willing to go above and beyond to make sure that guest expectations are met and exceeded. In addition, when staff are an accurate reflection of the communities that they serve, customers also feel more welcome and feel inclined to engage with the brand at a deeper level, inspiring repeat visits and patronage.”

3. More feedback and ideas driving revenue and growth

A recent survey conducted by The Harvard Business Review of 1,700 companies around the world found that those operating with an above-average level of diversity within their organizations experience 19% greater innovation revenues and 9% higher earnings before taxes. They are results that Charlebois says are not surprising. In fact, he says that it’s an equation that, from a business and human perspective, makes perfect sense.

“When you engage your workforce with initiatives as positive and encouraging as those related to DE&I, results for the business will be just as positive and encouraging,” he says. 

“Because staff are energetic and inspired and focused on delivering exceptional service to the customer, those guests will return, resulting in increased revenue. And, employees that feel engaged and valued are more likely to share honest feedback and ideas to improve operations or the guest experience. When everyone is feeding in and involved in the success of the organization, limitations are removed, opening up boundless opportunities for growth.”

Though there have been some previously existing barriers that have prevented frontline organizations from actively pursuing and enhancing their DE&I initiatives, Charlebois believes that there may be a much-needed shift in mindset happening at the very top. It’s reflective, he says, of the recognition of brands concerning the opportunities that exist and their willingness to institute positive change.

“There are many within the industry that are now placing far greater emphasis around the issue of DE&I. Excellent work is being done at organizations like Wendy’s, PepsiCo, McDonald’s, Domino’s, and elsewhere. The entire industry is stepping up its game with respect to stances on DE&I and the progress that’s being made by organizations toward improving the experiences they offer to their employees and customers,” he says.

“The world is changing. People are continuing to pay much more attention to social issues and the things that impact others around them. The foodservice industry is really beginning to take notice and seize the opportunities that result from creating and ensuring a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture.”

5 ways to prioritize guest experience in challenging times

5 ways to prioritize guest experience in challenging times

We have now well and truly entered what many are considering the endemic COVID-19 period during which the virus becomes a lingering nuisance. And so, too, does the disruption and turbulence that’s been caused as a result. Highlighted by rising food prices, supply chain disturbances, and labor market shortages, the challenges faced by those operating within the foodservice industry are perhaps more significant than they ever have been previously. It’s placing an enormous amount of pressure on restaurateurs to address and overcome these challenges – while still providing an exceptional guest experience. 

Industry expert George Minakakis says that these issues have shaped into a perfect storm, inhibiting the efforts of foodservice establishments to drive loyalty and growth. Despite the current climate, however, he suggests that prioritizing the guest experience will enable restaurants to weather the challenges they face.

“There’s no denying the extraordinary strain that’s currently being placed on foodservice operators when it comes to running a successful business,” he asserts. “And, the pressures are coming from all angles, impacting their ability to stock their establishments with the right product and ingredients and staff their locations with employees who can make sure that service is executed smoothly. But, if foodservice operators can philosophically put all of the challenges and issues aside for just a moment, they might realize that the greatest opportunity that they have to not only survive over the short-term, but to set themselves up for long-term success, is to focus on their people and the amazing, loyalty-driving guest experience that they provide for customers.”

Once operators are focused on developing and enhancing their restaurant experience, Minakakis suggests that there are five critical things that can be done in order to sharpen and support that focus.

1. Engaging staff on menu development

According to Restaurants Canada’s Q1 2022 Restaurant Outlook Survey, restaurant operators are expecting to raise their menu prices by an average of 7.1 per cent over the next 12 months. It’s a move that’s necessary, but one which will pose obvious challenges with respect to explaining these increases to customers. However, one of the simplest ways to ensure that your establishment is prepared to provide an adequate explanation and deliver a guest experience that will resonate with patrons and engender their loyalty is to arm employees with as much information as possible. 

