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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Fri 10th Dec 2021 - Friday Opinion
Subjects: Grow-your-own a growth industry, Plan B makes it even more challenging for hospitality, nine steps to a brighter future for the sector
Authors: Glynn Davis, Ann Elliott, Abi Dunn

Grow-your-own a growth industry by Glynn Davis

A recent visit to The Greyhound Pub & Dining Room in Beaconsfield was notable not only for the great quality and value of the set lunch I enjoyed, but also the enthusiasm of the pub’s owner for his burgeoning kitchen garden. 

Daniel Crump led me out the back of the grade-II listed 17th century former coaching inn to what can only be described as a very modest sized plot with several raised beds. But he enthusiastically ran me through his plans for adding some more beds beyond the pub’s garden tables, and the various herbs and vegetables he is looking forward to planting and harvesting in future seasons.

He is one of a growing number of pub and restaurant operators to have, over recent years, begun to cultivate a certain amount of produce on-site. The recently four AA rosette-awarded Forest Side in Cumbria has a strong advocate for such activity in head chef Paul Leonard, who generates more than 90% of the vegetables he requires from his kitchen garden during the summer months. He is some way ahead of Crump, but they both recognise that such moves are advantageous in terms of adding economic value, boosting quality and bolstering sustainability credentials. 

Such moves might also be moving into the realms of necessity for higher end food-focused operators, because with supply chains causing grief across the whole of the hospitality sector, growing your own is certainly helping them ease their burdens. Consider that over the past three months, as many as 54% of restaurants have had to remove items from their menus due to lack of availability, according to a survey from Deliveroo. The survey also found 55% of its partner restaurants acknowledged that managing their supply chains has become more difficult over the past six months.

The situation has markedly worsened, judging by a snapshot from Haysmacintrye, which found that supply chain was the second most challenging area after recruitment for hospitality companies, with 14% highlighting it as a “significant challenge” compared with only 2% in July. 

With more fractured and erratic supply chains looking like they could be a potentially long-term feature of the business landscape, it is not surprising that we are seeing significant moves around the world by organisations to take greater control of this essential part of their business. The trend has certainly been gathering pace within the retail sector, where companies who have traditionally outsourced much of their fulfillment operations to third-party specialists have been acquiring logistics firms and building their own distribution centres.

Some companies such as Ikea and Walmart are now chartering their own vessels in order to bypass the busiest ports and avoid the major bottlenecks. Even the mighty Amazon, with its logistical wizardry, has not been immune from the growing supply chain woes and has taken the radical step of building its own containers. Its moves are driven by a desire to address the shocking 14% rise in out-of-stock items it has endured since January.

There have also been moves to embrace vertical integration, whereby the linking up of manufacturing and distribution capabilities provides companies with early warning signs of issues, and the greater flexibility to address these problems. This model has been integral to the ongoing success of Hotel Chocolat, which owns a cocoa farm in Saint Lucia as well as operating its own manufacturing facilities in the UK. Much of this will no doubt sound very familiar to the large franchised quick service restaurant operators who are acutely sensitive to the globalised movement of produce, and will have their specialists looking to mitigate the present issues and put in place robust strategies for the future. 

But hospitality companies would be mistaken to think that the only people able to address supply chain issues are the large global operators with their hefty resources, and the high-end restaurants with their kitchen gardens. The reality is supply chains have myriad moving parts and every foodservice business, regardless of size and modus operandi, will have numerous opportunities to tinker with their existing arrangements in order to better insulate themselves from the uncertain and rocky road ahead.
Glynn Davis is a leading commentator on retail trends

Plan B makes it even more challenging for hospitality by Ann Elliott

Most of the operators I know in hospitality will be devastated by Wednesday’s Plan B announcement from the government. Christmas bookings were generally at or around 2019 levels a few weeks ago, but thousands of bookings were then cancelled after the first announcement on the wearing of face masks. The need to now work from home will only serve to rapidly accelerate this trend, severely impacting profit projections for December and probably into the new year.

I am in the middle of an insight project for Harri, interviewing almost 40 human resource directors about their thoughts on team recruitment and retention for next year. Several key trends were emerging, and I suspect more will surface in the interviews I am conducting post-Plan B announcement – and that sentiment will have shifted significantly.

Every single support team has been stretched to its limits over the last 20 months or so, but HR has been hit particularly hard. They were just beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel – this light now feels like a candle that could be snuffed out at any minute. They are having to deal with the impact of some key recruitment and employment trends, including the following:

– A different view of work from 18 to 23-year-olds on in hospitality. Their need for flexibility, greater work/life balance and clear career progression, and their willingness to leave jobs they are not enjoying, must be considered in future planning. Most HR directors I have interviewed to date have significantly increased their focus on this age group and, as a result, seen their percentage of workers in this age group rise exponentially. It brings new (but exciting) challenges to the role.

–  The increase in employee segmentation. Team members now include young and old, the long-term unemployed, refugees, ex-offenders, the homeless, single parents, part-time workers, single shift employees, students, a broad range of ethnicity and those with disabilities – I could continue. Team members can no longer be communicated with as an amorphous mass. Communication must be nuanced to reflect the needs of a very varied work force.

– The need to manage this new mix of employees. This calls for different leadership skills, and managers who want someone to work for them totally flexibly, on call 24/7, are having to come to terms with not being able to hire people like that anymore. They also must learn to lead a much more diverse team than they had pre-pandemic. Not everyone is going to be able to step up to the mark.

