Managing Your Team In A Period Of Staff Shortage

In the last few years the hospitality industry has suffered a double blow with the impact of Covid and Brexit. It is difficult to measure which event has had the most impact, but it is undeniable that a lot of the foreign work force has returned home and are not able to come back to the UK. The proportion of EU workers in the industry is now at its lowest despite a huge number of vacancies and many skilled work force are looking for jobs in mainland Europe.

Current legislation does not place the hospitality sector as a priority sector with regards to immigration rules, meaning that we must obey the rules set up by the Home Office to sponsor a visa application.

The difficulty with this scenario is that our industry has another specificity that affects our capacity to sponsor any visa, namely the service might charge. Most of the renumerations in the industry are made from a mix of salary and share of the service charge; both things combined make it well above the threshold required by the Home Office to be able to sponsor a qualified worker. But the reality is that the service charge is not considered due to its unpredictable nature and only the salary is taken into consideration, leaving most positions outside the scope defined by the legislator. Then add to the mix the lengthy process of the application and one can understand that this direction is not viable to resolve our crisis.

The most important blow is down to us. For years, our industry has used and abused the work force, working unacceptable, long hours in difficult conditions and with a lack of respect; promotion of TV chefs bullying and swearing at their staff has undoubtedly inflicted long-term reputational damage. We have created a negative image of hospitality which is no longer acceptable and despite the effort of many good operators, working in our industry is not deemed a positive, long-term career.

Since the end of the Covid restrictions we have seen customers returning to restaurants and bars. Activity is on the increase and in many cases has risen above the level of pre-pandemic. So how can we manage this increase of activity despite the lack of available staff in the industry?

Review Your Offer

Think about your products and what your offer should be to be in line with your concept. If you have a burger concept, do you need to offer a starter such as burrata? Does it add anything to your concept and positioning?

You need to review item by item and ask yourself these questions:

– Does it improve my concept?

– Is it complicated to produce and require a lot of skill and time?

– How much training do I need to produce and sell this item?

The general idea is that you must focus on what is essential to attract guests with less input in working hours. Focus on the essentials and the profitable items only.

Embrace Technology

Technology is entering every aspect of the industry and it can offer many benefits in regards of staffing. The best technology to consider in our case, are the ones which benefit both the client and the employee as they will be adopted without too many obstacles or effort.

Such technology will be able to transfer some of the tasks normally accomplished by staff to the guest, leaving them more free time on other tasks such as advising or upselling.

In such technology you will find

– Booking platforms

– Use of QR codes at the table to access menus and allergen

– Mobile ordering

– Payment at the table with mobile application

– Electronic point of sale

– Electronic payment systems accepting all mobile payments

And many more that will free up time for your staff members.

Analyse Your Sales

You must understand what you sell and when you sell it. The use of a good EPOS and cost controlling systems will support you in that task.

There are two aspects to this task:

-Menu engineering;

o   sell the profitable items for the best margin with the least preparation time.

o   The items requiring long processes and production should only remain if they have great margin and good sales.

o Focus on the best seller and improve the margin realised.

-Sales by hour;

o Look at what you sell and at what time.

o Look at the hourly labour cost associated with the revenue.

o Focus on planning the labour when you are generating the most revenue.

o Consider closing the shoulder periods when no sales are generated and save your working hours for the period when you can maximise the revenue.

Currently, many venues are closing on fixed days like Monday and Tuesday, making it easy to manage their work force planning.

Train Your Staff

The more your staff know what they are selling and doing, the easier it is for them to become more productive and effortless. This results in more satisfaction for both employees and the company.

The perfect bill;

This notion focuses on training the staff to create the right salesmix that will achieve the best revenue, the best margin, the best use of the workforce and the best experience for the guest.  Each business will have a very different ‘perfect bill’ at different times as it is very much an evolving task and requires daily adjustments. You may have purchased your cod at a low price today, are missing one person in a section and so on. Staff understanding on the interaction of the business must be developed and a daily briefing will allow to focus on daily targets.


Efficiency makes the life of everyone better as your employees will require less input to achieve the same goal. You will have to review processes and organisation and involve the employees who in general will let you know absurd tasks. Maybe you can buy prepared vegetables instead of getting them in bulk or you may need to get a bigger service tray so the waiter can carry more drinks in one go. Look also at the operating equipment that allows the staff to work efficiently without starting to search for missing cutlery to reset the table.

Subcontract Tasks When Possible

           Look at all the tasks that your staff are doing and challenge the necessity to have these done in house or not. Look at production, cleaning, administration, every aspect of the business in order to find hours you could save without affecting the good running of the business.

Nowadays, you can outsource so many things which will assist you in the running of your business with less staff such as:

– Fruit or vegetables already cleaned and cut to your spec by supplier

– Cocktails pre-mixed

– Cleaning by outsourced company

– Stock taking and cost control by specialist companies

– Night cleaning

These are not always the best solutions for your particular business but must be considered to allow going through a difficult period.


Rewards and Motivations

Remind yourself that you want to retain the staff body. Therefore, it is important to learn to say thank you (and it often costs nothing). People work for people in this industry and despite the unsociable working hours that we have, we love the industry because of the social interaction we have with many people and the satisfaction in making those people happy.

So be nice to your staff, give them a big thank you when they finish work and remember that you need them more than they need you in time of staff shortage.

There are so many ways to say thank you depending on the size of your business, but some are easy to apply:

-Offer a drink after a long and hard day and take the time to sit and discuss with them about today.

-Invite them for a free meal as a part of their induction or at the end of the probation period; remember that the real cost is only your food cost.

-Organise training and development with the help of your suppliers, often all expenses paid by them. Your staff will stay in a position where they continually learn.

Always keep in mind that there is a large cost associated with replacing a member of staff (loss of sale, cost of recruiting, cost of training). So always avoid pushing the boundaries and even if we know that it is tempting to ask the employee to stay and do a double shift, on a long-term basis, this will affect your business and employee retention

In conclusion, despite the difficult time we are currently facing, there is a lot an operator can do to navigate though the crisis. However, there is really only one long term solution which will resolve the crisis and must be implemented:

Recruit the right people.

Train and develop them.

-Treat them with respect and reward them.

-Review and pay the market salary.

-Do not push the boundaries and adapt as much as possible to their needs and demands.

-Retain them.

– Promote internally and create a culture of growth and development.


Always keep in mind that your staff is your sale force and without them, there is nothing. It costs less to retain that it costs to recruit.

For further information, please do not hesitate to contact me and we can have a quick chat about your needs.

Written by Olivier Lavigne du Cadet – July 2022

Managing Director – Insight Hospitality