As published in BII 

New normal, same old same old


2020 has brought a wave of challenges, some expected (April’s minimum wage increase), others less so; who could have foreseen the COVID-19 pandemic?

This unpredictability has made controlling our labour spend equally challenging.


Whilst the global context of a pandemic means we are adjusting to a new normal, much of what we should have been implementing as best practice for controlling labour cost remains the same.


Although initiatives like “Eat Out To Help Out” and Rishi’s VAT cut have all helped to stimulate public appetite for returning to hospitality venues post-lockdown, the benefit has been offset to a certain extent as operators labour costs have increased, particularly on training on new hygiene measures and enhanced cleaning processes.


Plan, plan, plan


The discipline of planning your rota is more important than ever. The US and Europe traditionally have had a stronger weekday dining out culture, in contrast to the UK, whose culture is more akin to a weekend binge. EOTHO has proved that consumers are open to adapting their behaviour and are happy, and for now able, to afford to dine out during the week. As operators we too have had to adapt but it is also opening up a wider opportunity. It is much easier to manage a business that doesn’t have such highly defined peaks and troughs throughout the week – as long as you plan.


The business can work much more efficiently as the kitchen is not being slammed with high demand at weekends. Similarly, stock rotation is quicker and there is less waste. Food is also fresher and therefore food quality improved, generating a knock-on effect of happier repeat-business customers.


Brief the shift


Looking ahead, when the furlough scheme comes to an end in October, disposable incomes are likely to shrink as the unemployment rate rises and dining out becomes more of a luxury. There may be less opportunity to upsell your desserts, your coffees and the like. Ensuring you deliver a clear shift briefing at the start of every shift means you can maximise those upsell opportunities now. Also make sure all team members have slack tasks allocated to ensure those extra cleaning tasks are covered off. Manage the workload on every shift effectively across your team so that everyone is stressed or slack equally and are still motivated to provide great service.


If these new consumer habits become engrained the “new normal” of regular weekday dining might even mean that January and February don’t have to be the dry spells of old.

Tom Marshall is a former Brakspear GM and M&B lead general manager. He is our in house productivty guru with over 12 years expereince managing high profile venues.

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