Staffing for December – Top Tips

Staffing for December – Top Tips

December is a blessing for hospitality. Bookended by autumn’s dwindling trade and a cold, baron January, the “festive season” represents a sparkling opportunity.

Increased footfall and a party atmosphere mean a revenue-boost is all but guaranteed. The best operators will exploit this further, both by maximising immediate profitability and using December to promote the long-term health of their business. Here are our top tips to do just that.

Special occasions warrant exceptional service

Special Experiences Drive Repeat Custom

Christmas brings countless new people to pubs, restaurants, and other hospitality sites. The goal is to convert these seldom-seen seasonals into year-round regulators. Delivering exceptional service is key to this, so adequate staffing is integral.

Rotas should always be written with sales forecasts in mind, but with large, profitable party bookings likely, this is particularly apposite in December. Enough staff should be working to provide guests with truly memorable experiences that will keep them returning long after the decorations are stashed in the attic.

Maximise Spend Per Head 

Jovial, festive customers are more willing to treat themselves. Premium drinks upgrades, extra desserts, and mince pies with coffees are all common indulgences that yield high gross profits. Upselling these items is a simple way to lift spend per head, but failure to do so represents a big missed opportunity. Table checks and upselling are common casualties when team members feel stressed, so a little additional initial outlay on staffing can bring great rewards, delivering as much as a tenfold return on investment.

If you are taking bookings for large parties, an effective way of increasing spend per head with minimal labour requirement is agreeing the sale of bottles of wine for the table ahead of time. Wine typically sees one of the highest margins of any product, and having bottles on the table will reduce the need for staff to fetch drinks to the table, allowing them to focus on upselling in other areas.

Festive menus are often preparation-heavy

Stagger Start & End Times

A large Christmas booking will justify having additional team members on shift, but if you know the party will only be on site from seven till ten, there’s little point having everybody working from five to midnight. Staggering start and end times will reduce unnecessary labour spend, keep staff feeling fresh, and promote flexibility of working hours. This is best scheduling practice that can be applied all year round. On a cautionary note, festive menus are often preparation-intensive – be sure to bring your kitchen staff in early enough to be fully ready to serve when bookings arrive.

Around Christmas it’s always a good idea to check your licensing hours and apply for extensions if necessary, as the late drinking trade can be very profitable. Staggering start times will make team members more receptive to a later than usual finish.

Consider Your Team’s Composition

To maximise December’s potential, it is a good idea to spend some time considering the composition of your team, both in terms of the different areas of your business, and employees’ contract types. Christmas menus may bring unfamiliar items, as well as a need for quickfire service, so it’s important to make sure you have enough manpower and expertise in the kitchen to cope.

The month of December is also likely to be see busy shifts seven days a week. If your team largely comprises part-time employees, who are only able to take on a couple of shifts a week, hiring temporary staff for the busy period can ensure you’re never left short. Students returning home for the holidays can be a welcome source of cheap temporary labour.

It doesn’t cost much to boost morale

Reward Your Team! 

Moreso at Christmas than ever, employees in hospitality sacrifice their own social lives so guests can enjoy a special occasion. Appreciative words, and the odd drink on the management after a busy shift, cost little but can make a huge positive impact on staff morale at what can be an exhausting time. Happy, motivated staff are much more likely to deliver exceptional service, earning valuable repeat customer into the spring and beyond.

Following the above advice in tamdem with S4Labour’s insight and tools for superior business management will put your business in the best position to truly maximise December’s potential this year.  


Staffing for December – Top Tips

Improving your Sales Forecasting

With the festive season just around the corner, it is important for hospitality businesses to strategically plan for the increased demand during the weeks and months ahead. Accurate sales forecasting will ensure operators get the most from this busy period.

Accuracy is Key

Many businesses will under-forecast in order to keep labour costs low, and whilst coming in under your wage budget may seem like a positive, this ultimately leads to poor customer service and missed sales opportunities. With a large amount of business being driven by word of mouth and repeat custom, providing poor customer service is not sustainable. In contrast, over-forecasting in order to protect service levels will result in too many staff members being scheduled and excess spend on labour. The aim therefore, should not be for operators to beat their forecast, but rather get as close to it as possible.

