Despite ongoing pandemic and supply-chain challenges, I am glad to report that our family’s tomato company successfully completed yet another fresh pack tomato season.
Located in a Rocky Mountain resort town, this popular ristorante has overcome an extreme labor shortage to reopen its busy dining room by using technology to replace traditional waitstaff and cashiers!
Early in the pandemic, Anthony DeSousa closed his busy 160 seat dining room to shield his team from public contact. Instead, his team switched to “100% touchless takeout,” which eliminated face-to-face cashiering by requiring customers to order/ prepay via his website. Takeout food was transferred to arriving customers touchlessly via outdoor curbside tables.
In the process, eliminating voice-to- voice order taking and cashiering allowed Anthony to redeploy those employees to the kitchen to help meet growing demand.
REOPENING WITHOUT SERVERS
When Anthony eventually reopened his dining room, an extreme labor shortage prevented him from finding servers or cashiers. Instead, Anthony used technology to reproduce his take-out “self-ordering” success in the dining room.
Key Idea – Instead of servers, guests access Anthony’s menu and self-order via a unique, location-specific QR decal on each table. When scanned with smartphones,
each QR allows guests to review the menu, order meals and beverages, and pre- pay via credit card. The POS automatically routes their orders to screens at each kitchen make-station. Because the QR codes are table-specific, once each dine-in item is prepped, the POS screen directs the food runner to the proper table.
Key Idea – Because runners are also responsible for assisting guests with service questions or requests, each table is also topped with a two- sided red/green flag on a wire stand. Guests needing ice water or an extra napkin alert Anthony’s runners by rotating their flag to red. Otherwise, flags left “green” indicate smooth sailing.
Aware of the labor shortage, Anthony’s regulars support his unconventional solution. As a result, his dining room is once again packed Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Adopting “self-ordering” technology has allowed combined dine-in and takeout sales to break 2019 sales records … but with half the staff as before the pandemic!
Boost Driver Pay by Limiting Range
Key Idea – Because drivers typically earn more in tips than base wages, this restaurateur limits her maximum delivery distance to 15 minutes round trip. That keeps her drivers delivering (and earning tips) at least four times hourly. Between a state-mandated minimum wage and four $5 tips per hour, most of her drivers consistently earn more than $30 per hour. As a result, the labor shortage has not limited her ability to attract and keep dependable drivers.
Key Idea – To identify exactly which neighborhoods to include within her service area, she uses a mapping app with a “drive-time” function to chart how far from the store drivers can get within 7 minutes.
Banning Daisy-Chain Deliveries
Key Idea – Allowing drivers to daisy-chain multiple destinations into a single delivery run may seem more efficient. But this restaurateur found the opposite to be true.
In addition to promoting “tip hogging” by drivers, combining multiple destinations guaranteed late deliveries (and reduced food quality) for the 2nd and 3rd stops.
Studying actual deliveries also revealed that combo deliveries also frequently lengthened total driving time due to inefficient routing between destinations vs. straight out and back to the store.
Insisting on 100% “single destination” deliveries has improved service speed, boosted food quality, and customer satisfaction. It also distributes “earning power” more evenly across her drivers, promoting greater driver retention.
Key Idea – When restaurateur Maria Fox originally moved into her present location, she eliminated delivery in favor of installing a drive-up takeout window alongside the building. However, during the pandemic, the window has been a godsend which has helped sales steadily grow. Perhaps because many locals still feel uncomfortable about entering public spaces, this safe-feeling version of “curbside pickup” continues attracting 20 new customers weekly. And thanks to Maria’s great- tasting food, many return as regulars!
Maria Fox, Owner
Pizza Ria’s Too
Key Idea – To get more done with fewer employees, Scott Anthony has shortened business hours and closed one day per week to better match available labor to when customer demand (and sales) are highest. He has also encouraged his regulars to order online, thereby freeing team members from less-productive phone duty.
Key Idea – Similarly, Scott is keeping close tabs on rising wages and ingredient costs and has successfully adjusted his menu prices three times this year to keep up with unavoidable increases. As a result, Scott’s unit sales and profits are actually tracking ahead of 2019 pre- pandemic levels!
Scott Anthony, Owner
At Cascarino’s in Montgomery, NY, the Cascarino family has proudly satisfied locals with hearty Italian American fare for three generations! A particular guest favorite is Mama Delia’s Pollo Cacciatore Bianca, which seasons juicy bone-in chicken thighs with aromatic fresh rosemary, white wine, and fresh mushrooms!
Anthony Cascarino says his mother Delia’s secret to keeping the chicken especially tender and flavorful is cooking it with the skin on to lock in the juices. After cooking, the skin can always be removed before serving, depending on guest preference.
1⁄4 cup fresh fall harvest extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, freshly crushed
8 chicken thighs (about 4 ounces each) bone-in, skin on
1 1/2 cups white wine
15-20 medium mushrooms – halved or quartered
3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary
In a large sauce pot or Dutch oven, briefly warm olive oil over medium heat. Add 5 cloves crushed garlic; gently sauté until garlic begins to turn translucent. Salt and pepper chicken thighs on both sides. Braise 4-6 minutes per side until skin is golden brown. Add the white wine and fresh mushrooms. Add pinches of salt and freshly ground pepper. Add rosemary sprigs. Continue to simmer over medium-low heat for 30-40 minutes without lid. Promptly serve hot over favorite pasta or risotto! Serves 4-6