FEATURE

Feature: Get the right staff and let tech help you win in business

By Gary Lloyd contact

- Last updated on GMT

Reciprocal relationship: online training offers skills to your staff that will help your business
Reciprocal relationship: online training offers skills to your staff that will help your business

Related tags: Technology, Finance, Training

We all know that if we want to make money in our pubs, we need customers to buy drinks and food but there are many aspects needed to enable that to happen from having the right staff to do the right things through to back-office tech to help make the most of what you have.

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The power of your people from Access Hospitality

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New year and new resolutions, but unfortunately, some of those same old problems still aren’t going away. Recruitment was a huge priority leading up to the festive season, and it remains so today.

Shortages in recruitment have meant that some operators have needed to make difficult, but necessary, decisions to increase prices and reduce opening hours. Whilst some small businesses, have had to delay growth plans because of the lack of staff.

But we are seeing new and innovative tactics being used to encourage new recruits, and importantly, keep the amazingly hard-working teams you already have – from increased wages and better employee benefits, to promoting a positive workplace culture.

Download​ your free and comprehensive guide on overcoming the hospitality staffing crisis to find out tips on how you can not only attract staff but retain them too.

Also, why not check out the Hospitality People Priorities hub​ where you’ll find heaps of free resources; from guides to webinars and articles, around all the key issues affecting hospitality people management.  

Visit https://www.theaccessgroup.com/en-gb/hospitality/​ for more information.

It is crucial pub licensees/owners are well on top of functions including recruitment of staff, rotas, payroll, mental health wellbeing, workforce management and training along with an insight of how to bring more people into the team and get them up to speed.

Technology is a huge part of this culture as many sites implement more efficient ways of taking orders, process payments and make the customer journey smoother, which allows staff to demonstrate their social skills when interacting with customers.

Leading sector technology provider Access Hospitality​ says the post-pandemic recovery for pubs is facing ongoing uncertainty, unavailability of staff and reduced consumer confidence so operators must create a workforce that is supported and productive. It must also balance appropriate staffing levels, deliver excellent customer service and trading profit.

Access Hospitality managing director Henry Seddon says: “Integrated technology is one of the most important tools to enable operators to attract, recruit, train and retain the best team with the most appropriate skills as they rebuild successful hospitality businesses within a vibrant sector. 

“Attracting the most experienced jobseekers can be improved by building a positive workplace culture, offering flexible working conditions and associated benefits. An inclusive and diverse workplace that values employees and always interacts openly with them is highly desirable and responds to the changing priorities that people have established around their work/life balance.”

Seddon also exalts the business’s self-service portal that gives employees at pubs greater ownership by letting them the ability to do things such as select available shifts that suit their life better.

Staff who are happy in their jobs are less likely to look for a move and a settled team that works well together is stronger and more effective.”

Another benefit that appeals to new recruits is being offered “on-demand pay” that allows them to draw earned wages immediately rather than having to wait until their official pay day and they can also respond to a call for additional shifts and holiday cover so they know they have more wages secured to stay on top of their own finances. 

On pubs needing to take on staff, Seddon adds: “In the past few months, hospitality recruitment procedures have had to cope with large numbers of vacancies, fluctuating needs based on footfall and shortage of personnel with appropriate skills. The recruitment process must, therefore, be as streamlined and accessible as possible. Technology provides a solution that manages the workflow process from start to finish, channelling a pipeline of suitable candidates into the existing HR system.”

He explains Access Hospitality’s technology provides an “end-to-end applicant tracking process” that can show all jobs created on job boards, including all applications received, candidate progress within the screening and interview process and which applicants have been hired, rejected, or added to a talent pool.

Seddon says: “Candidates are more likely to have a positive experience and will be more engaged with the business when they can login on their mobile device to check relevant information rather than having to chase for feedback or details of progress. All documentation is easily uploaded onto the system, including references, compliance paperwork relating to right to work screening, and any appropriate briefing information.”

Training is a vital addition to the armoury of any employee and tech from Access Hospitality, which acquired CPL Learning last year​, allows employees to learn online remotely using a clear training and development plan as required and believes encouraging higher calibre applicants helps offer a career pathway and also is likely to increase their length of service. 

Seddon says, in 2020, in collaboration with insight and data consultancy CGA, CPL Learning surveyed front-line hospitality workers to find out what they wanted from their employers to support them over the course of the pandemic. Results revealed a direct correlation between employee satisfaction and the availability of learning and development resources provided, which was allowed even while employees were furloughed.

Can I have your retention please?

Recruitment and training are just the start of creating a successful workforce, according to Access Hospitality, and retention of team members by keeping them happy, motivated and rewarded has multiple benefits and prevents excessive staff turnover and associated costs. Staff who are happy in their jobs are less likely to look for a move and a settled team that works well together is stronger and more effective. Many of the same principles apply to retention as they do for recruitment, with employee wellbeing increasingly important because developing supportive relationships is a vital element at the heart of a business model with significant benefits for organisational health. There is no template to follow for employee wellbeing but flexible working, shorter working weeks, enhanced pay and benefit packages, reduction in split shifts and giving individuals responsibility for choosing their own shifts should all be in the mix. 

