F&B: Tight Labor Market’s Impact on Foodservice Design | The Hotel Experience

written by Kip Serfozo

ATLANTA – The hospitality industry has been forced to develop creative solutions to offset the tight labor market. As foodservice design and operations consultants, it is vital that we account for the existing and future labor trends in our designs. How exactly do we do this? It starts in the very beginning of the design process.

A Critical Element
One important and critical program element is understanding your client’s labor situation. Hospitality is very labor intensive. And labor is the key to successful customer service. Labor continues to be the single largest cost center for foodservice operators. Add to this the fact that today, many operators can’t find enough labor to run their operation. When the labor market is tight or it’s too expensive, the operation will not be sustainable. And this causes operators to alter service models, search for technology alternatives, and find strategies to solve their labor issues.

Key Questions to Ask
A foodservice consultant will tackle the labor issue by asking key questions to understand the client’s operation and their expectations for a successful facility. These questions might include:

  • How many employees will be required to run the operation?
  • How will technology impact the facility design?
  • Are there opportunities to introduce high tech equipment?
  • Is the client and customer base open to robotics?
  • What do the customer queuing systems look like?
  • Does the labor utilization strategy match the customer experience expectations?
  • How are customers serviced? Identify the service points in the operation.

Labor Saving Technologies
“Smart” technology integrated into foodservice equipment has streamlined the kitchen as well as the operation, leading to increased efficiencies and labor savings. Some examples are:

  • Super automatic espresso machines that don’t require barista skill set
  • Computerized pizza ovens that cook artisan pizza without much chef involvement
  • Automatic food prep slicers and equipment
  • Smart ovens that sense food temperatures and quality
  • Automatic dish machines that wash service ware with minimal staff

Every service model has its own set of challenges. The key is to find the one best suited to the client’s needs and their unique challenges. For example, utilizing a self-service model decreases the labor needed in the front of house. Outsourcing some food prep allows the operator to reduce their in-house kitchen staff.

The Caveat
It’s important to take the time to understand how labor impacts the customer experience. Some operations require more labor than others. For example, fine dining relies on front of house staff to create a memorable experience for the customer. Hospital foodservice requires dedicated staff who understand the patient’s health requirements and needs. And maybe even assist with feeding patients. Both market segments require a higher level of attention, high-touch if you will, which may mean labor saving measures need to be taken in other areas of the operation instead. So, it’s important to understand where your labor is required.

Putting It All Together
Our job as consultants is to develop an ergonomic design with equipment solutions and labor-saving measures that can be easily operated by the client. The first step is to listen, ask questions, and offer solutions. At the end of the day, this should result in satisfied customers and a financially sound foodservice operation.

Kip Serfozo, FCSI, LEED ID&C AP, WELL AP is director of Design at CINI • LITTLE INTERNATIONAL, INC., Atlanta.