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How Obamacare Affects Restaurants, and How Technology Can Help

The deadline for larger businesses to provide healthcare or face a fine might be a year away, but business owners already are taking steps to ensure compliance.

The deadline for larger businesses to provide healthcare or face a fine might be a year away, but business owners already are taking steps to ensure compliance.

Portions of the ACA have been in effect for about three years, but the requirement that has employers concerned has been delayed until 2015. At that time, businesses with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) will be required to either provide insurance or face a fine of $2,000 per employee, excluding the first 30.

The restaurant industry, which runs on slimmer profit margins than a lot of businesses, is especially concerned about the mandate. Here’s some basic information every restaurant owner needs to know about the law:

  • Full-time is considered 30 hours per week, not the typical 40. Restaurants rely heavily on part-time workers, and nearly 21 percent of restaurant employees work 30 to 36 hours per week, according to a report from the Berkeley Labor Center. This leaves many restaurant owners facing the dilemma of whether or not to reduce hours to avoid penalties.
  • Another worry is how the law affects people who own multiple establishments. The IRS considers multiple businesses owned by the same person as one business. Someone who owns three restaurant franchises that each employ 20 people technically employs 60 people at one business under the law.

Indeed, the mood among small-business owners is of concern.

Finance company Merchant Cash and Capital surveyed 542 small-business owners and found nearly a third expecting ACA to trigger an increase in operational expenses. Of that group, 29 percent plan to reduce employees’ hours to offset the increase. About 135 business owners in the survey group said they will postpone expansion, and 108 said they won’t hire any new workers.

Technology Can Help Employees Work Smarter

If they trim their workforces, restaurant owners will face a staffing problem and the need to protect and maintain the customer experience. The good news is that restaurant technology can help serve the dual needs of efficiency and service.

Modern table-tracking technology and waitlist management solutions are two efficiency-promoting options for restaurant owners faced with these difficult realities.

In theory, a restaurant with fewer staff members risks a dip in service. But table tracking technology provides an antidote.

Fast-casual patrons place their orders and are handed an RFID-enabled device they place on their tables. That device tells the eatery exactly where they are sitting. When the food is ready, a runner can go directly to them without wandering around. Staff is alerted when orders take too long. That allows management and team members to jump on problems quickly, before customers notice.

The other big benefit is that tracking technology leaves the restaurant with a detailed database of service times, so managers and owners can tweak their staffing decisions to get the most bang for their personnel buck.

Speedier Service, Delivered More Efficiently

Similarly, waitlist apps help full-service restaurants improve the guest experience while maximizing efficiency. The host or hostess has the ability to sort waiting parties by size or seating preference to streamline the seating process – perhaps even enabling the hostess stand to operate with fewer workers.

Guests also appreciate waitlist apps because they can stay better informed with up-to-the-minute information on where they stand in the queue. Patented technology allows them the option to receive alerts via a guest pager or on their own mobile device. They can spend their wait time in a lounge or even waiting outside.

The overall result of both technologies is speedier service delivered more efficiently. And in the age of healthcare mandates, restaurants need all the help they can find.

Find Out More About How to Improve Staff Responsiveness

Complete the form below to download the free eBook, Improve Staff Responsiveness, for more detail about how staff responsiveness increased sales in this auto dealership success story.

Skip Cass is the chief executive officer at LRS and an expert in operation efficiency and creating a memorable guest experience. 



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