Efficient Deployment

The most evident benefit arising from an accurate sales forecast is more efficient deployment of labour. Mapping labour deployment against sales forecasts will ensure operators always have enough staff on shift to deal with demand, but not too many to lead to staff standing idle. This will maintain a high standard of customer service, as staff will have time to provide every customer with the attention they deserve, while still working briskly. 

Stocking Up

Another benefit of producing a precise sales forecast is the positive impact on product ordering and supply. Having a detailed forecast of sales throughout the day and week will help managers avoid over or under ordering stock. Over ordering can have a significant negative impact on profit margins, with excess stock going to wastage. Similarly, under ordering can have a negative impact – if a venue runs out of stock and cannot provide everything offered on the menu, customer experience will be impacted. Forecasting sales accurately will provide operators with a good guide on the required level of products for the week. 


The benefits of accurate forecasting are clear to see, but how can we improve? 

Split Your Forecast

When it comes to forecasting, the devil is in the details. Accuracy can be increased by forecasting on a daily and hourly basis, as well as splitting your forecast into different revenue streams. For example, you may predict the same amount of overall sales on a Saturday and Sunday, however sales on a Saturday will typically be predominantly wet, meaning more bar staff are required in the evening. Contrastingly, for many operators, Sunday lunch service sees Sunday’s food sales the week’s highest, increasing daytime demand for kitchen staff. Operators who split their forecast by revenue stream will see the accuracy of their labour deployment increase.

Organise Your Calendar

Annual and one-off events can have a huge impact upon sales. The Christmas period is a prime example of this, with operators experiencing a large spike in sales caused by Christmas dinners, parties, and other bookings. However, during the months following Christmas, we would expect to see a drop in sales, particularly with the increasingly popular ‘Dry January’ trend making customers less likely to buy alcohol, highlighting the importance of forecasting by revenue stream. 

One-off events should also be considered. With a suitable promotion strategy in place, venues can dramatically boost sales by showing sporting events such as the Autumn International rugby matches or Pay-Per-View boxing bouts. Research carried out by MatchPint and Vianet found that on average an additional 22 pints of beer were sold per hour during the Mayweather vs McGregor boxing match in August.  Shrewd operators will react to this increase in sales by ensuring they have ample staff on shift at these times to keep up with the increased demand. Ordering may also need to be adjusted. With beer sales likely to increase during sporting events, operators will need to review their drinks forecasts and ensure they are suitably stocked up.

Factor in the Home

Hospitality businesses now face more competition from the home than ever, as a continually increasing level of entertainment is available to the public from the comfort of their living rooms. Use of delivery services is also on the rise, and with Deliveroo reporting a 611% revenue increase in 2016, there is an increasing tendency for customers to stay in on Saturday, and other, nights. In forecasting terms, it is important to factor in specific television events such as ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ and ‘The X Factor’. With roughly nine million people tuning in to Strictly and around five million watching The X Factor, Saturday night sales may take a hit during the running periods of these shows.

Turn to Data

Sometimes we need to look back before we can move forward, and while reviewing historical data may seem like a time-consuming exercise for management staff, it is a vital stage of forecasting and should not be overlooked. Fortunately, technological advances over recent years have led to analysis of data at the click of a button.

Assessing last year’s sales figures will provide information on how a business fared during the same week last year. This data is particularly useful when used in conjunction with your events calendar as you will be able to quantify the impact of an annual occurrence such as Freshers’ week in university towns.

Another key factor to consider is forecasts from previous weeks. By comparing previous forecasts to actual sales, managers will be able to see how accurately they have been forecasting, and make adjustments to their future forecasts accordingly.

Click here to find out more about how S4Labour can revolutionise your sales forecasting. 

Watch the Weather

It is usually important for operators to factor in the weather, as this will have a direct impact upon levels of sales for many sites. This can be considered on a seasonal and daily level – shorter winter evenings will cause a drop in sales, whereas an unexpected hot weekend could cause a sudden spike. S4Labour has a direct link to Met Office weather forecasts geo-located by site, offering users accurate and up-to-date information on which to base forecasts.

S4Labour’s intelligent system recommends the optimum staffing levels based on users’ sales forecasts. This takes the guesswork out of labour allocation and ensures accurate forecasting is translated into success. Click here to find out more about the impact S4Labour could have on your business.



