Cherish your serving staff. A recent report by KPMG for the British Hospitality Association warned that we’ll be short of half a million of them in just five years’ time.
We’re all probably very aware of the main reason – since the Brexit vote, the number of EU migrant workers has plummeted, and it’s set to get much worse as the countdown to breaking from Europe continues.
That’s possibly down to an impression overseas that migrant workers are now ‘not welcome’ – the recent fall in university admissions from the EU might be put down to a similar reason.
But the devaluation of the pound is also a factor, making it less lucrative to come here to work in our restaurants and bars.
In the UK, we’re not alone in feeling this shortage. US hospitality businesses are feeling a similar squeeze because of a crackdown on migration, and some are reporting that there is simply no pool of labour that they can turn to fill their vacancies.
Here, with unemployment at its lowest since the Seventies according to figures from the Office for National Statistics, it’s a struggle to recruit.
And yet the hospitality business is booming, because that same sterling devaluation is making it cheaper for tourists to visit. Further recent figures show that more than 7,000 extra hotel rooms are currently being built in London alone to cater for them all.
So isn’t this a crisis that’s already starting to happen?
As hospitality academic Prof. Peter Jones notes in his white paper ‘Staffing – the issue of our times’ that the KPMG study says the hospitality industry already has the highest number of vacancies as a share of total employment, compared to other sectors.
“It concludes that it will be hard to fill the recruitment gap with UK unemployed workers or workers from other sectors,” he says.
“For ‘hard to fill’ read ‘impossible.”
Prof. Jones quite rightly calls for a loud and vigorous response to the situation from a government perspective – but when it’s your café, your restaurant or your hotel that’s short of waiters, housekeepers and counter staff, there’s no time to wait for government initiatives that may never come.
How can your hospitality business beat the Brexit blues?
We’ve examined a number of highly successful UK restaurant and hotel businesses to discover the tactics they are using to help offset these staffing issues.
And we found thriving businesses have a lot in common when it comes to using all the EPOS management tools available to them to drive up efficiency and keep operating and labour costs at a minimum.
We identified 6 tactics these successful businesses are already employing:
- Effective rostering
- Efficient customer service
- Use of mobile ordering devices tableside
- Fraud detection
- Better stock control
- Better planning and decision-making
It’s always been a difficult balance to maintain – having the right number of staff on at the right time. Too few and customer service is affected; too many and you are simply pouring your profits away down the drain.
Then there’s holiday cover to organise, and extra staffing in preparation for the guaranteed busiest periods such as Christmas.
Using EPOS management software gives you detailed data that shows precisely when you are at your most hectic and when business tails off.
It takes the guesswork out of rostering, and means you can match your labour levels perfectly to your real requirements, keeping staffing costs to a minimum without affecting customer experience.
Efficient customer service
Diners and guests are becoming more and more demanding these days – surveys show the average time now spent in a restaurant is just 45 minutes.
Quick and efficient service is crucial to keep these hungry but time-starved customers happy – no wrong dishes delivered, no delay in dishing up delicious food.
It’s even more crucial in small-plate establishments such as tapas restaurants where customers order multiple dishes and expect them fast.
Jacque Ferreira is the Co-Founder and Executive Chef of Bar Iberico in Nottingham and Derby, one of the country’s top tapas restaurant chains.
He says EPOS management is the only way to keep on top of serving more than 700 people a day when Bar Iberico’s outside area is running at capacity.
“I spend a lot of time on the restaurant floor, and it is quite common to hear customers exclaim ‘Wow – that was quick’, referring to the speed the food comes out of the kitchen,” he says.
And how does it do that? This takes us on to our next point:
Use of mobile ordering devices tableside
Bar Iberico, like all the successful businesses we examined, uses EPOS software on mobile ordering devices so its staff can take orders and payments at tableside.
These can be dedicated handheld devices, or tablets – even mobiles. In the kitchen, a digital panel displays the order so chefs can get to work on it immediately.
Jacque says: “The order going straight from the handheld to the kitchen screen ensures a blistering speed of service.”
From a labour point of view, this is significant. Serving staff are no longer running back and forth to the kitchen delivering orders on bits of paper, which saves a great deal of time and also allows them to spend more valuable effort dealing with customers.
EPOS makes sure you protect your business and your customers’ data better. This is because every transaction is recorded, and it’s simply harder for staff to carry out dishonest activities – and that protects your bottom line.
Better stock control
I’ve already mentioned the data that EPOS management software captures – and it also includes real time information about which dishes are selling when.
That helps you manage your stock control better, focusing on best-sellers and reducing waste. In the kitchen, your staff do not spend valuable time creating dishes that no-one eats.
Better planning and decision-making
With valuable data easy to view at all times – I’d recommend using a cloud solution that enables you to check on your business online from anywhere you have an internet connection – you have all the information you need to make really good planning decisions.
These are challenging times, and likely to become more so as the Brexit deadline comes closer with few firm decisions made.
Staff are likely to become even more scarce, and the restaurants who manage to recruit will be those that have a great track record for successful and profitable operations, and who offer workers an excellent and efficient working environment.
Jacque Ferreira is planning more Bar Iberico branches around the country, and says he will take his Aloha EPOS system everywhere the company goes.
Many hospitality organisations are worrying about surviving Brexit. But as Bar Iberico shows, with good EPOS management, the best will not only survive, but also thrive.