– The rise in part-time working. There has been a definite shift in balance between full-time and part-time team members reported by most (but not all) of the HR directors I interviewed. A team of 40 full-time members pre-pandemic might now be 20 full-time and 40 part-time workers. This does provide managers with increased flexibility, but it takes more time to manage rotas and deployment.

– The need to significantly increase HR resource. HR teams have had to quickly, and comprehensively, review their recruitment ads, content and processes. They have had to recruit more people than ever before, apply for sponsorship status, improve their applicant tracking systems, put more resource behind inductions and find more resource for more training. They have also had to write new contracts, processes and procedures to meet the demands of this new work force.

– The constant challenge on pay rates. Most I spoke to were paying above (sometimes way above) the minimum wage and intended to continue that way. Some had had their back-of-house teams head-hunted en masse, lured by the promise of higher pay from competitors. Rates for sous chefs and head chefs have gone through the roof, manager salaries similarly. The big debate now for some is whether to include service charge as a mandatory feature to cover these increases, and the impact that might have on spending-per-head and covers.

HR as a function has become noticeably more strategic over the last two years, even though it has had to act far more tactically too. It is an intrinsic part of board debates, which in turn have had to become more people-focused than perhaps they were previously. Managing labour percentage on the profit and loss has always been important – it’s now critical when so many other lines are also under pressure. The big issue, of course, is how to make hospitality an attractive place to work for everyone. Government announcements this week make this proposition even more challenging than it was before.
Ann Elliott is a hospitality strategist, connector and adviser

Nine steps to a brighter future for the sector by Abi Dunn

I loved speaking with five industry leaders for Propel’s recent people event, sponsored by Harri. One thing is very clear – we are a different beast to what we were. Different to pre-covid, different to 12 months ago and still changing at pace. The businesses I spoke to have adapted at mind blowing speed.

So, what did we find out? I’ve plucked out the take-homes that people are looking for – the juicy bits. Knowledge from some of the big guys that can really add value.

1. Recruitment is now a marketing project
If your marketing department isn’t involved in how you’re perceived as an employer, you’re missing a trick. We all know the landscape has changed – marketing ourselves as a great place to work, showing our people culture and promoting our development pathways is essential. Whether you’re big or small, attracting talent is everything. Let’s face it, people and marketing teams mix well. The sum here is definitely greater than its parts.

2. Candidate experience is paramount
Operators who make people feel valued before they start work are winning. Whether it’s a quick and meaningful response to an application, a warm welcome to an interview or simply offering everyone feedback (and following up on it). We can’t afford to lose people through shoddy, ill-planned recruitment practices, but I fear so many operators still aren’t talking about this. You can either sit back and wonder why you are losing people before they’ve even started, or you can analyse your touch points and make them magical.

3. We must fish in new pools
Diversity must play a part here. No longer can we rule out the people who can’t work Thursdays, the part-timers, the parents and the ones needing set shifts. Let’s shift our mindset to genuinely asking when people want to work and being able to deliver that. Set shifts? Fine. Ten hours a week? Fine. Part-time managers? Why not? The trailblazers are also teaching their recruiting managers to see beyond experience – to see behaviour at interview and accept that the skill can be trained. That in itself opens up a whole new world for many operators.

4. Develop me or lose me
It’s clear from all of the conversations that there has been a shift in training and development. The days of operators assessing whether there would be an return on investment on that development are gone. Instead, we see a “let’s do it” attitude. The appetite for development is rife, and if employees don’t get it, they sure as hell will somewhere else.

5. Well-being and mental health
I love the fact that everyone I spoke to has worked hard to ensure their workplace enables open conversations about how everyone is feeling. Struggling has been accepted and is beginning to be de-stigmatised. The best operators have become great at signposting where to get help, and that’s bloody amazing! But more than that, there is a focus on preventative measures. How can our teams eat, sleep and live better? It’s certainly top-down. Employees are starting to realise that if they work in a business where this stuff still gets eye-rolls, they need a new employer.

6. Re-imagine if you dare
Everyone has had the opportunity to re-imagine some of the day-to-day of hospitality life. Do we really need to do that? Why do we do it this way? Whether that’s offering flexibility on things like opening hours or menus, analysing how efficient we are, or offering our general managers more autonomy – there is a real feeling of moving forward. Now is the time to challenge our past.

7. Tech me up
Personalisation, candidate journey, training and internal communications – all these aspects of business have only been able to be mastered through technology. For me, it’s clear that the operators offering the best work-life balance have created it through clever utilisation of tech. End of.

8. Benefits?
Where once as an industry we laughed at this question, I believe we will become one that leads the way. Yes, we’re on a journey, but the conversations around what is meaningful are happening. The actual benefits, per se, haven’t changed much, their accessibility has. Flags are being raised if people aren’t using them, and that’s great. Within 12 months, I predict it will be industry standard for general managers and head chefs to have private healthcare. Dare I say, we may even have enhanced maternity/paternity leave and pensions as standard. Let’s hope so.

9. The future
There is an overwhelming feeling that we are in this together. The transparency and collaboration of operators is stunning to watch and can only make our sector better. Secrecy is old-fashioned, the sharing of best practice for the greater good is the future. And if you aren’t seeking advice from others or being open for questioning, you may very well be left behind.

There you have it. Ten is perhaps the norm, but nine felt right.

Thank you to Natasha Waterfield (New World Trading), Chris Sleaford (Roxy Leisure), Hannah Plumb (The Alchemist), Miranda Jones (Everyman) and Andy O’Callaghan (Dishoom) for your time, your honestly and your willingness to share. You are a true inspiration to the sector.
Abi Dunn is founder of hospitality recruitment business Sixty Eight People

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