The Hiring Handbook

Here today, gone tomorrow - hospitality workers in London

Posted by Scott Erwin on Mar 29, 2018 10:40:39 AM
Scott Erwin


Hospitality businesses traditionally go big on recruitment in the month of April in order to staff up for the busy summer months. Given eye-watering levels of turnover in the industry, you will be back on Gumtree in June unless you get smart. 

There has been a great deal written in hospitality and national press about projected labour shortages and how Brexit makes things worse. Lost amidst this hand-wringing at 20,000 feet, is the dire state of staffing in establishments today. To the extent that the problem is discussed, it is usually around the lack of applicants for open positions.

Recruitment is an issue but, the real killer for restaurants and bars is their inability to keep staff once they have joined.

At HireHand we've worked with over 500 hospitality businesses in London and engaged with hundreds more. Surveying a subsection of those businesses reveals shocking levels of staff turnover. (See graph below)

The below table captures the average time spent in role across roles with KPs having the shortest tenure at 6 weeks and GMs the longest at 6 months.

image (4)

As a former management consultant who has helped companies with their staffing in a variety of industries, I can assure you that this level of churn is virtually unprecedented and would cripple less resilient businesses in less resilient industries..


Causes are largely structural: aforementioned labour shortages, high density of employers in London, low switching costs between employers and chronically low salaries due to an inability to pass along rising costs in other areas of business (i.e., food) to customers.


Given this harsh climate, a fair question is what can you do besides pour a stiff drink, down and repeat?

1. Acceptance

Acceptance is the first step in AA and in this case as well. I am sure your brand is bang on and that your team is a great to work with. Nevertheless, one of the two grill chefs that joined your team will be gone in 3 months. That is the cold, harsh reality of the industry today.

Once you accept that high churn is a given, you can plan accordingly. At HireHand we see the best companies do this by prioritising your ringers and developing processes for the rest.

2. Not all team members are equal

Recognise all your team members are not equally important. One multi-site CEO told me recently that at each of his locations there were a core of 3-4 team members who were the heart and soul of the site and really bought into the business and then another 10 who were there for the pay cheque. Our advice is to identify your core team and over-invest in them both in terms of pay and training. Keeping your Sous Chef 12 months (as opposed to 3) could save your GM a month of time recruiting and onboarding new team members over that year.

3. Systems and training

Lastly, develop your systems and processes with the understanding that team members will need to get up to speed quickly. If you are turning over staff every couple of weeks, the time taken for a new team member to learn the ropes needs to be in hours not days. Best practice here includes video-based training and skills learning, clear kitchen processes and a culture of more experienced team members coaching new joiners.

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