photo: iPad menu and delivery tray in Genki Sushi

Empty seats are seen in restaurants but diners were turned away. Why is this so? Turns out the restaurant was short-handed to serve the diners.

This has unfortunately become a familiar scene in Singapore restaurants. Restaurants are choosing to turn away customers rather than provide a half-hearted, inattentive experience for the diners. Their last resort has turned into a nightmare for the restaurants. In the midst of manpower shortage, Singapore F&B employers are looking at different ways to improve productivity in restaurants.

More restaurants are utilizing technology to cope with manpower shortage and rising cost.

Genki Sushi, a sushi chain in Singapore turned to robots and iPad minis to ease manpower crunch, speeding up service and productivity in the stores. Machines are used to wash the rice, produce rice pallets for sushi, and place them neatly onto the plate. The food is delivered to the customers via a delivery system which is connected to all the tables in the store. The delivery system consists of a three-tiered track which sends trays of food from the kitchen to the tables. In line with the speedy theme, the trays are in the shape of Formula One cars and Shinkansen bullet trains.

Diners place their orders on the iPad minis and these orders are transferred to the iPads in the kitchen. Billing is also done via the iPads so the cashiers do not have to key the food items into the system again.

A Chinese fast-food chain, Ruyi, is also taking advantage of technology to improve productivity. Technology aids the staff in the form of a robot wok. The robot’s responsibility is to wok-fry dishes like noodles and rice. With this machine, the chefs would have more time to prepare other dishes.

As shared, technology can be useful in the F&B industry. However, not all restaurants are able to afford the investment in technology. Instead of turning to automation, they hope to attract employees with better’ benefits.

In a bid to attract and retain employees, Salad Stop!, a salad chain in Singapore has come up with a few ideas. An incentive scheme for job referrals was introduced. Employees who referred a friend who stayed for more than three months will get $150. They also have a flexi-work plan for housewives and older workers. Housewives can work 7am-to-2pm shift which are tailored to match school hours. They are also not required to work evenings or weekends. This will attract housewives who want to both work and be able to care for their children and family at the same time.

For workers above 55 years old, they work 35 hours per week and are able to choose their work timings. They also get a month of unpaid annual leave, bonuses and medical insurance, and are invited to staff social functions in addition to the flexible work timings. The chain is also looking at how to improve productivity for the workers.

The owner is currently working on a new bottle design that will allow servers to dress salads more conveniently, scraping precious seconds off for a more efficient food/salad preparation process.

All in all, restaurants must be willing to adapt in order to cope with manpower shortage. Adopting technology and tweaking human resource policies are two feasible ways restaurants can utilize to improve productivity.