Restaurant team meeting before store opens

Overcoming the labor shortage with next-gen restaurant staffing

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

There’s no denying that American businesses have been hit hard by a labor shortage over the past year.

Job openings for September 2022 tallied up to 10.72 million, well above the estimate of 9.85 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. To put it another way, there are roughly 1.9 job openings for every available worker. That’s a lot of unfilled jobs.

In addition to how the pandemic changed small businesses, Americans also have had to maneuver a global supply chain crisis and manage the effects of high inflation. Now, this staffing scarcity has become the latest in a slew of obstacles for small businesses, particularly those in the food service industry.

With all the recent challenges that American business owners have faced, it seems that chaos is the new normal. But there is a surefire solution that can help any business roll with the punches and even thrive in a tight labor market — technology.

Modern tech can be a game changer for staffing challenges, helping you manage schedules, accelerate processes and even reduce daily back-office work — so you can do more with fewer people. Let’s take a look at the many ways technology can help ensure the success of your restaurant regardless of the job market.

Person using mobile phone to scan an QR code in a restaurant

Tackle the worker shortage with technology

When we’re talking about technology, we don’t mean robot waitstaff — it hasn’t come to that. But technology can be harnessed in other, less dystopian-sounding ways. The right software can streamline operations and reduce the amount of manual work for your (human) staff, enabling you to seat more tables and increase restaurant cash flow. It can even speed up food service for your customers, making them happier and more likely to return. Wondering how? Let’s dig in.

Fewer steps for fewer staff

Your employees are the backbone of your restaurant — but there are a number of ways technology can give them a hand in their everyday duties. For instance:

Icon of hand clicking hamburger on a mobile device

Self-service technology:

QR code ordering, self-order kiosks and online ordering platforms can all help in reducing the amount of work for your staff. What’s more, customers have come to expect the convenience and speed of these ordering methods — 65% of Americans say that they would visit a restaurant more often if there were self-service kiosks provided.

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Mobile point of sale devices:

Save your servers a few steps with a POS that can input orders and process payments right at the table instead of making them pace back and forth between guests and a countertop device.

Icon of fork knife and menu

Reservation software:

Your host may spend most of his day on the phone scheduling and confirming reservations, but with the right software, he can have more facetime with guests and even help dispatch to-go orders.

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Order balancing and syncing:

Order balancing helps ensure your kitchen doesn’t get overwhelmed by a sudden influx of tickets, while order syncing allows you to display all orders — whether submitted online or in person — in one place. It’s a recipe for smoother kitchen operations and quicker service.

Icon of restaurant purchases to go

Third-party deliveries:

Delivery services have become incredibly popular over the last year or so, and using those services helps you embrace the future of the restaurant industry while employing fewer people. With the right restaurant software, you can have the choice to use a third-party service or support your own deliveries.

Two restaurant owners looking at options on a tablet

Make staffing decisions based on data

In a tight labor market, data can help you make smarter decisions that will save you money and maximize your resources.

If you utilize a comprehensive POS solution, you can access reports with a number of metrics that you can use to your advantage. Ticket quantities and order size — for the week, day and even down to the hour — allow you to make educated decisions for staffing and scheduling.

All that data can transform the way your restaurant responds to local events, peak staffing seasons and slow spells — ensuring you can meet demand when it’s there and reduce your coverage when it’s not. In the end, it makes for more balanced waitstaff and more satisfied customers.

Customer using an advanced form of payment with a Heartland point of sale terminal

Create a better customer experience

Speaking of customers, modern restaurant tech can directly impact their experience as well. Ultimately, your employees can make or break a guest’s experience at your restaurant. But by leveraging technology to do more of the mundane tasks, your staff will have the time and energy to create more positive interactions with customers.

For instance, if your POS is balancing orders, your chef can focus more on each dish and your bartender on each cocktail. The technology creates more opportunities for the human touch that can elevate a dining experience.

Think of it this way: Your servers typically spend most of their time hustling back and forth between guests and a POS station, placing orders, printing checks, collecting payments, entering tips and more.

But imagine if your server had a mobile POS — suddenly all that time spent rushing around the restaurant can be simplified into quick tableside interactions. The process becomes smoother and allows more time for your staff to chat about specials, mention loyalty programs and make menu recommendations. Less hurry, less worry and better rapport with guests.

Business person and chef looking at a laptop in a restaurant setting

Retain better employees longer

These days, modern HR and recruiting solutions make the hiring process easier with the power to post job openings on multiple platforms and social media outlets within seconds. But once you’ve found new workers, it can be difficult to keep them.

It’s no secret that employee retention is a big concern for the food service industry, and it becomes even more concerning with a reduced labor force. Even at pre-pandemic levels, the average food service employee turnover rate was 66%.

Perhaps fueled by the great resignation, that number continues to rise for the food service demographic. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the leisure and hospitality industry has had the highest quit rate since July of last year, consistently above 5.4%.

High turnover and a tight labor market is a recipe for disaster for any business. So what can be done to retain capable, experienced staff? Technology, once again, to the rescue.

  • Start off on the right foot. When it comes time to train your new workers, having a user-friendly POS that’s easy to learn can go a long way in easing frustrations. Plus, the right software can allow new employees to see all menu items, modifiers and even ingredients with a touch of a button. This makes for quick learning and knowledgeable conversations with guests.

  • Conserve their energy. Keep in mind even after your employee has made a successful transition into their new job, food service can be physically demanding. But modern POS technology — like the mobile devices we discussed earlier — can literally reduce the amount of steps your employees take, making for a much happier staff.

  • Help boost tips: Using a POS system that displays accurate tip percentages to customers can help improve tip amounts.

  • Avoid high stress. POS features like automatic order balancing can help keep your restaurant humming along at a healthy, achievable pace. These tools prevent your staff from feeling overwhelmed and even keep guests content, so that your employees don’t get worn out dealing with impatient customers.

Icon of dashboard options for a Heartland app

Work smarter on back-office tasks

Outside of guest interaction and kitchen duties, a large chunk of your staff’s time is taken up by seemingly relentless back-office tasks. However, with the right technology in place, these time-consuming initiatives can be streamlined and even automated, minimizing the number of employees needed to get them done.

With modern restaurant tech, you can leverage automated inventory management, empower employees to manage their schedules online in real time and even automate your marketing efforts to save hours of work for you and your staff.

Restaurant employee working with customers to place their order in a cafe

Find the labor shortage solutions for your restaurant

Maneuvering through a labor shortage is just the latest storm you’ve had to weather. But like many other American businesses have proven this past year, it is possible to persevere (and even flourish).

With modern restaurant solutions in place, you can do more with a reduced staff and keep both your employees and customers happy. Want more details? Our in-depth guide to navigating the labor shortage will tell you everything you need to know to leverage technology in your favor. Discover handy tips, real-life examples and much more information regarding the powerful benefits of a comprehensive restaurant POS platform.


Heartland is the point of sale, payments and payroll solution of choice for entrepreneurs that need human-centered technology to sell more, keep customers coming back and spend less time in the back office. Nearly 1,000,000 businesses trust us to guide them through market changes and technology challenges, so they can stay competitive and focus on building remarkable businesses instead of managing the daily grind. Learn more at heartland.us