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Helping the Restaurant Industry Survive

Barb Cooper sitting on a tableWhile in Boston recently visiting family, I had time to observe and think about our struggling restaurant industry. Problems seem to be similar in both locations. Staff shortages, capacity limitations, supply chain issues, and pent-up customer demand are putting a strain on day-to-day operations.

However, I saw two processes in use on the East Coast that I have not yet seen in Cincinnati.

1. One very efficient process involved staffing a beer garden with runners rather than servers. We have all seen the QR code menus by now, but this establishment carried it one step farther. The QR code link took us directly to the Toast app where we submitted our order as if we were placing a carry out order. The order then goes directly to the kitchen and bar where the runner just picks up and delivers everything to the table. One or two runners could handle a lot of tables. The trade-off is that by giving up a little of the personal attention of a dedicated server we had our order quickly and the restaurant could operate with just a small staff.

2. Another notable difference was a request to occupy a table for only 90 minutes. Signs as we entered or at the tables reminded us that lingering after eating limits the number of tables turned. I didn’t see anyone actually asked to leave, but I’m sure during times of high traffic, it’s helpful to be able to politely ask a group to free up a table.

As the service industry continues to transition to more mobile processes, delivery, and automation, it’s important for us as consumers to look at restaurant service from the viewpoint of the business. They are offering us a simple service: eating food that we don’t have to prepare ourselves. The ultimate goal is to enjoy the meal. We may have to adjust, rethink, and learn some new systems in order to keep the industry alive. In the meantime, we all need to continue to gather our patience, remain flexible, and of course, tip generously.