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Fri 27th Sep 2019 - Friday Opinion
Subjects: Productive people, cherry-picking, cog in the wheel, and food waste for thought
Authors: Louise Sui, Paul Chase, Ann Elliott and Carol Evans

Productive people by Louise Sui 

UKHospitality recently released its Future Shock Report focusing on productivity in the hospitality sector. The study, powered by CGA, highlighted that while productivity has increased there are still opportunities to improve it. Staff productivity was one key area highlighted. 

The hospitality sector is a hugely important employer and currently accounts for 3.2 million jobs in the UK, with a further 2.8 million jobs generated indirectly. Our sector has created one in eight new jobs in the past few years but this growth hasn’t helped the labour shortage, a situation compounded by Brexit. That means getting the best out of your team is crucial. 
 
In the 2019 CGA Business Leaders Survey, more than four-fifths (87%) cited “engaged and motivated staff” as very important to the success of their business, while more than two-thirds (71%) said “staff retention” was also an important factor in success. But how do these things have an impact on productivity and what can you do to improve them?

Teams with high employee engagement rates are 21% more productive, according to a 2016 Gallup poll, and there’s a direct correlation between the two. If your employees understand your business’ goals, the role they play in the bigger picture, and feel a sense of belonging, they will deliver better results. They become business advocates to your customers. Belonging is a basic human need that’s widely recognised as fundamental to allowing an individual to unlock their potential. You only have to look at the Made In The Royal Navy recruitment campaign to see how the service is looking to capitalise on this.

How do you drive engagement in your business, particularly at site level? The key lies with the leaders in your business. We’ve all heard the phrase “people leave managers, not companies” and it’s true, half of all employees have left a job to get away from a bad manager. These “bad managers” aren’t all tyrants who make their employees’ lives hell, they may simply lack the knowledge, skills, understanding or confidence to get the most out of their teams. Therefore, you need to ensure you have the right learning and development programmes in place to develop and nurture these managers to lead their teams. 

You might have fantastic managers who you believe tick all the boxes but engagement and productivity still aren’t at the desired level. What’s the answer? I suggest looking at how these managers communicate with their teams. Are they engaging in open, two-way dialogue? Are they providing their teams with the opportunity to share their thoughts, feelings and aspirations? Do they have the tools in place to facilitate effective communication? 

Communication involves a two-way exchange of information – it’s not a one-way street. Studies have shown effective communication between a manager and their employees improves motivation and they, in turn, deliver superior service – and superior service and experiences are the goals of any hospitality business. Empower and encourage your team members at every level to communicate productively. Allow them to set aside time to share their suggestions, discuss their aspirations or resolve issues. They don’t have to be formal, drawn-out processes, they can be as simple as a chat over coffee, but they should be productive and have a purpose. Poor communication can be worse than no communication at all. I’m always open for a coffee and a chat.
Louise Sui is managing director of CPL Training Group

Cherry-picking by Paul Chase

Two things characterise the modern, so-called public health movement. Firstly, it’s not really about public health and secondly, there’s a tendency for scientists to become politicians and politicians to become scientists. This seems to be a growing trend in the post-truth world, where people convince themselves self-righteousness justifies telling lies.

This brings me to the latest news from Scotland about minimum unit pricing (MUP). A public health policy has never received so much political and emotional investment, which is why MUP can’t be allowed to fail. A few months ago the media allotted considerable coverage to news that alcohol consumption fell in Scotland by about 1% in 2018, while failing to mention alcohol-related deaths rose during the same period. For the purpose of public health propaganda, 2018 was “after minimum pricing”, even though MUP was only introduced in May that year.

Following on from this we hear in the media that “researchers say” MUP is reducing alcohol-related deaths in Scotland.

Here’s what The Times printed: “Fewer deaths after minimum alcohol pricing, Glasgow doctors say. Drink-related deaths plunged in Glasgow after Scotland set a minimum price for alcohol, researchers have revealed.”

ITV wrote: “Alcohol-related deaths ‘cut by more than 20% with minimum unit pricing’. Minimum unit pricing may have contributed to the number of alcohol-related deaths in Glasgow falling by more than a fifth, according to new research.”

The BBC stated: “Charity calls for alcohol minimum pricing to be extended across UK. A charity has called for Scotland's minimum unit pricing policy for alcohol (MUP) to be rolled out across the UK. It followed the publication of evidence suggesting MUP has had a significant impact on drinking patterns. Data presented at a conference in Glasgow suggested alcohol-related deaths in the city had fallen by 21.5%. The policy was introduced in May 2018 but organisers said there was already an indication it was working – and should be more widely applied.”

