Could the four-day work week solve hospitality’s staffing crisis?
The hospitality industry has long struggled with staffing issues and the skills shortage shows no signs of abating.
A report from global HR think-tank Reventure, published in October 2017, found that tourism and hospitality are experiencing a skills shortage with 38,000 current unfilled vacancies in the sector. The shortage will continue to grow with the café, restaurant and takeaway food sector alone expected to generate 84,100 new jobs by May 2022, according to Census data from 2016.
With the hospitality industry becoming more and more competitive, operators are reflecting on workplace culture in a bid to solve the staffing crisis. From recruitment to retention, businesses are looking for longterm ways to shift kitchen culture.
At Bistro Gitan and L’Hotel Gitan, staff have been offered the four-day work week for over four years now and owner Antoine Reymond has seen the benefits.
“We started doing the four-day work week at our first restaurant Bistro Gitan,” Reymond tells Hospitality. “It began organically, we were a little overstaffed for a couple of weeks so we said ‘why doesn’t everyone just take an extra day off this week?’ and we’ll work it out.
“After two weeks we found people were already really enjoying it. They were more switched on, they were getting more sleep and they were getting more time with their family and friends. So we decided to continue it for a while and we just found there were so many benefits from it that we’ve been doing it ever since.”
The benefits, says Reymond, are particularly evident when it comes to staff retention rates with turnover decreasing at the venue since the four-day work week was introduced.
“It makes it a better work environment, everyone is a little bit happier and nicer and more energetic,” says Reymond. “We find people are more switched on. They enjoy their job a bit more, they want to be here.”
While retention rates have increased, when the business does have to hire new staff, being able to offer the four-day work week alongside the same salary package as other restaurants has given Bistro Gitan and L’Hotel Gitan a competitive edge when it comes to recruitment.
“It’s been a big calling card for us when we’ve been hiring staff,” says Reymond. “It’s given us an edge over other places and allowed us to hire those quality chefs and front of house staff that we’re after.
“This industry is really, really struggling with skilled workers basically; it’s really difficult in both the front of house and in the kitchen area. I suppose we just took matters into our hands and tried to work out a few different things that could help us with that.”
While Reymond has seen nothing but positives come from the decision, he admits the strategy might not suit all venues.
“We’re lucky enough to open seven days a week for lunch and dinner,” he says. “I understand it’s not going to possible for some restaurants that are only open five nights a week to have this sort of system.
“At the end of the day you need to do your own research. Every venue should go through their processes and mocks up rosters to see if it’s a viable option for their business. And there’s nothing wrong with just trialling it as well.”
Ultimately, any effort needed to put a system in place that accommodates the four-day work week is far outweighed by increased productivity and retention.
“We had an almost permanent ad up on Seek,” says Reymond. “That’s $500 or $600 every time you do an ad and you refresh that every two to three weeks. Cutting that cost, as well as all the advertising costs and the costs associated with recruitment agencies, has meant it’s paid itself off.”
The benefits reach far beyond business performance too — the impact on personal lives is priceless.
“People get time to spend with their family,” says Reymond. “Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that we forget in hospitality, like watching a movie on the couch at night.
“Sometimes we only have two nights off, so you need to spend both those nights with your partner or trying to hang out with friends. You don’t get a night to yourself. With that extra third night, people can chill out.
“All I can say is that I definitely encourage giving it a go. Especially with anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses on the rise, little things like this go a long way in society. For those who can, it’s nice to give back to your staff.”