The kids are back at school, there’s a chill to the air, and while we may still be blessed with the odd fine day, autumn is in the air. For most in hospitality, the end of the summer season brings renewed staffing challenges.
With sales likely to drop, tightly controlled labour spend once again becomes the order of the day. But all is not lost; for shrewd operators, this time of year brings opportunities to continue to generate healthy profits and ensure their business is structured from long-term success.
A reduction to footfall and takings is likely to mean there will be less demand for staff. However, rather than having to cut employees’ hours – a move that is never popular – for many, the chance to schedule fewer total hours of labour will arise organically.
Earlier this year, our study into 23,000 people employed at over 100 organisations found that 89% of all hourly-paid workers in hospitality are under the age of 25. Many of these are students who work to fund their studies (and social lives), so the start of a new academic year will typically mean student-workers will want to work fewer hours or move on altogether. This provides a perfect opportunity for managers to save hours without aggrieving the staff who have likely worked hard all summer.
Improving your understanding of sales patterns within your business will also reduce the need to shorten hours without straying from a tight labour percentage. Darker nights encourage earlier dining, so be sure to amend shift start times to reflect this. If you can identify times in your trading week when you are typically understaffed, they provide a perfect chance to improve your labour percentage. Resist the temptation to just “get by” with a skeleton crew. The increased sales opportunities encouraged by attentive service will often justify having the extra body on shift many times over.
The changing weather brings changes to consumer tastes, which for many will mean a refined F&B offer as autumn takes hold. Salads and summer cocktails give way to heartier choices. This brings a chance to review the composition of your team. Do you have enough experienced labour in your kitchen to deliver new, more preparation-intensive dishes? Can your bar team cope with the increased demand for hot drinks? September is a great month for recruitment, as quality employees will be available following seasonal contracts, and any new staff you do take on will be well into their stride come the busy festive season.
And that festive season will soon be with us. It may be months away, but it isn’t too early to start planning for Christmas. The festive market is increasingly competitive, with the best operators exploring all advertising channels, not least social media, to promote their seasonal offers. Delegating tasks in this area to tech-savvy team members can be a very effective way to boost hours, while simultaneously ensuring Christmas is as profitable as it should be for all in our industry.
Finally, we must be realistic. At this time of year, there are going to be gloomy days and nights when customers just aren’t coming through the doors. In the spirit of silver linings, however, these can be seen as an opportunity to complete all the ancillary tasks that are side-lined in busier months. A thorough deep clean is always a good idea, while ensuring outside areas, including furniture, are protected from the harsh weather ahead is a valuable use of time. If you’re lucky enough to have an old-fashioned chimney, it’s probably time to arrange for it to be swept.
In today’s climate of rising costs for hospitality, it’s necessary for operators to make the most of the autumn, not just see it through. Following the guidance above will put you in the best position to make this time of year both profitable in itself and beneficial to the longer term health of your business.