From gut to data glut 

This week we mostly enjoyed attending the Talent and Training Conference, hosted by Propel, which is in itself an usual thing to say, given that thinking about anything to do with the teams aspect of hospitality tends to conjure gnashing and wailing and salt water ruining your good shoes.

But not so, because this was the pub, bar and restaurant sector, where they will present a chipper view if they have to wire their teeth in that position, so they will. 

The solution mostly on the table for hiring and retaining was to deliver on fewer hours, flexible hours and more cash. In other words: reversing the many years of getting away with treating people like disposable rubbish.

Chantal Wilson, people director, bar group NQ64, said that the sector had become “addicted to the idea that people can achieve everything you want them to in your business”. The solution at NQ64 was, she said, to not “have shit jobs. Gen Z will not work a shit job for shit pay”. 

And there you pretty much have the issue at hand. For some attendees, there was no point talking about staff turnover or staff retention as long as you could get staff. There were no more double shifts, or working after 7pm, or working more than four days a week. As long as the team was happy, guests were bound to be happy and that was all anyone needed to hear. 

As Steve Rocky, group people director, The Pig, said, it was goodbye to the long hours, low pay myth.

And we can only hope that is correct. But observers of this hospitality revolution couldn’t help but wonder which particular magic money tree was behind all this. The bounteous investor? The deep pocketed guest? 

Fortunately, there was some sobriety to be had (and not just from Gen Z, where Katy Moses, managing director at KAM, reported that 58% of them consumed fewer than five units of booze per week) in the form of data. 

Honest Burgers’ co-founder Philip Eeles has started work gathering data – on areas including retention, stability and internal progression – which could draw a picture of what is actually happening in an organisation and also allow for the possibility of that great delight in hospitality: benchmarking. 

He said: “Wouldn’t it be a great thing if some of these private equity companies starting valuing companies based on their people data?” And by that he meant looking at how they were able to achieve the kind of long-term stability that makes for a functioning business, not how many children of potentially rich sources of an exit they could recruit. 

Matt Grimshaw, founder, Youda, added, “you could also have the data to be able to personalise the experience for the people on the front line”. 

Even more thrillingly, it could allow people throwing cash at the issue to prove that the cash was being spent wisely and not just on courses to teach people what sort of bridge they might want to build if they were transporting an egg over a wide chasm. 

And for the hotel sector, where there is significantly greater scope for automation and further scope for cutting costs, you really can pay what you should have been paying all along. 

Could data come to the rescue in this most hair-raising of sector issues? It seems like maybe it could. As Eeles noted, we are moving away from gut feelings and towards measuring that gut. And in a sector where the guts can be prodigious, much can be learned. 

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