S4Labour can take the guesswork out of scheduling the optimal number of employees to work at any hour of the day, but the most effective operators will couple this insight with a keen eye for balancing the needs of the business and team to drive sales and control costs. This can be a tough skill to learn and an even tougher one to master. Here’s our best advice.
Sales per Labour Hour (SPLH) is a measure of how efficiently a team is working to serve customers and generate revenue. It is likely to be highest at weekends and at peak times of the day, although an intelligent approach to split shifts and start and end times can mitigate the reduction in SPLH during quieter periods.
We often see operators schedule admin and preparation tasks – which by their nature do not directly contribute sales – for times when SPLH is typically lowest, such as Mondays. While there is clear logic to doing some admin when sales are quiet, it can be a good idea to keep back other non-sales-driving tasks, including essential cleaning. This allows labour costs on Mondays to be tightly controlled and is good for staff morale as it reduces the likelihood of employees finding themselves bored with little to do if sales are slow later in the week.
In an ideal world, we would always be able to flex the number of hours every employee worked each week based on the needs of the business. In practice, contract terms and a desire to see employees thrive mean that there are almost always team members who must be given hours regardless of how busy a venue is. Nonetheless, it’s best to strike a sensible balance between the variable costs associated with the flexible hours of most hourly-paid employees, and the fixed costs of salaried staff. This is particularly true in sites that are typically very busy at the weekend and quiet through the week. In our pubs, we try and keep fixed costs beneath 30% of the total labour spend.
Introducing Mavis… we’re sure you’ve met her type before. She’s worked in the same venue for years. She used to work whenever she was asked to but over time has manipulated her hours. She used to come in 11-3 and set up the lunch session and the evening session. Now she works 9:30-3… and does the same. She argued a long time ago that she needed more time, and in a weak moment somebody agreed. She only works Mondays to Fridays as she told the manager a while ago that she could no longer come in at weekends. Employees like Mavis are costing your business money. It’s time for some strong leadership; Mavis needs to be more flexible, or Mavis needs to go.
Very short and very long shifts are often not a good idea. Very short shifts can damage morale, as employees can feel the reward doesn’t justify the cost and effort of getting to work, while at the other end of the spectrum longer shifts cost you more money and reduce staff productivity. Split shifts can be the solution. Many employees are happy to be given them, especially if it means they can be given more full days off. Split shifts allow you to reduce labour through the typical afternoon trough in sales as well as deploy more team members to meet the lunchtime and evening peaks in trade.
The middle of the day is the biggest challenge in most venues. Between busier lunchtime and evening periods footfall and revenues are down, and without an intelligent approach to managing your labour, overspending is all too easy. Correcting staffing levels at peak times to optimise SPLH, ensuring enough of your team are on variable hours contracts, effective implementation of split shifts, and solving a problem like Mavis will all help you drop labour through the quiet hours and increase overall efficiency. Even reducing staffing by one person each afternoon will save you more than 20 hours of labour spend without impacting negatively on sales or service.