One of the most frustrating elements of management in hospitality is the drift in labour cost. After a huge amount of effort working with the team to get to the right cost for a week, including NI and holiday, holding to the same labour cost in subsequent weeks seems to undo itself at a more rapid rate than we are happy with. 

We all hope that we can leave labour management alone to run itself for a few weeks (or maybe months), before revisiting the site and resetting the numbers. Having to go back to it early and rework it, undermines the focus and energy we put into streamlining the process in the first place. And ultimately, it leaves us with a sinking feeling and a bit of resentment for the team running the site, because we feel they could have done a better job managing it all.  

Our hospitality bones want to focus on service and sales growth, leaving labour management to run itself and not require too much of our time. This is possible, but the process needs to become more routine and more consistent first. How? One way I have found works well is using rota templates.  

If we put a load of effort into getting the rota right, we then want it to be repeated. Writing a rota is hard: deciding when people start, and how many you need is vital. But we also have to take a different approach to the ‘who’ and ‘when’ for each day of the week.  

The person who is best at line cleaning might always need to come in early on a Wednesday; the manager might always need to work on a Monday because there is a head office meeting, and then there’s the kitchen. Someone might work on a Thursday because they prepare the desserts for the weekend, and another might be the best at carving the Sunday meat. These intricacies all play a part in gross profit – in fact, there are more to consider before we even get to the simpler ones, like how many hours and on which days. 

Once you have considered all of the people and their particular skills and foibles, you can decide where an hour can be removed here and there. And, just as importantly, you have planned a rota that is economic for your business. 

Typically, a rota can flex up by 15% without needing any more people if the sales spread relatively evenly across the week. So, a rota for a £20k week will be pretty solid, up to say, £23k. 

In reality, not many rotas need to be written to optimise your business. If I take my own restaurant, there has been a £10k spread in sales across all the weeks of the year. The only exceptions are the very highest weeks, like Christmas, or whenever there’s special events and bank holiday weeks. But, generally, 5 templated rotas will run most of the year for the business. 

When I look at our customers, I find them gravitating towards starting from scratch, even when we have spent time writing the rota with them. Inevitably, these rotas cost more and have a negative impact on sales because they don’t consider all of the nuances that are required.  

This process doesn’t just apply to the rota – the same goes for your shift planner. A well-written shift planner will include all the detail needed to run your specific business really well: the right people in the right places and the critical float roles utilised effectively and with the right purpose. Having no shift planner equals a poorly run shift, as the team are not clear on what they are doing. Shift planning remains the key to a great team, great retention, great service and great productivity. 

Too often, I find that businesses treat the shift plan as an afterthought. Writing a plan for, say, 6-on shift is the best approach, as you can then add the 6 team members to that plan, rather than the other way round. The same goes for using templates – they will massively reduce the drift in cost because the basic principles are agreed first. Together, the two create a first-class business! 

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