As Featured in Propel: A Confident Leader in Uncertain Times

Our Head of Client Services discusses Hospitality Operations

Dan Maimone, Head of Client Services for Harri, discusses his background in Hospitality Operations.

I want to start by taking you back to a time when I was little. When I was about 5, there was nothing like being lost in a big shop, away from my parents that worried me more. 

There was a time though in Toys ‘R’ Us when I was distracted by the latest Jurassic Park toys and before I knew it I was by the electric ride-on cars and lost… A sense of panic set in and I didn’t know what to do. These distractions and a loss of focus drove me to where I really didn’t want to be.

Why does this matter? Or how does it resonate to today?

A few years ago I was part of a branded restaurant group that needed to increase covers, we needed to adjust what we were doing in order to drive footfall and fill our large restaurants to meet our operational needs and revenue. We introduced a set menu, to add value to our offering. A change from the premium offering we were famed for. 

We went bold, we went for a peak lunch and dinner offering thinking that would surely work?

From here we had to adjust. As each week went by we could see that the average transaction value was slipping in the restaurants but we were getting some progress on our covers, especially at peak times. Over the months ahead we had to quickly adapt our labour model and how we deployed our teams to be in line with the shift in demand but we had to protect and manage our overall labour % budget in order to make cost efficiencies.

To do this, we reviewed our deployment and how that played out in peak trading times; we then identified an opportunity to shave our costs further at prep times and thought about outsourcing a lot of the main kitchen prep work to centralised kitchens. The team were not on board with our decisions, as they felt that the creativity and quality which made us brilliant would be compromised; something that had always made us stand out from our competitors. Initially, we didn’t get the team buy-in on the changes we were making and we subsequently ended up losing some incredibly talented members of our team which created a negative impact on the business. 

Our initial aim of driving covers actually resulted in us losing more

Fast forward a few years and in the midst of the biggest crises in our lifetime.  We are in a position where we all need to change and adapt but we are extremely uncertain as to how to measure against an unknown expectation or reality. 

In recent months I have found that the transparency we have developed in the hospitality industry has supported many of us to navigate through the maze of COVID-19 and I thought I’d share my learnings too:

  • Take clear and confident steps and keep your team together as best you can; they are the essence to what makes your business great
  • As things change, to be open, honest and transparent with your team. They understand more than you may give them credit for and are resilient
  • There will be hard decisions you will have to make; the more you communicate with your team, the more they will understand
  • Invest in “Tech that matters” –  The landscape has changed dramatically and more tech central than ever before. Think about how you can engage and manage your teams safely, effectively and consistently whilst boosting customer confidence – It is why I joined Harri 😉 
  • The steps may well change along the journey but your final destination is still your goal; whatever that is – keep true to your core values; don’t lose sight of them in a panic
  • Customers are visiting hospitality to treat themselves, don’t focus on the revenue, focus on their experience in hospitality operations – safety is now on the mantle with great food and great service
  • If you have done your homework, you should be confident of how safe your restaurants are; your customers are relying on you and will feed off your confidence and positivity and will most certainly come back if they feel safe and enjoy their experience
  • Look after your talent pool. There will be a time in which trade will recover, nurture those internal and external candidates that are going to be adding value to your business in the future

I’ve learned a great deal during my journey in Hospitality Operations; I’ve experienced first hand the major flaws in branded restaurant businesses (even the best!) Now that I’m in tech, I understand even more the importance of talent and how tech can support the engagement of teams, not hinder them.

As Featured in Propel Friday Opinion

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