The same story was repeated in Scottish Parliament. Clare Adamson, of the Scottish National Party, said: “The First Minister will be aware of new research showing there has been a 21.5% decrease in alcohol-related deaths in Glasgow since the introduction of minimum unit pricing. Does the First Minister agree with the British Liver Trust that parliaments across these islands should get on with the day job and follow Scotland’s lead in the area?”

To which Nicola Sturgeon replied: “Yes, I strongly agree with the British Liver Trust. I am proud the parliament introduced minimum unit pricing. It is, of course, early days for that policy and a full review is built into the legislation. However, all the early indications, including the statistic from Glasgow Clare Adamson referred to, suggest the policy is working and is saving lives and improving health for people across the country. I am proud of the policy and think parliament should be proud of it. Although it is for others to make their decisions, I encourage other governments and parliaments across not just the rest of the UK but the world to look at the policy and consider implementing it in their countries.”

Let’s be clear, the National Records of Scotland released data showing the number of alcohol-related deaths across Scotland as a whole actually rose – from 1,120 in 2017 to 1,136 in 2018 – an increase of 1.4%. Quoting the Glasgow figures was a blatant example of cherry-picking. If I wanted to “prove” MUP isn’t reducing deaths in Scotland I might cherry-pick a few stats of my own. In Aberdeen, deaths rose from 15 to 25 – an increase of 54%. Or we could take Dumfries & Galloway, where alcohol-related deaths increased 40%. Or, better still, Falkirk, where they increased 71%. Or Perth & Kinross, where alcohol-related deaths rose by a whopping 76%.

You see how this works? Lying by omission is still lying. Cherry-pick some figures that go against the national trend and then announce in the media and on Twitter #MUPisworking.
Paul Chase is director of Chase Consultancy and a leading industry commentator on alcohol and health

Cog in the wheel by Ann Elliott

If I hadn’t been in operations for five years, between being marketing director of Pizza Hut and marketing director of Beefeater, I don’t think I would appreciate how critical “ops” are to the delivery of a brand. It sounds naïve to write that but, honestly, when you have a huge marketing budget it’s easy to think you are the team that drives covers. You are the cog in the wheel. 

Of course great marketing might encourage a customer to visit for the first time but it’s the operator that will be responsible for generating the second, third or 50th visit. The brand isn’t about a TV ad (unless you’re in QSR) or a loyalty scheme or a 25% discount. The brand is Phoebe who welcomes you, Chris who serves you at the bar or Katie who brings your food to the table. If they don’t believe in what they are doing and why, even the sexiest of brands will fail.

That’s why it was brilliant to run the Operations Directors’ Conference on Wednesday (25 September) with Propel. It was awesome to have such an outstanding line-up of speakers all willing to share their experience and best practice with others. It seemed to go very well.

I started to write about the things I learned but there were so many I thought it would be easier to list some sound bites from the presentations.

– 95% performance from the ops team isn’t enough, you wouldn’t accept this from the rest of your business

– If you’re an operator, never walk past anything that isn’t perfect

– No excuses. Be accountable. Be personally responsible

– When things aren’t going right, call it out quickly

– Have honest conversations, really honest

– A great operator manages people, product, process, place, performance and profit

– You won’t improve your profit by looking at your PNL

– The PNL isn’t what you do, it’s the result of what you do

– Your PNL is just a scoreboard

– Lose the ego and chill out

– Decide what only you can do, give what you “should” do to someone else

– Just get on with it, by the time it’s brilliant enough the moment will have passed

– Get out of your own way

– Allow yourself to be vulnerable, you don’t have all the answers

– Many of the best things I’ve implemented have come from the team, not me

– Innovation drives growth

– It’s not the big fish that eats the small fish but the fast fish that eats the slow fish

– Find your thing and bring everyone with you

– Be persistent. Be relentless. Be congruent. Listen

– Tailor your conversation to your audience

– There will be a fight for talent

– Make it easy for talent to find you

– A high-performing team isn’t just a group of people who work well together, it’s a group of people who trust each other

– General managers are the most important employees in the business

– Develop careers, not jobs

– Your team is your internal customer

– Focus on your team and let your team focus on the guest

– Celebrate individuality

– Focus on recruitment, incredible inductions, pay, and having great leaders

– Help your team be the best version it can be

– Encourage mastery. Constantly improve and learn

– The circle of success is team experience, guest experience, great business processes

– Give autonomy, it helps retention

– Great operations are about simplicity

– Check the cellar, it’s a real indication of attention to detail. Toilets are the customer-facing cellar

– Start with “why?”

– What’s your common purpose?

