Helping the Best get Better

Helping the Best get Better

Congratulations are in order for no fewer than eight of our valued customers who have had sites nominated for awards in this year’s Great British Pub Awards across five different categories.

The awards night is due to take place in London and September, and we will certainly be rooting for plenty of outright category wins, all of which would be very well-earned.

At S4Labour we are dedicated to helping the best get even better and it’s always gratifying to see our hard-working and high-achieving clients get the recognition they deserve. It is also particularly vindicating to see three of our customers nominated for the Best Turnaround award. We regularly receive feedback from clients who tell us that S4Labour has provided them with the insight and clarity of vision that has allowed them to turn struggling sites into thriving and successful businesses.

Well done to all involved!


Our nominated customers in full:
Best Beer Pub
Mr Foley’s Tap House (Mitchell’s of Lancaster), York
Temple Brewhouse (City Pub Co), London

Best Inn
Durham Ox (Provenance Inns), York
Worplesdon Place (Redcomb Pubs), Guildford

Best Managed Pub
185 Watling Street (Epic/Heroic Pubs), Towcester

Best Spirits Bar
Rumba (Deviate), Macclesfield
Hermitage Road (Anglian Country Inns), Hitchin

Best Turnaround
Rumba (Deviate), Macclesfield
The Anchor (Epic/Heroic Pubs), Aspley Guise
Pug & Greyhound (Pug Pubs), Leicester

Helping the Best get Better

Ambience and “Site Flow” – the Key to Modern Success?

Ten years ago next month, the smoking ban came into effect across the UK.Opponents at the time argued that the ban would critically harm the pub sector, viewing drinking and smoking as too closely linked

Opponents at the time argued that the ban would critically harm the pub sector, viewing drinking and smoking as too closely linked for a typically wet-led trade to survive. While some businesses undoubtedly suffered, many more have been able to adapt, with progressive operators embracing changes to the way people view and use pubs, bars, and restaurants and creating a welcoming, comfortable, modern atmosphere.

Over the last decade, as vertical drinking has largely declined, the popularity of comfortable, multi-purpose sites has grown. With groups of friends increasingly meeting to sit around a table and enjoy drinks, coffees, or food, it has paved the way for operators like Loungers to thrive. With an eclectic offer that appeals to morning coffee addicts, late night drinkers, and everyone in between, it’s no surprise the Lion Capital backed group have experienced roaring success, opening their 100th site last month.

So, what have the likes of Loungers done so well? Critical to their growth has been their ability to develop a warm, appealing ambiance. Simply put, they have managed to create sites where people have a reason to stay, resulting in excellent sales and a formula for sustained success. Central to this is furnishing. Modern hospitality operators must have a keen eye for detail, and be prepared to spend time and money acquiring furniture and furnishings that encourage the varied customer culture that propagates through our most successful pubs, bars, and cafes today. If the bar room of days gone by was an escape from the home, in 2017 it’s an extension of it. Consumers expect to be just as comfortable in the pub as they would be hosting friends at home. Furnishings and ambience should reflect this.

But comfort isn’t everything. The savviest operators know that while creating a comfortable, welcoming site will attract customers, they must also focus on site ergonomics and the flow of the customer journey through the premises to optimise efficiency.

Modern, adaptable seating at our site The Castle, Harrogate


Form and function must work in harmony, particularly in high-footfall sites.

A table may be aesthetically perfect, but if it seats two and a half people on each side, by using it you could be limiting your site’s capacity and therefore your profits. Conversely, simple, plain two-top tables may be ideal for moving around to maximise covers, but this may diminish the overall ambiance, again leading to reduced sales. Café-style seating – typically lightweight and low to the ground – has gained considerable popularity and benefits from versatility as well as stylishness.

