With the global restaurant staff shortage set to continue throughout 2023, the hospitality industry is running out of ways to drive recruitment.

According to the Office for National Statistics, in January 2023 the number of job vacancies in the UK hospitality sector hit 146,000 – 72% higher than those recorded during pre-pandemic levels. This suggests that there are still many hurdles that restauranteurs will have to jump through in the coming months.

While recruitment will continue to be a sticking point in the industry, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. As the digital revolution continues, more restaurants are turning to technology to tackle the global restaurant staff shortage – and of course, to stay up to date with consumer preferences, especially following the pandemic.

As the Michelin Guide suggests, the adoption of digital tools – or “less labour-reliant concepts” – can offer a way around staffing issues, especially in smaller restaurants and open kitchens.

So, what technology is out there, and how exactly can it help to address staff shortages within the industry?

Mobile food ordering and payments

Online food ordering became standard practice in restaurants during the pandemic, due to the restrictions around distance and hygiene. Now, however, many restaurants have adopted the technology as an integral part of their operations.

By offering a digital ordering system, restaurants can not only reduce touchpoints between their staff and customers to keep everyone safe, but also allow their customers to make payments more seamlessly. This technology can be offered through either an app or a QR code and enables customers to do anything from browsing the menu and ordering food to the table, to making a payment for their meal.

Mobile ordering makes the ordering process more seamless for the customer, enhancing their restaurant experience. It also takes some of the pressure off the front of house staff and will encourage more people into a career in hospitality, with more tasks becoming digitalised and therefore, quicker and easier.

Online table reservations

Not only is the way that customers order their food changing, but so is the way that they book their tables. Online platforms such as OpenTable enable customers to see available slots and make their bookings on the go.

This is beneficial to restaurant teams as it helps them to manage their booking enquiries and fill tables automatically, to ensure their capacity is being used effectively. It also improves the dining experience for their customers, by taking note of any dietary requirements or special requests in advance.

Employee management systems

Another innovative tool that restaurants can implement to support them through the staff shortage is a standalone staff scheduling tool. POS-integrated solutions are helpful in the food service area particularly, as staff need to access information about their shifts and communicate effectively with their managers and wider team while on the go.

Restaurant owners and managers can use this technology to increase the effectiveness of their shift management, with allocation of shifts often automated. It can therefore help them to save costs on doing this manually, which is especially important due to current high labour costs.

So, is this technology worth the investment?

While these digital tools might seem like an investment in the immediate term, they are guaranteed to pay off in the longer-term, as digital systems become more integrated.

There is no doubt that restaurateurs need to act now to protect the future of their industry. By working collaboratively and integrating digital tools to enhance their customer experience and service, the industry will come together to promote the positives of their profession, and ultimately, contribute to solving the labour shortage.