The use of technology in creating rotas can also ensure a mental health or wellbeing ambassador is always on shift. Employee sentiment is a crucial element of any wellbeing agenda and regular, meaningful checks on how staff are feeling and any concerns they have should be part of a welfare programme. Rather than relying on inconsistent manual processes, technology can support this practice by running regular feedback campaigns and reporting on employee opinions to support ongoing personal interaction and the sensitive understanding required by the team. 

A mobile-optimised self-service portal not only assists the recruitment process but also makes a significant contribution to staff retention. Team members can manage their profiles and personal details, book holidays, request training and select their own shifts when these become available online. From an employers’ perspective, powerful workforce and employee shift scheduling software enables daily and weekly shifts to be filled quickly while also providing cost management through predictive labour optimisation features. 

Access Hospitality says team members are the lifeblood of hospitality and with people issues covering a diverse range of disciplines including recruitment, training, payroll, workforce management, recognition, and wellbeing, it is essential to maintain all information and manage interactions from one central point for maximum efficiency. While operational technology solutions may be widely recognised for providing value, visibility and simplicity through procurement, EPoS, reservations and CRM, the benefit of integrated technology in people management is of equal importance, with its impact stretching across the employer and employee relationship from beginning to end. 

During lockdown, it was crucial for us to keep talking and motivate our teams where possible.”

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People power

Leeds-based bar operator Arc Inspirations believes people are the key component to running a successful business and ensuring its staff feel fully supported is an ongoing mission.

The business, which operates brands Manahatta, Box and Banyan, has invested heavily in its people and training programmes because it has leads to building a great team culture.

People & culture director Nazareen Johnson says: “Like many businesses, the company has come through huge adversity over the past 20 months and keeping our team close via a tight-knit communications channel was key. We’re very proud of our retention rate and kept 95% of staff on reopening.

“During lockdown, it was crucial for us to keep talking and motivate our teams where possible so we launched Arc Cares – a confidential helpline our team members can use if they need support. The employee assistance line focuses on supporting mental health and is still in place today so everyone feels connected and supported. We are also looking to develop our awareness and support for mental health with a number of line manager workshops starting with the senior leadership team.”

She admits there is a concern over staffing shortages across hospitality and states this as a factor in wanting Arc Inspirations to continue in its role of building a great culture to attract the best talent available. She explains: “I work with the team to harness people’s individual talents and passions and provide a clear pathway for career development within the business. This goes a long way and means we’re keeping our team engaged and ensure they know exactly what they need to do to take that next step and keep them motivated.”

The results of Johnson's work is evidenced by the number of the company's general managers and operations managers from head office who have risen up through the business – 95% of GMs have been internally promoted with an average length of service of 4.4 years while 85% of ops managers have also been internally promoted.

Arc Inspirations offers workshops and masterclasses through to the more informal help via coaching and mentoring and believes its inclusive and diverse workforce and culture is vital to success and also means diversity is represented through to its customer base.

Spark up sales to pay salaries

Mark Robson, chief operating officer at pub investment group Red Lion Holdings, who is also a Chair of the British Institute of Innkeeping​ (CBII), said the biggest cost pub operators have to deal with is labour and gave his backing to taking on tech options.

He says: “Our salaries are 35% of turnover. Historically, that figure would have been around 30% and in 2019 it was probably 31% – and we know wages are going up this year.

“We had already seen a lot of cost inflation in 2021, because of a lack of supply and high demand since we reopened. There are, some fantastic labour management tools and tech that can really help you to be more effective in the management, scheduling and deployment of labour against your revenue at different times throughout the day, week or year.”

Tech can play a massive part in helping licensees to target certain customers, based on their food or drink preferences.”

Robson explains operators must be on the front foot with procurement and the prices they’re paying for any goods and services because they are rising constantly. He cites Prestige Purchasing as a good potential procurement partner because its network is vast and knows what a business should be paying.

On driving down costs, he recommends fighting fire with fire and make sure your sales go in the opposite direction. Robson says: “This can be done by analysing your yields, particularly on draught beer, because that’s straightforward to manage. A good reservation system is important to get the most out of your tables, using data from diners to encourage them to come back and/or to spend a bit more money. Tech can play a massive part in helping licensees to target certain customers, based on their food or drink preferences. It costs a bit of money and needs research, but the benefits to people’s businesses are massive.

“These systems can link up to your HR system, your payroll and your customer relationship management system. You want them all talking to each other, so they can make a really big difference – and when you review them, you need to do so as a whole.”

He also gives his opinion on the no-shows debacle that continues to haunt the hospitality sector. “The most important thing about no-shows is understanding what impact it has on your business. It is an industry issue, yet not everyone suffers from it. We have some pubs that really struggle with no-shows and others where it’s not a problem.

“If you’ve got the right systems in place, you will be able to identify customers who have let you down on a repeat basis. Taking deposits is key. We take them on certain nights and at specific times of the year and also for certain party sizes. We do it on a pub-by-pub basis, so it’s not a blanket policy. It’s a pain to have to do, but you get fewer no-shows as a result because people know you’re serious about it. You may receive some push back from customers and you may even lose some bookings at first, but once people get into the routine of it, they will adapt and understand.”