Flow of customers through a site is equally important. Particular consideration should be given to the point of entry, in line with your trading style. In a wet-let establishment it makes clear sense to have customers arriving straight into the bar. For those focusing on food, particularly full service venues, it is logical to have customers entering into an area where staff are expecting to receive them, allowing them to be guided to a table quickly, improving efficiency and guest experience.  Waiting for a table may at times be necessary. It’s important that this can be done in an inviting area and in a way that will not be obstructive to staff or other customers.

There are further easy wins to be gained in terms of layout. Removing the causes of blockages in tight areas to reduce bottlenecks can do wonders for the atmosphere in high-volume sites. Ensuring your team always have easy and unhindered access to tills, waiter stations, and anything else they need to do their job may seem like common sense, but is something it’s never hard to find operators failing to do as well as they could. A final development that has marked the last decade is the rise in mobile technology. In an ever-connected world, consumers expect good quality Wi-Fi when they go out to eat and drink. Failing to provide it in all areas of your business could be limiting your potential pool of customers and stunting your sales.

There’s little doubt that our industry has changed in the ten years since the ban came in. In terms of ambiance, site layout, and customer flow, there is more to consider than ever before. One constant is the opportunity for the best operators to make their businesses a success. Today they do this by adopting an adaptive, detail-oriented approach. Those who fail to do so could see their best-laid plans go up in smoke.

Helping the Best get Better

Top Tips for Employee Efficiency

Last month we brought you our Top Tips for Management Time-Saving. This time round, we turn our attention to those people who compose nine-tenths of our workforce, team members. With over 25,000 now registered on S4Labour, it’s high time they were given some consideration. Here are our top five tips to help employees work more quickly and efficiently, maximising the time they can spend doing what they do best – delivering great service.

Proper Shift Planning

Every shift comes with functions that need to be completed to ensure its efficient running. It’s always a good idea to scope these in terms of primary, secondary, and tertiary tasks. Primary tasks, such as serving customers, must constantly be performed. Secondary tasks, like chopping lemons, should be carried out wherever possible. Tertiary duties, such as deep cleaning jobs, are to be considered at times of slower trade.

Once these tasks have been identified, all employees should be properly briefed on their responsibilities and targets for the day, as well as informed of any further information of relevance, such as special dishes or large bookings. This structured approach to shift planning will provide real returns in terms of employee focus and efficiency.

Sites should be fully set up and ready to receive customers prior to service

Effective Set-up

This should be obvious, but we still sometimes encounter managers who schedule staff to start their shifts when the doors open for the day. Not only does this mean early customers are likely to receive poor service, it can also put team members on the back foot for the rest of the shift as they juggle serving customers with completing the jobs that should have been finished before the site even opened, such as preparing outside areas and setting up the bar for service. The tasks that should be performed prior to opening will vary seasonally and by site, but rotas should always be written to allow employees to always complete them in time.

The Best Shift Leadership

Promoting efficiency across all employees requires effective shift leadership. People in shift leader roles, be they general or assistant managers, or simply more experienced employees, should be encouraged to be hands-on where required, but avoid becoming overly tied to a specific role. Think of a shift leader as the conductor of an orchestra, rather than the player of any one instrument. This will allow them to retain the big picture perspective needed to pre-empt issues and delegate tasks to others, driving efficiency throughout the team.

Site Layout

Many hospitality businesses, particularly in the pub sector, are constrained by limited space and otherwise challenging environments, but most can still make improvements to boost employee efficiency. A short journey made many times equates to a long journey, so take some time to consider the layout of your site in terms of the locations of waiter stations, ice machines, extra menus, and similar. A simple re-organisation behind the bar or on the floor can have huge cumulative efficiency savings, and your staff will thank you too!


A core principle of our business is helping managers deploy the right number of people in the right areas of their business at the right time. Getting this right is fundamental to efficient service. Team members, both front of house and in the kitchen, will be able to work briskly but comfortably to provide great service, improving their satisfaction and motivation and giving your site a lively, pleasantly busting atmosphere.

Through analysing past data and forecasted sales, S4Labour is intuitive, user-friendly software designed to help the hospitality industry optimise staff deployment, reducing labour spend without ever compromising on service.