Autumn 2023: What do the Chancellor’s announcements mean for hospitality?  

Autumn Statement 2023

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has today released his Autumn Statement, bringing forward measures on NLW, alcohol duty, business rates and NI that will have an impact on the industry and its workers.

The National Living Wage will see an increase of 9.8% to £11.44 an hour, averaging an additional £1800 a year per full-time employee. This new rate now also applies to employees who are 21 and 22 years old – previously, it was only for workers over the age of 23. Though beneficial for the staff, this rise means a typical pub will see labour ratio hike around 3 percentage points. In addition to this increase, employee NI will drop from 12% to 10%, though employer contributions to NI have not been cut.

The extension of business rates relief is good news, and will help around 230,000 smaller retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in 2024-25. It also seems the Chancellor has listened to calls for alcohol duty to be frozen, meaning there is one less cost for operators to worry about until August next year. 

Chief Growth Officer at S4labour, Richard Hartley, commented: “We have spoken to operators who are currently struggling with labour ratios of 34%+, so this further increase in spend will be challenging, and we anticipate this will put pressure on consumer prices. As wages continue to rise, managing the cost is going to be the single-most important factor in the future success of our industry.” 

Driving employee engagement through intuitive scheduling: the rundown of Tech on Toast’s latest podcast with S4labour 

It’s no secret that Tech on Toast has introduced an increasingly popular podcast to the hospitality world, with companies sharing insights and showcasing their expertise on industry trends, innovations and challenges in the tech world. 

So, when our Chief Growth Officer, Richard Hartley, was offered the chance to film an episode with Chris at BrewDog Waterloo, they really got chatting. 

In this blog post, we’ll delve into the key takeaways from the episode and explore why it’s a must-listen for both industry professionals and enthusiasts alike. 

What’s the episode about? 

In the episode, Richard and Chris discuss current challenges when it comes to labour, and how S4labour’s people-centred approach to tech helps operators to engage and retain their team. By creating efficiencies and boosting productivity through effective scheduling, Richard explains how S4labour helps both multi-site and single site businesses to engage teams and drive growth. 

What are the key learnings? 

1. In hospitality, we have to be more reactive 

Operators have to react to whatever is thrown their way, be it the weather, train strikes, or whatever else. The further ahead you can plan your labour, the better it is.  

2. “The greatest difference you can make to productivity is with really effective shift planning” 

The reality of scheduling now is that there will be times in every shift when staff are not busy – these are the times that need to be filled with productive tasks. No one’s working a four-hour shift, especially in London, where most people have to travel in to work. It’s about working out how you can be effective by making sure people are busy when they’re not serving customers. 

3. “A busy team is a happy team” 

People want to know they’ve got tasks to do and that they are working towards the overall objective of the business – standing staring at an empty restaurant isn’t much fun. When people are engaged, they find ways to fill quiet times. 

S4labour launched a shift swapping product in 2019, which became a powerful engagement tool for employees. Gen Z continue to make us rethink ways of working, and one thing that we have noticed is that they don’t necessarily want to work 60-hour weeks. Younger generations prioritise a work-life balance much more than previous generations did, so they’re happy working a 20-hour week. 

Keeping employees happy, engaged and motivated is key to retention, which has become a big part of what we do. Operators using the system got really good at managing their labour costs, so now they have a focus on employee motivation, which comes down to capturing how they feel and feeding it back. 

4. S4labour looks after smaller businesses as well as the larger multiples  

At S4labour, we didn’t want to create something that was too complex, as some businesses might not need a big shift planning tool. For example, if they work in a small café with 2-3 members of staff. We wanted to find a way that we could right-size our offering for whoever we are talking to. 

5. Labour is the biggest variable cost and therefore it gets scrutiny  

Spending the right amount isn’t easy. Operators need to make sure wage rates are the right rates; that whatever they are spending every week is going to deliver the right amount of service for what walks through the door.  

That’s why S4labour designed a really simple deployment graph that talks about the stress and slack. It plots for every hour of the day and integrates with 298 separate EPOS organisations. 

“We give people better information to make better decisions” 

6. “We will continue to evolve in the people space.” 

