What We Learned At Propel Multi Club Summer Conference

What We Learned At Propel Multi Club Summer Conference

We were privileged to sponsor the Propel Multi Club Summer Conference that took place a couple of weeks ago. The day presented a range of insightful talks from industry leaders and entrepreneurial talent, whilst the evening offered a chance for networking with peers, new and old.

Exploring untapped markets, expanding at carefully considered rates, and the importance of brand flexibility were a few of the reoccurring themes. 


What does it take to be named ‘Innovator of the Year’?


Martin Morales – Innovator of the Year

Being the first to offer Peruvian cuisine in the UK was a big risk, but when you can deliver a concept as passionately as Martin Morales does his Peruvian heritage I think he was only ever destined to succeed. Martin compliments his two unique restaurant concepts, Ceviche and Andina, with cookbooks, self-produced music, art galleries and even a play – prompting a fellow audience member to turn to me and ask, ‘does this guy ever sleep?’.

When asked what advice he would give to a larger operator, he quoted his Peruvian grandmother from who he inherited his love of cooking, ‘here we cook with love’. No matter how many projects he takes on, it is always the quality and freshness of his food that will be his priority. Martin openly admitted that he prefers to eat in his own restaurants over any others, and that love and passion for his own product is what I believe makes Martin so successful!

The importance of brand culture was a key focus from HGEM, as they delivered interesting statistics around outsourcing delivery, and whether this could help or harm your business. Concluding that, wherever possible, you should form relationships with delivery teams, teaching them your brand culture so they deliver your brand as well as your food.


‘Working fast, with a great deal of patience’


Expansion was a common theme throughout many of the talks, all accompanied by the caveat that growth must be considered, not rushed. Andreas Karlsson perfectly summarised this as he talked us through how Sticks ‘n’ Sushi prepared for their move to the UK by ‘working fast, with a great deal of patience’. Choosing the perfect site for their debut restaurant took time and deliberation as they sought out a similar audience to their successful Danish sites. Wimbledon appeared as the perfect choice, combining a neighbourhood feel with the flurry of tennis tourists, and so was born ‘Fish on Grass’.

Andreas spoke about the importance of adapting and adjusting a site to fit its unique audience, paying tribute to where you are. Each Sticks ‘n’ Sushi location is bespoke designed to complement its surroundings and suit its customer base.

Matthew Kirby agreed that flexibility of a brand can be the key to success as he spoke of the various opportunities and difficulties of trading in motorway service stations, Chozen Noodle has been designed to be just as successful out of 80sqm unit as a 12sqm. Realising that ‘no-one wants to eat noodles before 11am’ also played a big role in Chozen Noodle’s success. To optimise sales, Matthew recognised they would have to adapt the brand to suit this audience. The motorway station units now serve coffee and croissants in the morning, before switching to the traditional Chozen Noodle menu for lunch.

Ted Robinson admitted to the audience that they had never intended for Grind to serve cocktails, continuing the theme of adapting a brand to suit the market. It was the high London rent that initially inspired this idea, as they realised the financial benefits of staying open later. Ted enlightened us of their trial and error process as they first offered a separate day and night experience, before realising they were alienating both audiences simultaneously. Realising the potential of Grind was to deliver a hybridised offer has been the key to their success and awarded them their ‘genre busting’ title. Had they not realised this was not just an additional revenue stream, but in fact Grind’s USP, Ted is confident it would have never become the ever-growing successful brand it is today.

Gavin George took us on a journey through history as he introduced us to the ‘unknown knowns’ of the classic British Pub. By understanding and amplifying the obvious, and yet often undervalued joys of a pub, the Laine Pub Company has created an enhanced experience.

Laine Pub Company sites intensify the escape from reality by introducing immersive games, giant car racing tracks, and virtual reality headsets. Gavin also touched on the importance of choosing an appropriate location. His enhanced offerings are often suited to locations further out from town, as they require more costly space and their uniqueness will draw customers out to them.

A memorable analogy from Andreas’ talk put healthy business growth into perspective as he spoke of the importance of not aspiring to grow like a sumo wrestler. Yes, the sumo wrestlers grow faster and bigger than the rest of us, but they also die 20-30 years before us. So, if you want sustainable growth, you must ‘work fast, but with a great deal of patience’.


For the many, not the few


James Baer, of Amber Taverns, gave fascinating insight into the sustainability of the wet-led pub model. The strengths of the Amber Taverns’ management model lie in the mutual relationships with their operators.

