3 game-changing resolutions

A look at the reforms the restaurant industry could use as we enter 2017.
start 2017

You chuckleheads merely have to pledge feats like losing 50 pounds or being nicer to the one-headed dragon known as Significant Other’s mom. Fate has thrust the moonshot upon me of drafting New Year’s resolutions for the whole restaurant industry, and the standbys of cussing less often or learning conversational Swedish are way too faint. I don’t have to tell you how much reform the business needs right now to correct its act in 2017. 

But indulge me. Take a look at these resolutions that obviously have to be on the list. 

Stop prank calling the unions.

Actually, it’s the gloating that needs to halt. Just weeks ago, federal regulators were giving organized labor everything short of a magic ray gun to ease unionization of the business. Then President-elect Trump picked one of the industry’s own to be Secretary of Labor. While leading the company that runs the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s quick-service chains, Andy Puzder found time to speak out in op-eds and on talk shows against some of the more outrageous concessions that had been thrown labor’s way. He was very politically incorrect in blasting calls for a so-called living wage, and spoke with evident longing of robots’ business advantages.

With that mindset in place, restaurateurs and other employers suddenly wield the upper hand. No longer do they need to fear the bullies.

Stop. Talking. To. Customers.

After a few hundred years of warmly greeting guests or bidding them farewell with a “Thank you!” or “Come again!”—this is a hard habit to break.  Fortunately, some of the best artificial minds in the business are working on the problem. Witness the service innovations unveiled last month by Amazon, which coined the new service motto Just Walk Out, the model used in its first restaurant, Amazon Go. Patrons activate a phone app, take the grab-and-go foods they want, then bolt, without ever letting another human come between them and their precious smartphones.

Amazon Go is still in test. Already rolled out to every location of the Sam’s club-store chain is a new cashierless service model called Scan & Go, whereby patrons use their phones to snap products’ pricing codes, then walk out without any human interaction. Computer intelligence handles the settling up.

Kit it out.

Eight percent of consumers and 20% of families with children now buy meal kits, according to a report released last year by the research firm Acosta. Facing that sort of a threat, some restaurateurs are figuring that joining the pack is better than getting overrun by it.
They’re pushing into the market with kits of their own—usually meals that are prepped for pickup, with little work required other than combining components and heating what’s to be served hot.

The Portillo’s hot dog chain, for instance, started a meal subscription service right before the holidays. For a dollar a day (the $365 is due upfront), subscribers get meal fixings for eight to 10 people every other month. The work expected of customers is light—usually baking off some buns, or reheating a few things.

If hopping aboard the trend sounds daunting, consider how much easier it’d be than shedding 50 pounds or going to the gym more often.


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