The starting point for our tools is when an employee starts a job. From there, all HR – contract, to onboarding, right up to pensions at the end of payroll, are taken care of by S4labour. There’s such a big future within that spectrum, and we strive to keep adding that value where we can.  

Sound interesting? You can watch the full podcast below or get in touch with S4labour to find out exactly how S4labour can support you in being your best.  

Propel Women’s Conference: 5 Key Takeaways 

Recently, S4labour had the honour of participating in the Propel Women’s Conference which celebrated women’s resilience, strength, and limitless potential within each of them. This was an inspiring event that beautifully weaved together stories of triumph and failure, candid panel discussions, and incredible networking opportunities.  

Reflecting on the rich insights gained at the conference, certain themes kept coming up repeatedly. 

Here are five takeaways from the event: 

Leadership is a privilege

The best leaders don’t just manage people, they give them a sense of purpose. A leadership role doesn’t inherently make one a leader. The true measure of leadership is the ability to inspire others to achieve things they thought impossible. Authenticity, vulnerability and the will to make a difference are the essence of leadership. 

People and culture first

A thriving business is rooted in its culture, where people form the heart and soul of the organisation. People are the biggest value that businesses have. It costs next to nothing to retain people, but thousands to hire and retrain. And it’s a culture grounded in honesty and clear communication that effectively unlocks the potential of the workforce. 

Lowering the ladder

Helping others seize opportunities is crucial for a thriving team environment. The utopia exists when every member feels motivated and empowered. Remember, there are no ‘bad’ employees – only those who may either be misplaced in their roles or lack motivation. 

Change is normal

In the aftermath of Covid, organisations faced significant challenges and had to adapt rapidly. The industry continues to face uncertainties, and change is an inevitable constant. The ability of a leader to guide their team through these waves of transformation is invaluable. 

Prioritising EDI

EDI should be a bigger part of business strategy and not just a tick-box exercise. Leaders need to ensure they’re fostering a culture of inclusivity. 

After the Propel Women’s Conference, there’s an undeniable sense of inspiration. Let’s carry forward the momentum and continue to support and empower each other. If the idea of fostering a culture that puts people first resonates with you, discover how S4labour can help enhance team engagement, improve retention rates, and empower people to be their best.

Book a demo now to find out more!

A New Guide to Holiday Management in Hospitality

When holidays approach, it’s easy to get lost thinking about footfall and revenue, without laying the groundwork to grow both of these effectively. 

During busy periods, having the right amount of staff on shift at the right time, whilst maintaining labour percentages can be really difficult. 

Trying to scrimp on your labour spend by simply removing hours from a rota will end up costing you more in missed sales. Likewise, overspending on labour to play it safe will reduce productivity and eat into your profitability. 

Spring and summer are pivotal points for the industry, with numerous bank holidays and school holidays from March to August. Scheduling your teams effectively means finding the balance of having enough staff for peak periods, whilst sticking to your labour budget. You want to be flexible and show attention to detail. 

This article will serve as a guide for holiday management in hospitality.

First of all, you need to think about the kind of problems to consider like: 

  • Time off requests
  • Requests for additional hours 
  • Extended holiday hours or early closings 
  • Planning for events

All of these are to be expected during busier periods when there are variations in trade.

The first step in a good labour management process is to forecast demand based on historical sales data. Having visibility of last year’s like-for-likes will serve as the best indicator of your future labour needs. You can identify peaks and troughs, helping to determine when you need people in, and when you need to scale back on labour. 

By getting advanced rotas in place, employees can see shift plans easily, meaning any issues can be spotted and resolved. 

When teams are using one system as a point of truth, it is much easier to collaborate. Managers are able to communicate rotas and employees can volunteer for available shifts, meaning labour demand is met. 

Synchronising holiday calendars also allows advanced rotas to stay true to availability on key dates. When scheduling rotas during peak times, you need staffing levels right. There’s different skills required for front of house than there are for back of house, so making sure you have the right people at the right time is really important. 

Planning for weather variations is also a big factor to consider when planning your labour. Sunny bank holidays make for even busier shifts – take last year’s Jubilee celebrations in June, when sales were up 14% compared to the week before. 