“Empowering your staff is one of the most strategic things a restaurant owner can do in order to overcome the challenges inherent in increased menu prices,” he says. “Sharing this information with frontline employees allows them to properly and confidently inform customers of changes and options. And, it also evokes discretionary effort from staff, empowering them to do their jobs to the best of their ability and deliver a memorable experience to customers.”

2. Creating brand ambassadors

Once frontline staff are properly engaged and involved in the sharing of information, Minakakis suggests that through a number of different means and incentives, foodservice operators can create brand ambassadors amongst their staff, further bolstering the exceptional service that they provide for customers.

“Because your frontline staff are those who are interacting with and servicing the needs of customers most frequently, it makes sense that they feel as positive as possible about themselves and the jobs that they perform,” he says. “Through community-building exercises that enhance the culture at the restaurant, staff recognition initiatives and the development of real-time feedback loops between frontline staff and managers, foodservice operators can engender a heightened sense of pride among their employees – pride that will, in turn, enhance the guest experience.”

3. Providing effective staff training

Before restaurants and food service establishments can rely on a staff of brand ambassadors, however, Minakakis says that a great deal of training and development is required. It’s yet another layer of preparation that enables employees to achieve maximum results. And, he adds, it also allows the restaurant to manage the experience that they offer their customers.

“Running a successful restaurant or food service establishment absolutely demands the right people who are armed with the right skills and knowledge,” he says. “You want your staff to understand the brand, the experience it offers, the customer who seeks out that experience and how to deliver it to them in the most effective way possible. Training and developing skills among your staff also ensures that the same consistently excellent experience is delivered to the customer with each visit.”

4. Ensuring a mix of diverse talent

In addition to staffing your restaurant with skilled, knowledgeable and prepared employees, Minakakis also suggests that ensuring that you’re drawing from a healthy mix of diversity and talent is one of the more meaningful aspects of the business that foodservice professionals can focus on.

“It’s vitally important for any business servicing customers to make sure that they reflect the community that they’re operating in,” he says. “That means the nurturing of an inclusive environment comprising different ethnicities, backgrounds and lived experiences. It also means ensuring that your restaurant is equipped with a staff of many different talents. When a business can draw on all of these ideas, influences and perspectives, the innovation and execution significantly improve.”

5. Enabling staff success through use of technology

As long as the right mix of people and skills has been assembled, says Minakakis, the implementation and use of technology can be explored as a support for staff. In fact, according to Restaurants Canada’s 2022 Outlook Survey, 7 in 10 quick-service restaurants say that automation and increased use of technology would help them overcome labour shortages while 74% of quick-service restaurants and 52% of table-service restaurants said they expect to increase their use of automation technology in the next two years. It’s a trend that Minakakis says could have a profound impact on foodservice purveyors who have got all of their human resources properly equipped.

“One of the biggest drivers within the foodservice industry over the course of the next few years is going to be technology-enabled automation,” he asserts. “By implementing the right technologies, restaurant operators can make their employees’ jobs easier and reduce human error, among other things, creating efficiencies and enhancing the experience for employee and guest. It’s a way that those operating in foodservice can show their staff and customers that they truly care about the experience that they’re creating and will go a long way toward earning repeat visits from patrons.”

During such challenging and unpredictable times, with so many strains and pressures on foodservice organizations, it might seem difficult to understand which challenges to tackle and which areas of the business to focus on. But, as Minakakis points out, keeping the needs of the customer at the heart of everything that you do while preparing and enabling your employees to execute on your desired guest experience is likely the most sensible place to start.

“I don’t know how you run a restaurant or any other foodservice establishment without good staff. They’re integral to everything about the service and experience. And, given the nature of the business, the customer must be central to every single decision that you make. If you can get these two components of the operation right, creating an incredible experience for the customer that’s being delivered by inspired and dedicated staff, none of the other matters impacting the business will seem like such insurmountable challenges anymore.”