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The steak holder experience

Matt Haworth

Restaurant chain Cattle Grid began in and around London, and is now expanding across the UK. The company decided that HR needed to prioritise employee experience, in order to build on that all-important customer experience and to meet growing expectations and competition and to drive this ambitious business forwards. Contributor Matt Haworth, Operations Manager – Cattle Grid

When we introduced the new system, there were the usual teething problems with implementation and encouraging people to use the system, day in, day out took some time and effort. But once staff were fully on board and it became part of the routine, they felt confident about using it, the advantages and improvements were soon realised and engagement levels started to climb as a result. What I liked about the system we chose, Planday, was that it stood alone – it was about payroll rather than everything else. We try and keep admin out of managers’ hands, because more than anything, in terms of their value to our business, we want them on the floor, not sitting at laptops. When you have too many people on a shift, they start to entertain themselves rather than the customer. Indeed, having a team running around and looking dynamic is far better than seeing two people standing at a till chatting about their weekend. Some managers try to maintain a system to try and keep that side of things under control, whilst others want to make life easier, by putting people on the rota, and that impacts on customer service and is inefficient and prone to error. We can even integrate the system with stock levels, whereas, in the past, the stock paper trail was inefficient and unreliable, and paper schedules and time-tracking lead to mistakes, which then took even more time and resources to mitigate or correct.

When we were deciding on which system would be most suitable for our business, there were lots of providers approaching us with apps for all sorts of things. As said, we were very paper-based before, and the problem always was that you can’t see what’s happening from head office and you can only see the finer detail, when you paid the wages. Furthermore, there was a real lack of employee engagement as a result, with employees disinclined to work at an establishment where there was no flexibility of shifts, no immediate access to important documents, and limited availability or access to rota. As a business where confident efficient happy and caring staff makes such a difference to customers, who are engaging with staff during their meal, with a system like this, your operation instantly appears to be more organised and caring. Employers feel empowered and supported, and it makes it easier for the manager to be organised, which can only be a good thing for everybody. Its visibility is great. Of course, we’re in the age where technology is king, and we feel like we’re embracing that in a positive way. Indeed, I think any business in our sector that is not using technology in this way, in this day and age, is not only blinkered, they will rapidly fall behind the competition and lose valuable staff along the way.

The solution for us was clear; we needed fast, smart scheduling for management, through technology that provided a clean user interface, and one that allowing for simple operation in a way that people felt comfortable with, drag and drop. Also, most immediately, things started to become more joined up. A really good example was that previously you would have to go and have a meeting at the outlet with the Manager, and question as to why there were four people on the rota until midnight when the kitchen closes at midnight. Previously, you simply would not know where money might be being wasted. So with a reliable and clear view of shifts, we suddenly had a solution that provided a centralised view of staff with trackable history, to inform future planning decisions, which then could be used by everyone in the organisation.

As always, being able to interrogate the detail is where you can save the business from a lot of expense, operational inefficiency and even potential reputation damage. For example, if there are too many under-skilled people on a shift at any one time, you can easily spot this and integrate with the manager to see why, and if there is a problem. If there are three inexperienced students on the rota for a big function, for example, you need to deal with that fast, to avoid letting customers down with an inferior experience. In this business, you have to make sure the rota is balanced, and the fact that head office can now see what’s going on at all times is a significant improvement, as everybody concerned, whereas before there was no oversight. A case in point is, if I’m waiting outside an outlet at 10am for a meeting with the manager, I can instantly see who is supposed to be there to open up. If they don’t arrive, I can give them a call, so all their data is in there on the system.

Additional features that are really assisting with improving engagement are the fact that digitising the structure in an establishment now provides in-app holiday requests and communication system, which allows staff to swap shifts directly on any device, without management being a bottleneck. We want to create a nice working environment for employees, but we also need to run a business and when we found out about this capability, we knew this was going to help with our payroll. It’s the most expensive part of our business and we need to keep an eye on it. Making operations in the restaurants has also improved engagement. If you looked at our till systems before the new system, there was a massive brawl going on, particularly in busy times, and there was a myriad of integrated systems, added on over the past five years. Now with a fully integrated till systems that manages everything from placing orders to managing rotas has revolutionised the way our staff and restaurants operate. In our sector, there are many different suppliers that have developed their version of a system, but it will come down to a few companies that will dominate the market.

The till system we use incorporates electronic ordering pads, which staff really enjoy and, by comparison now, we have seen the old method of putting in a paper ticket to the kitchen or putting it into the till, which then goes to the kitchen is a waste of time. The order goes to the kitchen quicker and that can only be a good thing when it comes to customer satisfaction. The till system is a next generation till system, which enables you to print all kinds of reports at any point, and work out what you’re selling, keeping stock of everything. The system also makes payroll more accurate and efficient, because you require less man hours to perform the task, which significantly frees up time and resources. All of this resource saving means management can now focus on real priorities and give customers greater care and attention. It really is a win-win, because not only is engagement up, administrative costs are down, reduced by 70 percent, meaning staff can focus on real things that matter and improving their service.

For our business, this is such a good tool, because it makes controlling management and staff easier. You can see what everyone is doing, or indeed should be doing a glance. You can see when managers are on site and you can understand their mind-set when they’re doing the rota, and assist with any challenges or complication. And of course, it helps head office manage staff better and easier. We are finding now that we can invest in the business properly without worrying about inefficiencies: We’ve reduced payroll by four percent, meaning the system has paid for itself from day one, and is helping us save several thousands of pounds a year. Significantly too, you can always see who is on shift and their skillset and experience, meaning that a restaurant is never deficient in the right level of experience. The cost of the new system paid for itself within weeks. If you use it correctly, you cut your payroll down significantly and payroll errors are minimised, which improves engagement and happiness significantly. For us, having such a completely scalable system has been crucially important as we expand our outlets. If we open a new restaurant, it will become part of the process.

So far so good. Staff retention has improved significantly, which is a key indicator that engagement is improving, and that is directly leading to an improved experience for customers: Engagement has definitely been bolstered with the improvement in communication amongst staff, allowing employees to have more control over balancing work and life. This has made the business more efficient and a better place to work. It’s not just about spending less, but it’s about the way we operate and it has improved that noticeably in so many ways. Finally, I think it’s made us a better employer because it provokes conversation and communication, which can only be a good thing.


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