The hospitality industry is in full flow all year around but for many businesses it doesn’t mean that they are busy every single day. Employing full-time staff is not feasible for some but how do you ensure you can get quality staff at the drop of a hat or when someone calls in sick?
There’s a new wave of start-ups coming into the temporary work space with fancy offerings such as all-singing, all-dancing apps and a top quality line up of staff.
Get The Shifts, operating in Dublin and Limerick, is just one of these start-ups that is changing the way the hospitality industry employs workers. It can also, in part, improve the quality of work-life balance of those working in such a demanding career.
"We target students and anyone who has a few free hours and wants to earn some extra cash. There are some mothers who are free in the mornings and people who want some extra money at the weekends – the only requirements are a minimum of one year's experience and fluent English," explains chief operations officer Gillian Rijke.
Through their app registered employees can look for available work and clock in and out of their shifts. The timesheets are then verified by the venue and Get The Shifts takes care of everything else.
"My cousin, Hannah Wrixon, who is my business partner, approached me in February last year with this business idea. She runs a very similar business on the same model but for the childcare industry (Last Minute Minders) and she's had great success with it so she wanted to do one in the hospitality industry."
The company only launched late last year but as predicted the demands on their service has been high and they have already secured some impressive clients.
"We've been working with some big clients such as Aviva and Compass Group Ireland. Business at the moment is increasing 200 per cent week over week. We started off in November and around Christmas had about 60-70 hours booked and this week we have close to 800 hours booked, which is fantastic."
Tim Stone, co-founder of GoWorky, developed its app after frequently running into staffing problems in its Burritos and Blues restaurants in Cork and Dublin. He says: "At the end of the day hospitality is not really considered a career choice by many people unfortunately and that's down to things such as unsociable hours, weekend work and relatively low pay compared to other industries. There are a huge amount of very capable people that want to work in hospitality but the nature of the business doesn't allow it to fit in with their lives. So what we are trying to do is instead of a single person employing one person and using that one person for when they need them, what we say is well why you don't build a pool of three or four people."
“We deal with one or two people where we actually employ their entire team and what we find is that’s particularly useful for start-up businesses, people who are coming into the hospitality or catering space. They want to focus on their product, they are not necessarily 100 per cent on dealing with the likes of the revenue for employment purposes, we have the infrastructure to do that for them.”
One area of the hospitality industry that neither of these companies cater for is chefs, due to the legislation surrounding their employment. There is a national shortage of chefs, something Liam O'Keeffe quickly discovered quite by accident. Owner of The Lazy Lamb restaurant in Dungarvan, Co Waterford, he found himself looking for spare chef shifts when business at his restaurant was interrupted by the redevelopment of the town square. Realising he was in demand and also being asked for recommendations, his company Phone a Chef was born.
“We operate as a fire brigade service, so let’s say if you have two chefs that don’t turn into work tomorrow or you have an upturn in business or just extra business for the day, you ring us we are 24/7 and we’ll be on site as quick as we can. At the moment we have 10 full-time staff and we hope to build that up to 20-25 by the end of May.”
Phone a Chef hasn’t gone down the route of using an app yet but it’s something that the young business will be considering in the future.
Andrew Rudd owns Medley, a private dining and party venue in Dublin. Due to the nature of his business he employs his wait and bar staff on a shift-by-shift basis so finds that Get The Shifts providing its bar staff is cost effective.
“Well my business model is very different to a standard or a traditional restaurant or bar, we only open for private events and private bookings so using contract staff for me works to our benefit from a cost control point of view.
“What’s critical is that contract companies such as Get the Shifts have sufficient training for the staff and generally speaking they do have experienced staff that are working with us. They [the staff] like a change as well, I think they like a variation rather than having the same role or same job day in and day out for the same employer so for staff there’s a benefit in that as well.
“The app that they use for staff clocking in and out – it works well because we then approve the hours so it is a very efficient way of monitoring costs.”
Cork's Aidan Duke, owner of Dukes Coffee Company has been using GoWorky over the past six months covering extra shifts during the busy Cork Jazz Festival weekend or padding out his workforce when there are similar events in or near his city centre location. It's not just during the busy time he feels the benefits of temporary shift workers.
“Also when you’re in the business of managing small catering firms crisis management is always the issue. Something is always happening, someone gets sick, the inevitable happens and it can result in people not being able to fulfil a rota commitment so what we can do is use agency staff to plug that gap for us, if someone rings us the night before and we need someone for 7am, GoWorky can do that for us.”
“We have two coffee shops, we also have an outside catering business and what we struggle with sometimes is scaling our business and investing in scaling. Basically when we invest in new people we have to provide contracts. There is just a risk element of it – it gives us the flexibility to scale our business without actually committing long term.”
While temp agencies are not a new concept, the development of the apps and enabling people to work on a shift-by-shift basis may well encourage waiting staff, bar staff, cleaners and indeed chefs back into an industry that once often required constant weekend work and unsociable hours. It also gives start-ups the scope to expand their business without the worry of staffing commitments.