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Staff Benefits (Employee Value Proposition) v Staff Liberties – Reflections of a Reluctant Landlady

Updated: Apr 30

The success of every pub, hotel, or restaurant hinges not just on the quality of the food and drink, but on the people who serve them.  But let’s face it, building a great team in hospitality is a massive challenge, and we often have to deal with a transient workforce and a high turnover of staff.

This is why staff benefits are important. In the corporate world, benefits equal Employee Value Proposition (EVP), a term that might seem corporate but is fundamental to any business. An EVP is essentially what you promise to provide to your employees in exchange for their skills, capabilities, and experiences. A strong EVP is particularly vital in hospitality, in order to combat high turnover and recruitment difficulties.

I hear time and time again about recruitment difficulties in the hospitality trade.  When businesses can ill afford to offer but the Living Wage, it can feel like an uphill struggle.

As a new business owner, I initially offered our small team perks such as free meals of their choice and non-alcoholic drinks to my staff, whether they lived in or not as part of our EVP. This gesture was well-received and helped create a positive and collaborative work environment.

However, as we grew, these costs began to spiral out of control and some staff would take liberties. I found them ordering steak from the kitchen or having limitless coffees from the machine, making customers wait for theirs.  In fact, the turning point came one morning when I found a live-in staff member, clad in his pyjamas and dressing gown, making coffee at the restaurant’s machine in full view of our paying guests. This moment highlighted the need for clear boundaries and a scalable, sustainable approach to employee benefits that supports both the staff and the business’s needs.

We tried different models for what food and drink they could have and brought in a rule that meals were only available if you worked a minimum of six hours.  The chef cooked staff food separately to stop expensive items being ordered from the menu and we provided instant coffee and tea, with the option for a low-cost coffee fund for those that wanted ‘proper’ coffee.

We made the live-in accommodation as nice as possible which, sometimes, was trashed by members of staff; this was disappointing and led to a deposit scheme being introduced.  We introduced some excellent team incentives, from race days to short breaks (from discount sites like Wowcher).

We also tried to pay above the National Living Wage – and this is probably the best attraction and retention tool of all.  If you pay the same as everyone else, it is easier for staff to flip jobs. It’s important to offer not just competitive wages but also fair tips (the law around tips is changing – are you ready – see link) and bonus structures that reflect the dedication and effort of the staff.

Culture also pays a massive part in your EVP – as a family we tried to be supportive of our staff, ensure that there was training available, and some staff had a great progression route starting as cleaners and working their way up to management.  Having a diverse team worked well, with staff having different countries fare to taste and close working relationships formed across cultural boundaries.

Access to wellness programs can make a big difference in how staff perceive their employer. It’s about showing care not just for their work but for their personal well-being. I would advocate using a low-cost scheme like the Burnt Chef (The Burnt Chef Project | Hospitality Mental Health Awareness). We supported several members of staff through cancer and other life-changing illnesses.

I also recommend being fair with shifts and avoid double shifts and long hours as much as possible. There is a lot of debate about the fairness of zero-hour contracts, which are very commonly used in the sector, so we looked at minimum hour contracts, and offered flexible working wherever possible, for example a young mum did just lunch-time shifts or when there was a coach. Someone else struggled working later in the day and so did mainly breakfast shifts.

Attracting and Retaining Talent

With a clear EVP, you communicate why a potential employee should choose you over others. In a sector like hospitality, where staff often juggle multiple job options, a compelling EVP can tip the scales in your favour.

Through our EVP, we managed to reduce our high turnover, and some staff stayed with us for years.  We also had an unusually high return rate, with staff asking to come back after a few months or even years away – even one or two who we had dismissed tried their luck!

In fact, although a strong EVP can cost more, it can save you money in the long run, creating stable teams and reducing the costs of recruitment and induction.

Employees who see real value in their EVP are typically more engaged. In hospitality, this translates directly to better customer service, as happy employees are more likely to make customers happy. Happy customers lead to repeat business and a great reputation - EVPs really do impact the bottom line!

If you would like to discuss recruitment difficulties, please get in touch.

A man in his pyjamas at a coffee machine in a restaurant with guests.
Staff in Pyjamas

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