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2022 Reviewed: 5 Lessons Learned From A Year of Economic Shakeup

January 25, 2023

In 2022, we watched the food industry undergo another pivot year of economic hardship defined by rising inflation, a wave of quiet quitting, actual quitting, and a rethinking of how different departments in food businesses operate.

We’ve had a behind-the-scenes look at how food brands of all kinds re-evaluated the relationship between food costs, staff needs, and the P&L—and we’re eager to share some learnings with you.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the defining lessons of the year (and what they mean looking forward), including:

  • How many food businesses botched the employee retention game without realizing it (and what to do about it)
  • Why marketing teams are getting closer to culinary teams
  • The leaky bucket of remote work—and why it doesn’t have to be one

2023 can be an incredible year, but to make it so, we’ll have to be very mindful of the era we’re leaving so we can avoid the mistakes and negative trends of the last year. Let’s get into it.

Team Churn Is A Problem the Food Industry Can’t Ignore

t's easy to think that food is the core element of a food business, but it's not. It's people who plan, order, chop, cook, package, and labor over the food. People are at the center. The fact that foodservice and hospitality businesses often forget this was highlighted in the significant workforce exodus over the past year.

Early in the year, studies from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that more employees were leaving restaurants for greener pastures compared to every other industry. Later in the 2022 as The Great Resignation showed signs of slowing, another trend—"quiet quitting"—rose to the spotlight as employees faced wave after wave of burnout.

Everyone is reevaluating the relationship between work and reward, and in many ways, foodservice businesses did not score well in the eyes of employees.

This was a wake-up call for most of us, and an important one. It's why we experimented with running 4-Day Workweek at Galley (which evolved into a Flexible 5th Day policy), why one Chick-fil-a location got a thousand applicants for a more predictable scheduling system, and why food brands across the country are rethinking how roles and responsibilities are structured.

Lesson Learned: Quality-of-life at work and employee satisfaction need to be a core focus for food businesses that want to retain staff, minimize training costs, and operate efficiently.

Also Read: A Dream for a Happier Kitchen

Cut Redundant Processes, Save Your People

An era of layoffs is currently rocking the technology world with over 100,000 people losing their jobs in the last few months, and there's a chance this will spill into other sectors in the first half of 2023. Given our newly-earned appreciation for loyal and engaged employees who see the vision and work hard to get there, it's on our minds to keep all of them.

Rather than facing a situation where food businesses must downsize to maintain a healthy business in a (potential) recession, food businesses should look at ways to optimize their workflow—now, before it's too late.

This means cutting redundant processes, automating mundane tasks, and streamlining operations across departments by investing in technology. We've seen this work for food businesses of all kinds: from small prepared food brands to national restaurants with hundreds of locations, there's a chance for everyone to eliminate inefficiencies, make every team member more valuable, and carve out enough margin to protect everyone's jobs.

Lesson Learned: Invest in technology before the pressure mounts and use it to automate or streamline operations. Doing so will help food businesses survive any economic hardship while protecting their employees’ jobs.

Also Read: Culinary OS: Explaining The New Push For A Universal Operating System

Food Planning Across Departments Should Not Happen Across Platforms and Tools

High food and supplies costs, paired with recession fears, mean we've seen a renewed push for efficiency at every level of food businesses. One of the areas of inefficiency there seems to have been a great awakening about is cross-department collaboration and communication. In most food businesses, the inability of departments to convey information immediately and accurately is a huge time waster.

Here's how this often happens: the culinary team develops a new recipe for a butternut squash soup. They create a PDF recipe document and send it to each team that needs access to it:

  • The nutrition team inputs all the nutritional and allergen data into Esha Genesis
  • The finance team pulls all the costing data into the data warehouse
  • The supply chain team works with Arrowstream, Inside Track, or a similar tool
  • Kitchen teams look at the recipe and do a few trial runs for training purposes

It works fine, until it doesn't. Because two months later, the culinary team has to change butternut squash suppliers due to pricing fluctuations—and now they aren't buying whole squash, but diced squash.

This changes everything, and every single team is impacted. Now they have to make a new PDF, resend the information to all stakeholders, and hope they all get around to changing their cost projections, nutritional data, supply chain ops, and kitchen routines ASAP (let the reader understand: ASAP means three weeks from now, because everyone's crazy busy).

What if, instead of manually sending PDFs or PowerPoints, the culinary team could just update the recipe in one system, and that information—nutritionals, costs, cooking steps, everything—gets updated automatically for each team?

Lesson Learned: Adopting a different tool for every department has often been the best option historically, but the advent of the universal language for food means food businesses can cut out duplicate work, manual work, and slow communication to make every team operate more efficiently and successfully.

Also Read: Webinar Takeaways: A Single Source of Truth for Culinary Operations with Harvest Table Culinary

The Distance Between Marketing and Culinary Teams is Closing

There's one lesson we didn't see coming, but makes so much sense in hindsight: marketing teams should be intimate and close-working with culinary teams.

Historically, these teams have had little interaction beyond the occasional photoshoot. They've often been located in completely different buildings. But that seems to be changing, and there are a few reasons why:

  • Foodservice overall is becoming more competitive and food businesses need to innovate in the menu faster than ever—then get the word out faster than ever too.
  • As consumers become increasingly ingredient and wellness conscious, the importance of clarity and transparency in how foods are marketed increases as well.
  • Just as food trends break quickly, so do consumer preferences—which requires fast pivots from both teams. Close collaboration means both culinary and marketing can inform each function to better optimize menus and recipes to meet changing demand.

Lesson Learned: Food businesses should invest in collaboration between culinary teams and marketing teams.

Also Read: How Collaboration and Communication Is The Future of Food

In A Land of Endless Virtual Brands, Quality Really Does Matter

We wrote last year that an unintended consequence of the ghost kitchen revolution would produce a gazillion look-alike virtual brands that saturate the delivery marketplaces with not-so-stunning food. That's exactly what happened.

As a result, a significant amount of distaste and distrust was established for ghost kitchens in 2022—and ghost kitchens began experiencing a shockingly-low success rate.

There was a point where the ghost kitchen model seemed it might undercut the long-standing idea that food quality is among the most important elements of our industry. It seemed like convenience may win the day in a grand fashion, knocking flavor and texture and aroma off their high horses. Instead, things went the other way.

Lesson Learned: Food quality matters, and convenience-focused brands can only get so far away from that universal truth before consumer preferences whip them back in the direction of quality.

The Signs of a Thriving Food Business in 2023

Zooming out, it's clear that 2022 was a year of new economic shakeups—and just when we thought we'd righted the ship from the pandemic chaos. Looking ahead into 2023, more challenges loom on the horizon. The brands that fare the best will have a few things in common:

  • Innovative compensation, schedules, and quality-of-life packages that help employees feel a deeper sense of reward in their work
  • Smarter software and systems that reduce mundane manual work and give employees more opportunities to complete engaging, meaningful work
  • A single source of truth for recipes, inventory, purchasing, and costing data—allowing every department to access the information they need in real-time
  • Passion for excellence in food quality and creating great customer experiences

At Galley, we’re pioneering the culinary operating system of the future: a single tool that houses all your core systems: recipe creation, menu planning, purchasing, costing, and more.

It’s the workspace of all your teams, the “one source of truth” everyone goes to for real-time data. It’s the home of smooth data flow and automations that maximize the value of your employees and offer them a deeper sense of contribution. It’s where forward-looking food businesses go to future-proof their operation.

Get in touch to see how Galley can help you optimize your culinary operation for 2023’s challenges and beyond.

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