Staffing for December – Top Tips

An Integrated Solution is a Better Solution

At S4Labour, we are proud that our labour management system was created by operators for operators.

Our people have a wealth of experience gained from backgrounds in all sectors of hospitality, and we continue to manage three food-led destination pubs, two with bedrooms. These provide the perfect environment to ensure our products stay at the cutting edge of the industry.

We are ideally placed to understand our clients’ challenges and offer genuine insight and innovative solutions that help them achieve their business goals. We appreciate the numerous systems that contribute to running a successful modern hospitality business. Our specialism is enhanced by integrations with a network of trusted partners, allowing S4Labour to function as a central platform, streamlining numerous systems into a unified tool for superior business management.

EPoS terminals are a mainstay of modern hospitality sites


Since the turn of the millennium, electronic till systems have become ubiquitous in hospitality sites. Users rely on their EPoS for smooth, accurate service, but their potential to promote efficiency savings goes beyond rapid price calculations and user-friendly interfaces. Analysis of EPoS data provides enormous insight both into the distribution of sales across the hours of a day and longer-term trading patterns and trends. This promotes optimised scheduling of staff to deliver desired service standards without overspending on labour.

S4Labour integrates with the UK’s biggest EPoS providers, as well as numerous smaller regional suppliers, to present sales data in an intuitive graphical format, encouraging effective labour deployment decisions to be made. We are also working on future system developments which will allow managers to consider labour in the context of sales in real time, delivering further cost and efficiency savings.

Time & Attendance 

Often a sub-category of EPoS, time and attendance systems allow operators to electronically, and accurately, record employees’ shift start and end times. This data automatically populates in S4Labour, reducing the likelihood of errors or unearned overpayments. This removes the need for time-consuming manual updates to rotas, and boosts staff morale through increased confidence in correct and timely receipt of wages.  

This data also feeds the Lateness Report in S4Labour’s HR Module, allowing managers and head office staff unrivalled insight into employee timekeeping.


Effective training boosts staff morale and productivity

Although technological advancements are increasingly influencing hospitality, the industry still has people at its heart. Effective training of employees remains as important as ever, and money spent on staff development usually pays dividends in terms of increasing efficiency of service and customer spend per head, as well as reducing losses through errors and wastage and encouraging longevity of service.

Online training courses, typically provided by third parties, are a popular and convenient way for operators to ensure all team members are complicit with laws and regulations and equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to work effectively. S4Labour is integrated with leading providers of e-training, with course completion data automatically feeding into the system, allowing managers to quickly identify and rectify gaps in knowledge and compliance.

Property Management Systems

Increasingly, operators – including market leaders such as Loungers and JD Wetherspoon – are seeking to maximise profitability through adding overnight accommodation as an additional revenue stream. The potential returns on investment are high, especially when labour can be aligned to room occupancy rates and meal package purchases, optimising efficiency of housekeeping and food service teams.

S4Labour partners with leading property management systems to automatically populate with room reservation data, allowing managers to make effective decisions on staffing to meet the demand for overnight stays and boost profits.

S4Labour can take the hassle away from running payroll


Accurate, timely payment of staff is critically important to the smooth operations of any business and particularly pertinent in hospitality, with hourly pay and variable shifts commonplace. Correctly running payroll can be a time-consuming burden to operators, either through hours spent managing wages in-house, or through preparing the information that needs to be sent to outsourced accountants.  

S4Labour takes shift data from its rotas – often generated by a time and attendance link – and uses it to generate CSV format payroll exports at the click of a button. These conveniently provide payroll departments and services everything they need to ensure that all members of staff correctly receive the wages they have earned.


For hospitality’s decision-makers, so-called “Big Data” is becoming an ever more useful resource. Cutting edge analytical techniques provide unparalleled insight to guide decisions on everything from which products to stock up before a busy weekend to the best location for a new site.

The scope for cross-platform pollination of data is massive, so we are working closely with the foremost firms specialising in data for hospitality. This integration will allow managers to make confident staffing details informed by high-level analysis. Stay tuned for more information soon.