Red Lion, which acquired 12-strong Red Mist Leisure pubs 12 months ago, has brought in a new revenue management system for room pricing that analyses competitors’ prices and automatically changes prices rather than meaning more manual work in setting prices that don’t follow trends or take advantage of higher demand.

Workforce grows versus 2020

Back-office tech provider Fourth claims its Workforce Management (WFM) solutions have played a key role in allowing hospitality businesses to maintain relationships with team members and enhance the employee experience.

Fourth’s most recent workforce data covering December 2021, which is pulled from more than 700 businesses across its network of customers, indicates the UK pub and bar sector workforce grew by 4% compared to December 2020, although this was still down by 18% on pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

Likewise, the number of hours worked in UK pubs and bars increased by 217% in December 2021 versus the year before, despite still being down by 20% on 2019. The data also indicates that pub and bar December 2021 sales were up by 424% on 2020 levels, but still down 30% on 2019. This shows how the sector is recovering but is still some way off getting back to pre-pandemic levels.

Our experience suggests the later a rota is shared, the more frustrating it is for employees.”

Fourth managing director EMEA Sebastien Sepierre says: “In terms of the challenges publicans and other hospitality operators have faced over recent months, a primary one has been the scheduling of labour, something that has been further exacerbated by staff absences through illness or self-isolation.

“If an operator has under-forecasted its labour requirements for a particular shift, it will have an effect on the customer and employee experience, which will impact loyalty and future sales. With consumers continuing to pre-book and plan their visits in advance, loyalty has become more important than ever, meaning putting the right team members on the right shift is crucial.

“Ultimately, not only does a WFM solution enable this, it also gives operators more control over their labour costs, helping them to maximise efficiencies and operational output.”

Be flexible with staff

Sepierre explains more operators are becoming reliant on tech solutions more than ever to help tackle workforce-related issues and while WFM solutions have been widely adopted across the sector for some time now, most of these solutions solely focus on scheduling and fail to offer adequate insights into performance, productivity and demand scheduling.

Therefore, it is key to leverage next-gen tech to help improve staff communication and engagement, operational efficiency, expose unnecessary spend and remove oversights that can be made with manual forecasting and scheduling.

“The pandemic has brought the work-life balance question to light, with things like prolonged periods of homeworking in other industries shifting the landscape,” adds the Fourth​ managing director EMEA. “With homeworking in our sector not an option, we’ve seen businesses offer more flexibility and even introduce four-day working weeks.

“When it comes to workforce management and labour scheduling, it’s clear that when a team and their management have good communication around the schedule, with clear guidance on requests, holidays, upcoming events and expectations as far in advance as possible, business runs more smoothly for all parties.

“Our experience suggests the later a rota is shared, the more frustrating it is for employees. This can scupper personal plans, which can create friction between management and their team members. Any insight into future scheduling, alongside the ability to plan and execute schedules in advance, is likely to lead to better team morale and, therefore, improve the work-life balance.”

Sepierre believes hospitality will continue to adapt in the post-pandemic world and as innovation improves and augments the employee experience, progressive operators will succeed in delivering a profitable business, a stable team and a winning workplace experience.

Take some pressure off your plate

Mark Holden, who is director of Inn Cornwall, which runs three St Austell-leased and tenanted sites in the south-west of England, and is a Fellow of the British Institute of Innkeeping (FBII), says looking into increasing your GP on food can help boost staff wages.

Holden explains: “We’ve looked at plate size, price point and becoming more responsive to supplier price changes, and have taken into account wage increases. By April or May 2022, we’re looking for an increase in food GP of between 1.5% and 2.6% depending on the site, taking into account the product mix, demographic of the location and how price sensitive sites are.

“Salaries are the biggest cost – anything from 28% to 35%, depending on the site. It is huge and increasing, hence we have to look at margin gains to pay for it. Everything is going up, so it’s the reality that you have to be bold with your own pricing.”

If they’re heading into a busy weekend and they have received a report that shows minus £2,000 of stock, it gives them a kick up the backside to check stock levels.”

He explains that although it is labour-intensive run its payroll weekly allows each site to create a profit and loss account every single week so managers can see how their site is operating. The move allows changes to happen quickly rather than waiting a month to recognise any issues and incentive scheme can help motivate staff with rewards quickly too.

“We provide our kitchens with a sales purchase margin tracker,” Holden says. “We input all of the food invoices, as they come in during the week, and it gives our chefs a cumulative figure to compare against sales during that period. If they’re heading into a busy weekend and they have received a report that shows minus £2,000 of stock, it gives them a kick up the backside to check stock levels. When levels are looking high, it gives them a prod to think about slowing down purchasing and using up some stock.”

Back-office functions are clearly key to running a successful business with technology taking a huge role in the modern-day hospitality setting. However, all these aspects will not count for a great deal if they don’t ensure your customers and your staff feel an affinity for your business and, after all, this is still a very interactive sector that counts face-to-face action as something humans demand.

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