The next factor to take into account is managing slack tasks effectively. Using tools that tell you how you should be staggering shifts to reduce labour costs will ensure that productivity does not slip and eat into profitability. 

Likewise, under scheduling and stretching your teams too far will result in a lot of stress hours and poor service. You’ll have kitchen mix ups and long wait times. 

The key is to dedicate the right amount of time to slack tasks, making sure areas are kept clean and tidy, with time to get ahead on prep. 

Every minute that managers spend manually scheduling employees could be better spent on the floor managing staff. Not to mention, manually building, editing and updating on a weekly basis often leads to lots of errors and unbalanced rotas. 

Effective labour management comes down to consistency, without this, costs will be further inflated. Working out your budget based on historical data, and sticking to it, will ensure there are no surprises in payroll, as well as making sure every shift runs at peak productivity. 

5 Tips to Help you Manage the National Living Wage Increase


Get visibility of what you have been spending so that you can start to see the areas you might be overspending.

The only way to do this is with a dynamic system that can give week-by-week and day-by-day insight into what you are spending, rather than just looking at totals for the quarter.


Get visibility of what you’re spending before you’ve spent it so you aren’t burdened with any unexpected costs.

Seeing your costs as you build the rota has a significant impact on efficiencies, and you can avoid finding out too late from the accountant that you have overspent.


Ensure you are paying for actual hours worked.

Benchmark data shows that digital time and attendance saves in the region of 15 minutes of cost per shift compared to relying on inaccurate timesheets.


Make time savings where you can.

S4labour are experts in reducing admin, which can save hours when taken out of the back office and management and returned to the shop floor.


Get more out of your team.

Driving the engagement and motivation of staff with effective communication makes a big difference to how well your labour is spent. Using a team app as a point of truth for shift allocations and tasks will increase productivity for every shift.

4 Ideas to Inspire your Valentine’s Day Offering

Valentine’s Day is a big one for the sector. With everyone heading out to bars and restaurants to enjoy some quality time with loved ones, it is one of the busiest and most profitable periods for Hospitality. In 2021, despite lockdown restrictions, CGA reported that 70% of Britons were still planning on getting a special meal on the 14th.  Every year operators find different ways to get their hands on Valentine’s trade through unique and memorable experiences, whilst growing consumer confidence. Our like-for-like sales report revealed that in 2022, sales were up by 60% on the 14th compared to the preceding Friday 7th. So, what are other operators doing to drive footfall and sales that could inspire you this year? S4labour has been on the lookout for some fun and affordable offerings being run in 2023 by some big names in the business. We’ve found 4 ideas to inspire some fun this Valentine’s.
  1. Valentine’s Variety Show at Big Penny Social
Big Penny Social are presenting a night of live performances, ensuring guests stay at their venue long into the evening with an array of tasty food and drink offerings. Click here to find out more.
  1. Dine Out at Inamo
London-based restaurant inamo, which serves pan-Asian and Japanese cuisine, has put together a full menu for the 14th. They are offering three Valentine’s cocktails, as well as a selection of sushi, Asian tapas and v-day desserts. Dedicating a special menu to the night will draw the attention of those looking to do more than just the average meal this year. Click here to find out more.
  1. 3 Course Special at Bistrot Pierre
Holidays are a great opportunity to capitalise on your USP. Bistrot Pierre are bringing their French roots to the customer’s doorstep, offering a selection of French dishes and a glass of Veuve Devienne, which is likely to catch the attention of anyone looking for a Parisian evening of love. Click here to find out more.
  1. Valentine’s Brunch at Harper’s Steakhouse 
Everyone has a different idea of how they would like to spend their Valentine’s day – many operators will keep it traditional, banking on making sales in the evening with a dinner menu. Harper’s Steakhouse is offering a 2 for £14 Brunch deal until 5pm on the 14th, which will not only attract an entirely new group of customers to the evening crowd, but ensure all trading hours are maximised. For those who prefer to make a night of it, they’re even offering romantic overnight stays, taking the stress out of who’s driving. Click here to find out more.
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