The advantages of a fully-integrated labour management system are self-evident. We are dedicated to making S4Labour’s integrations comprehensive and their functionality intuitive in line with our mission to maximise efficiency and profits for our clients.


Staffing for December – Top Tips

S4Labour Featured in Welcome Systems Podcast

At S4Labour, we understand the wide range of systems that contribute to the successful running of a modern hospitality business. 

S4Labour’s Gareth Thomas

We have an active integration with Welcome Systems, market-leading providers of Property Management software. This allows optimisation of scheduling in sites offering overnight accommodation, with demand for housekeeping and food service staff driven by room occupancy rates and sales of meal packages. 

Welcome Systems produce an informative monthly podcast, which this month featured S4Labour’s Gareth Thomas. In Gareth’s role of Business Development Manager, he works closely with key people at our integration partners to ensure our relationships stay strong and productive. Here he joined John Jones, Welcome Systems’ MD, to discuss an analytical approach to labour management and its impact on productivity, staff satisfaction, profits, and the guest experience. The podcast can be heard below. 

If you would like to discuss implementing a Property Management System integration to your S4Labour account, call 01295 267400 or email your account manager today. 


Staffing for December – Top Tips

What we Learned at the Propel Multi Club Autumn Conference

On Wednesday we were fortunate enough to sponsor the final Propel Multi Club Conference of the year. With industry leaders and entrepreneurial talent from a range of sectors scheduled to speak, we were eager to hear what they had to say.

With an abundance of knowledge in their respective areas, we were provided with real insight from each speaker during the day, and their enthusiasm and passion shone through. Supplemented by thorough, intelligent questioning from Kate Nicholls (ALMR), James Haycon (Thai Leisure Group), and Propel’s own Paul Charity, we ended the day with plenty to think about. Here are the key messages we took home with us.  

Investing Wisely Breeds Success

Capital investment company Imbiba’s portfolio includes a number of S4Labour clients, and it was fantastic to hear about their thorough investment process from an energetic Darrel Connell. Creating an upmarket home-from-home with a comfortable yet exclusive atmosphere is a key feature of Imbiba-backed venues. This echoes the wider industry trends for premiumisation. The thought and tactical planning behind Imbiba’s investments was clear to see and their existing investments are shining examples of their success.

Ron Pearson of Bowmark Capital delivered an astute insight into the world of private equity investment. Bowmark are supporting the hospitality industry through strategically selected investments such as the Drake & Morgan bar and restaurant brand. S4Labour have been working with Drake & Morgan for a year and a half, during which time they have seen significant expansion and acquired the Corney & Barrow brand. The scalability of Drake & Morgan is evident, with their success driven by great leadership and consistency across sites.

Differentiation is Key in a Competitive Market

Sameer Shetty of Hubbox takes to the stage

Sharing secrets of how Hubbox have found an edge in a competitive market was their head of operations, Sameer Shetty. Standing in for MD Richard Boon, Sameer did a brilliant job conveying the huge amount of passion driving their business forward.

With Hubbox’s offer focussing predominantly on burgers, it could be argued that this market has become saturated in recent times. Hubbox’s answer to the competition is to leverage their Cornish roots. Located in a region with an abundance of high-quality produce, Hubbox have developed fruitful relationships with local suppliers and sourced fantastic ingredients, making them truly stand out from the crowd.

It is always brilliant to see one of S4Labour’s newer customers thriving. Having initially been introduced to Hubbox by their new chairman, Alex Reilly, we are certainly looking forward to working with them more, especially with such passionate individuals at the helm.

Invest in People

Fuller’s Inns are an industry leader when it comes to food and beverage delivery. Managing director Jonathan Swaine provided us with an overview of how Fuller’s are leading from the front. Jonathan’s enthusiasm for people was clear to see, and it was fantastic to hear that this has been translated into new ‘people-driven’ initiatives and development programmes. Fuller’s have responded to the increasing demand for fresh food and the comparative sparsity of quality chefs by investing in kitchen development schemes. Other leading operators would certainly be wise to follow suit.

Fuller’s Inns certainly have a lot to be celebrating, and Jonathan himself will have been in high spirits as his beloved Brentford F.C. recorded a 2-0 win over Birmingham City later that evening. We look forward to seeing how Fuller’s continue to lead from the front and challenge the status quo.