Managers can focus on their customers, offering that personal touch punters crave from a community pub, as Amber Taverns take care of compliance and other timely admin duties. Offering value for money beer and full Sky/BT Sport packages are a couple of other ways James suggests the larger pub companies should be doing to help ensure a sustainable future for the tenanted wet-led pub.


Are we moving from Gen X-cess to Gen Y-bother?


Matt Coles, of Morar HPI, led us on a journey as he discussed fascinating trends in the next generation’s alcohol consumption. He introduced us to the different alcohol-free alternatives currently available, and predicted what it will take to become a market leader in this relatively untapped market.

Despite the majority of ‘lifestyle abstainers’ stating their teetotalism was to maintain a healthy lifestyle, sugary soda and fruit juices still ranked as the most popular alternative. This appeared not to be a pro-active choice, but the result of a lack of awareness of the various substitutes.

Matt concluded this thought-provoking session by predicting a rise in popularity of aromatic tonics with this new ‘just say no’ generation. By striking a balance of sweet and savoury tonics can equally be enjoyed with a meal or throughout an evening. The presentation of a tonic also plays to the adult soft drink market, as they are often served with herbs or fruit peel twists, giving the same impressive flair as an alcoholic cocktail equivalent.



Table bookings – an operational tool or the start of a relationship?


A common mistake made by some operators, according to Zonal’s Peter Edwards, is to oversimplify the online booking process. Despite GDPR regulations, there is still a lot of data you can and should use to improve your customer’s experience just from their booking. We should make it easy for the customers, remember their patterns and speak their language.

A brief sales pitch amongst some fascinating insight, Peter spoke of the importance of having a back up system for phone reservations such as Zonal’s voice recognition software. On average, a site misses 10 phone calls a day resulting in not only lost sales but tarnished relationships with those potential customers.

James Hacon solidified this idea as he relayed his learnings from the Propel/ALMR Study Tour to New York, many brands have home-based freelance booking coordinators to ensure 100% of calls are taken and efficiently processed.

Table reservations should be synchronously used as a tool and a first impression, Peter concluded. A booking platform, online or by phone, can form the crucial first impression of your brand for a new customer, so it should provide the same experience as you would expect of your maître d’.


Mayor of London’s new London Food Strategy


The last few years have seen an increased reliance on food banks, Angela Malik shared how the mayor of London is looking to tackle this as food becomes part of his social fairness and equality agenda. The new London Food Strategy will focus on improving the availability of quality food for all, at all stages of life. Impoverished areas see higher levels of obesity as individuals opt for cheap junk food options, the #AdEnough campaign is the mayor’s first step of many to tackle this.

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 clear to see, and we look forward to seeing what is next on the horizon.


At S4Labour we’re dedicated to helping the best get even better by helping them control costs, maximise efficiency, drive sales, and save time.
Call 01295 267400 for more information or book a demo today. 


What We Learned At Propel Multi Club Summer Conference

Great British Pub Awards Nominations for Eight S4Labour Customers

No fewer than eight venues using S4Labour have been nominated as finalists across six categories for the Great British Pub Awards 2018. 

The latest round of judging has now been completed, and representatives from the eight venues will now take their place at the prestigious awards night in September, hoping to scoop category wins ranging from Best Inn to Best Wine Bar and Best Sports Pub. 

This follows on from the successes of S4Labour clients at the 2017 edition, where City Pub Group’s Temple Brew House site won the Best Beer Pub category and Rumba in Macclesfield, part of Life & Soul Ltd., earned the accolade of Best Turnaround site. Both companies have since spoken warmly of their relationship with S4Labour; City CEO Rupert Clark believes that “Our business is stronger as a result [of using the system]”, and Chris Carsons, CEO of Life & Soul simply said, “We couldn’t have won without S4Labour.” A full case study of how Life & Soul use S4Labour to better manage their business can be read here

The breadth of the award categories for which S4Labour customers are competing highlights the system’s effectiveness for operators across all trading styles and sectors of the hospitality industry. Notable amongst them are two venues in the Best in Pub Company Categories. Champs Bar & Grill in Urmston, Greater Manchester, is one of five finalists selected out of Punch Taverns’ 1,300-strong estate, while the Queen’s Head in Pinner, North London, has been nominated from Greene King’s 1,200 tenancies. S4Labour is perfect for the Leased & Tenanted pub market, helping proprietors reduce labour spend and increase sales, as well as giving a new depth of insight into business performance. 

