With a seemingly endless list of rising costs facing all hospitality venues, Sunny Hodge (owner of Diogenes The Dog), talks us through some practical solutions he’s implemented across staffing, service and suppliers to help keep things in-check - and even improve business practices.
1. MENU DEVELOPMENT
Whilst it can be an absolute chore for many independents like myself, as prices go up, it’s well worth taking the time to look for new suppliers who can source products at a more reasonable rate than your existing ones. Of course, all the relevant quality checks need to be made - but changing suppliers, recipes, and ingredients around your core product range without having to inflate your prices, will keep you competitive.
2. FOCUS YOUR EFFORTS IN-HOUSE
Our own imports across wine and food have almost tripled since the pandemic and is a big factor in reducing our product costs for non-perishables. Of course, storage and cash flow are a big factor here, but for long term growth and development this strategy has already proved its worth. If you’re hesitant to import, we have our own labels across wines (sending the management team to harvest annually), gins, coffee, and more. These products are unique to us, of a quality the guest expects and thus can be valued accordingly - without the risk of price comparisons with competitors.
3. TEAM DEVELOPMENT & WELL-BEING
At a time where staff retention is a constant struggle within the UK, making sure that you focus your efforts and resources into your existing workforce, will mean saving huge costs to train and develop new staff. The latest well-being initiative we’ve taken, is to offer Private Healthcare for longstanding members of the team - including physio and dental, along with various therapies etc. It’s a real treat and an unusual one for a hospitality business to grant, but for such a physically and socially active endeavour, health is a must.
4. TRAIN STAFF FROM SCRATCH
Understanding how the hiring climate has changed, is key in moving forwards and getting the most out of the new recruitment pool that can be found outside of the traditional spaces. The industry values and work experience might not be as ingrained for those embarking on a new career-move into the hospitality sector, so being prepared to train from scratch will have many benefits. It is the perfect opportunity to build good habits and instill a healthy working culture into you’re your new recruits. This has been invaluable for our brand and something that has helped us cut our overall training costs.
5. HOURS TRIMMING
We are always looking for ways to re-think the day-to-day running of our venues, and as a result, we’ve probably trimmed our opening hours at least 10 times since the pandemic. In doing this, we’ve been able to save up to 15% on labour costs which, in turn, we’ve re-directed back into staff wages to help with the cost of inflation. One does have to be careful in recognising which hours to cut, as the quieter times are still vital for prep time, training, office work, cleaning schedules, managing rotas etc.
6. LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMERS NEEDS
Analyse how your customers spending habits have changed and put your creative hats on to accommodate this into product choices and the guest’s experience, giving them more added value in different ways. New styles of enquiry, requests for products and common trends arise – by keeping a tally of these and working them into your new business practices, you will see a real reward-loop in customer loyalty as you both help to shape one another’s needs.
We’ve been able to save up to 15% on labour costs which, in turn, we’ve re-directed back into staff wages to help with the cost of inflation.
7. FACTOR TIME INTO ALL OF YOUR COSTS
When developing new products or service measures, the cost of time should be considered and valued with the same importance as the up-front cost of the product itself. These calculations are key in creating effective rotas, making the difference between an extra member of the team having to work your busiest shifts. A great example for us was the simple investment of a reverse osmosis glasswasher for our wine bars, which immediately meant our well-trained team could focus on service rather than pot wash!
BONUS TIP : DIY!
It’s important to remember that there’s a ton of basic repairs and maintenance that could be performed in house (within reason of course), which will save you money by not relying on 3rd parties. Through consulting our team and their strengths, we’ve been able to take on the challenge of refurbing the bars ourselves and one of our part-time design students even came up with the concept behind our new gin labels!