Five steps for staff planning during peak periods

Last year’s summer was a record-breaker in terms of temperature, and 2019 looks set to follow suit. Long, hot summers mean more people opt to stay in the UK for their holidays, boosting trade for hoteliers and those pubs and restaurants that offer the al fresco dining experience.

Barclaycard’s most recent consumer spending report showed that we Brits took full advantage of the beautiful weather over the Easter bank holiday, which resulted in double-digit growth for hotels, pubs and restaurants. But just as we struggle to successfully predict the weather, estimating the number of guests that the business needs to cater for on a sunny afternoon can be a massive staff management headache.

Too many staff on the rota can be costly if guest numbers don’t materialise. However, too few could result in chaos, leading to a bad experience for guests, poor online reviews, and stressed and overworked employees.

Peak periods such as the holiday season (and particularly sunny days within them) can lead to record profits, but only if each shift is adequately staffed. So just how can hotel, bar or restaurant managers ensure successful service during peak periods?

  1. What happened last year?

Have you checked the books and point-of-sale data to see how busy you were this time last year? Although there are no certainties that you’ll be equally busy this year, looking up guest and staff numbers from the previous year should give you a benchmark from which to plan.

And, if the forecast is looking hot, hot, hot, it might be worth factoring in additional staff to cope with the onslaught.

  1. Sunshine shifts

Unexpected busy periods can often call for last minute rota additions. Building contingency plans for these situations is important. We know of one establishment in Cheshire who ask their staff to volunteer to work ‘sunshine shifts’ — when it’s a sunny day or bank holiday, a handful of staff are on standby and are asked to call up an hour in advance of shift start times to ask if they’re needed. An alternative, if you use rota planning software, is to set up

alerts to let staff know that new shifts are up for grabs at short notice.

  1. Onboarding seasonal staff

Most hotels, particularly those in tourist destinations, will be in the habit of taking on additional team members to help during the summer peak. But when you already have your hands full managing the business during high season, how can you successfully find the time to onboard seasonal staff?

Employers will often start seasonal staff right at the beginning of the busy season. However, it makes much more sense to start them off before the summer. Throwing new hires in at the deep end might negate the positive impact you were hoping to achieve from this extra help.

Starting your new team members a bit earlier in the season will give them the chance to get up to speed and able to cope even during the busiest of services.

  1. Teamwork

Managers can really make a difference when the going gets tough. It’s important to make clear to staff what’s expected of them and the importance of working as a team, sharing the workload and supporting each other. Managers need to lead the way and be mindful and supportive of any team member that is struggling with their workload.

  1. A thank you goes a long way

You’ve made it relatively unscathed through the busy season, and your staff are probably looking forward to slower shifts, or a well-deserved break. But before your seasonal team leave the business, it’s important to gather everyone together to thank them for their hard work. It’s definitely worth sharing successful sales figures and KPIs, giving feedback on team performance, and even rewarding staff if they’ve worked exceptionally hard during a long, busy spell. Not only will this debrief help staff realise that their efforts have been appreciated, but it could help encourage seasonal staff to return in the future too.

Forecasting and managing staff for busy periods can be difficult, but when margins are narrow and the success of your business relies on the quality and efficiency of the service you provide, it’s essential to plan ahead. Use past data, weather forecasts, and contingency plans to help you make the most of one of the most lucrative times of the year.

James Lintern, co-founder, RotaCloud

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