We offer all the finalists our warmest congratulations on reaching this stage and wish them the very best of luck on the night. 


What We Learned At Propel Multi Club Summer Conference

Impressive June Sales for S4Labour Customers

June was a superb month for sales for S4Labour customers, our latest analysis has found. 

Research into over 100 organisations across all industry sectors revealed that average like for like revenues were up 5.4%. Recent fine weather and the start of the World Cup are likely factors in the increase, with drink sales 6.7% and food sales 3.3% up on average. Wet-led operators were the biggest winners, enjoying on average a 5.9% rise, while food-focused venues saw a 4.9% increase.

This follows on from strong May, which also saw revenues over 5% above 2017 levels. Many in hospitality will be predicting the good news to continue into July – CO2 shortage notwithstanding – as the recent heatwave is set to continue well into the month, while the latter stages of the World Cup and beginning of the school holidays will also boost footfall and sales. 

Understaffing when sales are good can significantly damage your bottom line, and your reputation. S4Labour can help you rectify this, maximising profits and customer satisfaction. Call 01295 267400 or book a demo today. 
What We Learned At Propel Multi Club Summer Conference

Top Tips for Labour Planning

Writing a good rota is in equal parts a science and an art.

S4Labour can take the guesswork out of scheduling the optimal number of employees to work at any hour of the day, but the most effective operators will couple this insight with a keen eye for balancing the needs of the business and team to drive sales and control costs. This can be a tough skill to learn and an even tougher one to master. Here’s our best advice.

SPLH & Ancillary Tasks 

Sales per Labour Hour (SPLH) is a measure of how efficiently a team is working to serve customers and generate revenue. It is likely to be highest at weekends and at peak times of the day, although an intelligent approach to split shifts and start and end times can mitigate the reduction in SPLH during quieter periods.

We often see operators schedule admin and preparation tasks – which by their nature do not directly contribute sales – for times when SPLH is typically lowest, such as Mondays. While there is clear logic to doing some admin when sales are quiet, it can be a good idea to keep back other non-sales-driving tasks, including essential cleaning. This allows labour costs on Mondays to be tightly controlled and is good for staff morale as it reduces the likelihood of employees finding themselves bored with little to do if sales are slow later in the week.

Fixed & Variable Hours 

In an ideal world, we would always be able to flex the number of hours every employee worked each week based on the needs of the business. In practice, contract terms and a desire to see employees thrive mean that there are almost always team members who must be given hours regardless of how busy a venue is. Nonetheless, it’s best to strike a sensible balance between the variable costs associated with the flexible hours of most hourly-paid employees, and the fixed costs of salaried staff. This is particularly true in sites that are typically very busy at the weekend and quiet through the week. In our pubs, we try and keep fixed costs beneath 30% of the total labour spend.

Meet Mavis

Introducing Mavis… we’re sure you’ve met her type before. She’s worked in the same venue for years. She used to work whenever she was asked to but over time has manipulated her hours. She used to come in 11-3 and set up the lunch session and the evening session. Now she works 9:30-3… and does the same. She argued a long time ago that she needed more time, and in a weak moment somebody agreed. She only works Mondays to Fridays as she told the manager a while ago that she could no longer come in at weekends. Employees like Mavis are costing your business money. It’s time for some strong leadership; Mavis needs to be more flexible, or Mavis needs to go.

Split Shifts 

Very short and very long shifts are often not a good idea. Very short shifts can damage morale, as employees can feel the reward doesn’t justify the cost and effort of getting to work, while at the other end of the spectrum longer shifts cost you more money and reduce staff productivity. Split shifts can be the solution. Many employees are happy to be given them, especially if it means they can be given more full days off. Split shifts allow you to reduce labour through the typical afternoon trough in sales as well as deploy more team members to meet the lunchtime and evening peaks in trade.

The Middle of the Day

The middle of the day is the biggest challenge in most venues. Between busier lunchtime and evening periods footfall and revenues are down, and without an intelligent approach to managing your labour, overspending is all too easy. Correcting staffing levels at peak times to optimise SPLH, ensuring enough of your team are on variable hours contracts, effective implementation of split shifts, and solving a problem like Mavis will all help you drop labour through the quiet hours and increase overall efficiency. Even reducing staffing by one person each afternoon will save you more than 20 hours of labour spend without impacting negatively on sales or service.

S4Labour gives you unrivalled insight into your staff deployment, helping you reduce costs and increase sales. Call 01295 267400 or book a demo today.