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Thu 31st Jan 2013 - Breaking News - Mitchells & Butlers and TGI Friday’s
Mitchells & Butlers – trading more volatile
TGI Friday’s – two business innovations reduce staff turnover

Mitchells & Butlers – trading has become more volatile: Mitchells & Butlers chief executive Alistair Darby has reported that trading has become more volatile. Business has strengthened around “special occasions” but has become “more subdued at other times”. The company reported, for example, that like-for-like trading had increased by 11% on Christmas Day in a month that saw like-for-likes up 4%. Darby said the fresh challenge centred around labour scheduling to ensure the company prepared for the highs and lows of trade. He added that riding guest satisfaction and recommendation scores indicated the company has succeeded in “taking a lot of money” over the festive period while maintaining service standards. The new M&B chief executive said that the company had suffered during the two weeks of snow in January, linked to having 300 country pubs that customers were less keen to drive to. In addition, brands like Toby Carvery have an older clientele less keen to visit when pavements are icy. Last weekend, when the snow cleared, saw a “bounce-back” in business. “Cabin fever set in and we traded strongly at the weekend,” Darby said. Flat margins at M&B indicated that the company was doing a “pretty good job” of labour scheduling for the high and lows whilst “avoiding pubs not having staff in them”. The company has maintained promotional offers in January in line with last year in an environment where M&B thinks promotional activity has increased in the marketplace. Darby said there is a danger of over-promoting the business in January. In the value end of the market “customers are shopping around” this month. “Whether that’s making any money for anyone is another matter,” said Darby. In terms of expansion Darby forecast circa 40 new openings or major conversions in the year. He noted a ‘polarisation’ in the marketplace with more competitive bidding on the better sites. “We will (walk) away from sites where bidding is too competitive,” Darby said. “There has been a polarisation towards high quality sites (and) we will not overbid.”

TGI Friday’s reports two business innovations that have reduced staff turnover: TGI Friday’s, the business led by Karen Forrester, has reported it has introduced two innovations that have reduced staff turnover - Hot Schedules and Cash Counters. Last year, TGI Friday’s became the first company in the UK to use Hot Schedules – a new technology developed in the United States specifically for the service industry. Since adopting the system in May 2012, Friday’s saves around 150 man hours every week. The system simplifies the process of team management, saving supervisors from the time-consuming task of managing employee schedule requests, shift changes, and information recording. The system lets the team check their shifts at any time through their smart phone, and allows individuals to swap shifts and pick up overtime easily through SMS and email, rather than liaising with colleagues and management. The company reports Hot Schedules has reduced team turnover through better communication, flexibility, and increased team engagement. Meanwhile, the company has built on the success of Hot Schedules by installing Cash Counters in each site. Cashing up the tills at the end of the day is often a time-consuming task, but the introduction of the machines has reduced the number of hours the management team work a month by 1,200 hours, the company said. This allows the team to spend less time back-of-house and more with Friday’s guests. Tim Cullum, TGI Friday’s UK operations director, said: “We pride ourselves on leading the way in our industry, not just through our customer service and food and drink development, but through improving our business for our team as well as our guests. Hot Schedules is yet another way we show we’re on the leading edge of providing our team with a great employment experience, as they are empowered with the flexibility to negotiate the hours that suit their lifestyle and personal commitments. Feedback shows that Hot Schedules is revolutionising the way we organise our rotas, and Cash Counters has meant that team members can efficiently close-up at the end of the day, helping reduce late hours. Feedback from the restaurants has been fantastic.”

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