Published February 15, 2022

Desperate to Fill Open Restaurant Jobs? Consider Food Automation

You’ve seen the reader boards in front of fast-food restaurants. Maybe you’ve posted one yourself. “Now hiring: $1000 bonus.” “Line cooks wanted: $20/hour.” Companies are offering to hire employees with nothing more than a 30-minute interview.

And despite the bonuses and rising hourly wages, there are more than 1.4 million open restaurant and hospitality jobs right now, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even when you fill a role, it’s not a guarantee that it will stay filled. Pizza restaurant attrition is generally 4 weeks.

The labor shortage remains a pressing issue for the hospitality industry. This was true before the pandemic and remains true today. What’s a pizzeria owner supposed to do in the face of this? Savvy operators are turning to automation to augment their stretched staff.

What does it cost to hire a new pizza line cook?

The Society of Human Resource Management reports that hiring and training a new employee costs a company about six months of a salary. At the pizza industry average wage of $12.95 and a typical 25-hour-per-week role, that means it costs you more than $7,500 every time you need to replace a line cook—which can be every couple months in this climate. That’s right: the hidden costs of your employee turnover can be up to $45,000/year.

It costs you more than $7500 every time you need to replace a line cook.

After advertising for, screening, interviewing, and ultimately hiring a new person, you still have to train them. The first few weeks on the makeline can be inefficient and the consistency and quality of your pizza can fluctuate. Beyond the expenses of training and ramp-up, sloppy saucing and freehand cheese coverage can affect your food costs, too.

How can food automation help the restaurant labor shortage?

While the phrase “food automation” might bring up visions of Rosie the robot or Captain Picard ordering “tea, Earl Grey, hot,” there’s nothing futuristic about it. Restaurateurs have adopted automation for years, from the dough sheeter to the food processor to the automatic dishwasher.

With every innovation in food automation, kitchens become more efficient and restaurant worker jobs become less tedious. Once you’ve run a rack of dishes through a sanitizing dishwasher, you probably don’t find yourself nostalgic for the three-part sink.

In a pizzeria, the pizza makeline is ripe for efficiency through automation. It’s why Picnic invented the Picnic Pizza Station, an automated pizza assembly system that tops pizzas with the same precise and consistent amount of sauce, cheese, pepperoni, and other toppings, every time.

When the team at Texas A&M Dining brought the Picnic Pizza Station to their kitchen, they were quick to appreciate the value of adding an automated pizza makeline. “What used to take three people now only requires one, which allows us to free people up to do other critical duties in the kitchen,” said Marc Cruz, District Executive Chef at Chartwells.

The Picnic Pizza Station fills those jobs you can’t hire for and is trained from day one. It doesn’t have an argument with its sweetheart the night before and it’s never distracted by its phone. Even better, it lets your best employees work directly with your customers at the front of the house. Smiles can’t be automated.

Can you afford to add food automation to your kitchen?

If you do the math, you’ll see that by adding the Picnic Pizza Station to your busy kitchen, you can achieve a positive return on your investment in the first month. Imagine fewer unfilled jobs, more consistent pizzas, lower food waste.

In fact, we estimate that for the average mid-sized pizzeria turning out 150 pizzas a night, you can save $31,496 per year with a Picnic Pizza Station performing as your makeline.

Want to try out your own numbers? Check out our savings estimator. Answer some questions about your pizza production, employees, and food waste and the estimator will help you understand how the Picnic Pizza Station can serve your bottom line.

The labor shortage in the food service industry isn’t likely to subside for some years to come. Food automation offers a way to fill unfilled jobs, keep your best employees where you need them, and produce delicious, consistent pizzas that make your customers come back for more.