Experiential Hospitality Concepts are Blossoming

Matt and Jeremy in full swing

Jeremy Symonds and Matt Grech-Smith, founders of the Institute of Competitive Socialising, gave an engaging presentation about the journey of their crazy golf, food, and drinking concept, Swingers. Throughout their presentation, it was clear to see the passion both individuals had for their budding business, and with a new site opening in the West End in 2018, they are expanding on the back of their success. Both individuals have a background in branding, and have used this to their advantage, creating a sustainable business model and ensuring Swingers is not just a fad. The success of Swingers has demonstrated the demand for experiential hospitality concepts.

Another thriving experiential hospitality offering is Lucky Voice. Nick Thistleton, founder of the karaoke bar business, spoke eloquently about the story of Lucky Voice whilst giving us an insight into his personal journey along the way. Within the challenges and distractions that Lucky Voice experienced during their early years lies an important message – focus on your core offering and play to your strengths. The Lucky Voice concept is simple yet brilliant, and by sticking to what they do best, their continued success has been achieved.

Communication is Key

A consistent strength of Propel events is the variety of the speakers. Mark Sheasby of Impress Performance gave a gripping presentation on methods and techniques used within his role as a performance coach.

Drawing on his experience within the police hostage negotiation department, Mark shared both entertaining and traumatic stories in a truly immersive performance. He challenged the audience to consider how they communicate with customers, and how we can all develop our communication skills to improve service levels and customer satisfaction.

A Loyal Customer Base Provides Stability

Eric Partaker, co-founder of Mexican restaurant Chilango spoke candidly about the story of his brand and the challenges they have overcome to be in the position they are in today. With 11 sites in prime locations, Chilango’s offer can be summed up in one word, vibrancy, and Eric certainly epitomised this during his presentation.

Chilango have maintained a loyal customer base throughout their existence and this has paid dividends in the long run, with crowd funding campaigns and the innovative ‘Burrito Bond’ raising money in times of need. Chilango’s ability to earn a passionate following has been a key element of their success, and, judging by Eric’s optimism, there’s plenty of opportunity for Mexican restaurants to thrive in the current climate.

Embrace Technology

Simon Chaplin, Head of Pubs & Restaurants at Christie & Co gave us a detailed rundown of current property trends within the hospitality industry. Simon provided insight into the operational headwind we are currently facing, and explained how operators are finding success by embracing new technologies such as intelligent scheduling systems. When questioned about exit multiples, Simon ensured to differentiate between selling assets site-by-site, as opposed to in bulk. The resulting message was that selling multiple sites will yield greater success, with potential buyers believing they are acquiring a bigger prize.      

Delivery is on the Rise

Hays Macintyre and Propel’s collaborative survey provides a helpful industry benchmark. Gareth Ogden presented this year’s results and delved into the trends behind the numbers.  Gareth discussed the increasing impact delivery services are having on the food and beverage sector. Using delivery services provides customers with a more varied offer, however this may negatively impact margins for operators. Delivery reduces opportunities to up-sell products within the venue and typically no alcohol is sold. This leads to lower margins and therefore must be considered when promoting delivery.

Follow Your Feelings

Roger Wade discusses Boxpark

Drawing proceedings to a close in a forthright manner was Roger Wade, founder of the ingenious shipping container food and beverage offering that is BoxPark. With a background in branding, it is no surprise to see Roger putting his stamp on BoxPark and creating a truly unique experience for customers. At the core of Roger’s talk lay an underlying theme – trust your feelings. Modern systems provide operators with unparalleled analytical insight, which considered in tandem to the instincts of an experienced professional is a likely formula for success.

With a new BoxPark site opening up in Wembley, this immersive hospitality experience of food, beverages, and events will be sure to attract a crowd.


At S4Labour we’re dedicated to helping the best get even better by helping them control costs, maximise efficiency, drive sales, and save time. This provides a framework for long-term success that allows operators to pursue their passions and make their visions a reality. Click here for more information on how S4Labour could help your business. 

It was a privilege to spend the day in the company of so many inspiring hospitality professionals. The talent and diversity within our industry was evident to see. We will look forward to hearing from more of the best in 2018.