– Create a compelling offer to help you recruit

– Develop an organisation with a purpose beyond just making money

– We are not a pub business that develops people, we are a people business that develops pubs”

– Build a culture of consistency

– Ask the questions people don’t want to be asked

– How soon is now? Speed of service is a baseline

– Your brand is only as good as the guest’s last visit

– We sell time. Time with friends and family is the most precious thing of all

– Anyone can copy your product but sales and service superiority can’t be copied

– Have food that makes people stop talking when it’s put on the table

– Make it easy for guests to spend money with you when they want to by sorting out the barriers

– Get into your restaurants and your competitors. Watch how others are served, not you

The conference was a great day. Thank you so much to everyone who came and everyone who spoke and contributed.
Ann Elliott is chief executive of Elliotts, the leading integrated marketing agency in the hospitality and leisure sector – www.elliottsagency.com

Food waste for thought by Carol Evans

Without doubt the hospitality industry is facing one of its biggest challenges to date – and I’m not talking about Brexit! It’s a pressing and remarkably complex issue operators know all too well and one that weighs as much as The Shard 48 times over – food waste and how we reduce it.

Almost immediately after stepping into 10 Downing Street, Boris Johnson was urged to prioritise his government’s waste strategy. At the end of July, in one of the first moves by the Boris-led government, Michael Gove and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs released a flurry of documents aimed at strengthening environmental regulations.

While taking a strong stance on tackling food waste may be low on political agendas, such approaches have faced criticism from leading industry body UKHospitality. Chief executive Kate Nicholls has rebuked Gove’s proposed measures for their lack of foresight and for not taking into consideration the “significant costs for businesses” stricter government deadlines and increased time pressure to meet new food waste standards would incur.

Tackling food waste isn’t just an issue of meeting governmental standards, it also brings into focus what modern-day diners look for in restaurants. In recent years we’ve seen a rise in consumer awareness regarding food waste and sustainability, with customers more discerning about restaurant policies on waste, necessitating operators to change their habits. Lowering food waste also makes commercial and environmental sense.

The industry is well aware of the food waste challenge complexity and will be the first to decry any “one size fits all” approach to tackling the problem. The root of the issue stems from not always knowing the true scale of the problem or having an accurate picture of what’s actually being wasted. However, operators need the true and accurate picture so they can set a benchmark figure and achievable and measurable targets.

To cut food waste we must first define it, which isn’t a simple task – for example, distinguishing between recorded and unrecorded waste. Recorded waste can be classified as food that has been spoiled in the cooking process, ingredients spilled and dropped or produce delivered that is unusable or non-returnable. Unrecorded waste is unexplained shortfalls in inventory reconciliations and food the customer leaves on their plate. Ironically, this is rarely considered “waste” as the gross profit has been factored in and the diner has paid for it.

It’s a complex issue, but what can be done? Measures can be put in place to limit what’s thrown away. Taking more care not to spoil food during cooking or menu engineering processes to use cut-offs in other dishes can drive down waste. However, to effect real change we need to change behaviours.

On a practical level, what’s the cost of human error in food waste? This includes bad stock rotation, poor procurement or simply not declaring waste. On a broader level, how do you get your entire back and front of house teams to “do their bit”? Collectively caring about waste will reap great rewards – small changes do count.

It’s easy to adopt the mentality that your own restaurant waste won’t affect the issue much – particularly when supermarkets and homes create the most waste – but real change will only come when our industry works transparently and collectively to encourage and reward behavioural change.

The industry has welcomed technological advances that have helped in the food waste fight, apps such as Too Good To Go and Winnow, which features a waste monitor that helps kitchens track what and how food is being wasted. Our own recipe and menu-engineering solution goes a long way to showing chefs where food waste is avoidable but, while this tech is helpful, it can’t solve the issue alone.

As long-standing supporters and advocates of the industry we serve, we are now seeking ten restaurant operators to take part in the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s six-week Food Waste Bad Taste scheme.

The cohort of Fourth-sponsored operators will nominate one or a handful of sites, depending on the size of estate, to spend six weeks on the scheme. The pilot will offer operators step-by-step guidance on how to significantly reduce waste by delivering a practical, hands-on programme designed by foodservice professionals, for foodservice professionals.

Previous participants include Farmacy Kitchen, Hawksmoor, OXO and Bread & Honey. There are no restrictions on operator size or type that can apply and you don’t have to be a Fourth customer.

As a company we’re passionate about doing our bit, bringing our expertise to the table to support and drive the food waste agenda across the industry. When it comes to tackling issues around food waste, technology can only do so much to bring about change. We can only instigate behavioural changes and make tangible progress to combat the issue by working together as an industry.
Carol Evans is solution director at Fourth

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