Where the Chefs at? What to do in the current hospitality labour shortage.
In this week’s Snack we cover some reflective steps to take in the current labour climate and why now is the time to take a data-first approach to hospitality workforce management.
Lockdowns are over (for now) and the long-awaited re-opening of hospitality is here. There is pent up demand coming from all sides, customers want their bums on your seats, to eat your food and experience your awesome service. It’s game time baby!
Well… it should be game time but unfortunately for you, you can’t fill your growing roster lines with anyone who’s got more than a month’s experience, you’ve resorted to capping trading hours to maintain service quality and you’ve just introduced a super sustainable £1,000 signing on bonuses for all new staff to help ramp up the recruitment process…
Before you keep acting like a Silicon Valley startup fighting for engineering talent, now is a good time for a deep breath and a couple of self-reflective questions!
Question 1: How are you (really) planning for demand?
Silly question when there is lots of demand right! This is true, but not all sales are of the same value or effort to your business.
How has your demand evolved in the weeks since reopening? How has your sales mix changed? Has the pandemic-proof delivery or pick-up channel continued to drop off relative to dine-in? With a stretched roster, is squeezing the extra net revenue from your delivery channel worth the pressure on service vs optimizing to cater for zero commission diners in seats? These are all key data points to consider.
At the very least you should be using some form of reliable tech to forecast and analyse your demand levels on an ongoing basis. 4/6 week averages and looking at last year’s sales aren’t worth a sh*t right now.
Market leading ML based products (*ahem* such as Nory) model demand on a real-time basis, giving you clear and actionable insights: how are dwell times or bookings impacting my turnover potential? How many turns of the room am I getting vs should I be getting? How is the weather or the re-emerging local events impacting my turnover and sales mix on a daily/weekly basis?
You need a clear view of where and when you can optimize for turnover and experience. Which day parts are performing or lagging and why? And you need to make sure you’re getting high % accuracy on your sales forecasts. The last thing you want is to be under/overstaffed in this environment..
Effective demand planning has never been so crucial for restaurants and having a product that takes care of this data graft for you is not a nice to have, it’s a necessity.
Question 2: What is your staffing throughput?
Maybe not a phrase you are used to hearing but get used to it. Throughput is the rate of production in a given time period. It’s a much referenced productivity KPI for the McDonalds and Amazons of this world but it should be (and will be) for your restaurant too.
How many orders can (should) a chef produce in 30 or 60 minutes? How many tables can wait staff turnover in the same time period, how many orders can a delivery driver drop off in your chosen delivery radius? These aren’t just staffing data points for global QSR and Fast Food joints. Any restaurant group should understand what their brand averages are, what’s optimal and what’s acceptable.
If your short on staff and you need to optimise your workforce planning, using throughput as a basis for rostering your team is a sure-fire way to increase topline turnover on peak day parts and reduce labour cost on slow day parts. It’s also a hugely effective way to understand the quality and consistency of your training and service processes across locations in the same brand too.
Throughput, get on it.
Question 3: Where do you stand relative to the market in pay and benefits?
So you’ve invested in upping your tech game and have a well-oiled data machine place. You’ve also got your efficiency metrics down and are tracking the output of on-site training and processes. Now it’s time to look at how you invest in your greatest asset, your people.
Hospitality is not known for its bumper wages or (any) benefits. The pre-pandemic annual labour turnover rates of >100% is testament to that. Retention in a post-pandemic world won’t be about signing on bonuses, it’s about feeling valued and engaged. In the long run competition for talent will be fought on mission, values and benefits over wages and short sighted incentives.
Leverage data, technology and automation where possible to improve performance and reduce operating costs but don’t sweat your people. Don’t fight the changing tide in the industry.
Take a moment and sense check where you are at relative to the market and up your game to what’s affordable. Workforce Management products (*ahem* like Nory) worth their salt should enable you to model the impact of benefit package contributions and initiatives against your newly accurate sales forecasts, equally they should enable you to see the clear ROI from better retention in an increasingly lower LTO rate over time.
Question 4: So, what next?
As with any complex issue, there is no immediate fix. But taking the time to reflect on the questions above before launching into ludicrous and unsustainable recruitment campaigns is a pretty good start.
And no doubt as with all things hospitality, it will be a dash of the quantitative, a sprinkle of the qualitative and a dollop of people.