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Managing your food and beverage payroll costs


As discussed previously in this publication and in many presentations, club food and beverage (F&B) operations are regularly the subject to extensive analysis in the boardroom. Oftentimes this stems from lack of clarity on the contrasting dynamics between club dining and standalone restaurants. While those dynamics will result in almost all club dining operations being a cost center rather than a profit center, club leaders should continually challenge themselves to effectively manage payroll costs to derive the best value for derived from dues paid by members. The following are a few thoughts that may assist in cost control or at least enable club management to demonstrate to stakeholders that procedures for controlling payroll cost exist beyond the annual budgeting process.

Understand the scheduling process

Who has responsibility for scheduling the F&B staff in the club and are their objectives congruent with those of the overall organization? Is the fear of understaffing for Friday night dinner really justification for a few extra overtime hours to boost staff morale? Clubs should establish documented scheduling processes with a final approval of staff schedules by an appropriate member of senior management.

Set expectations

Has the club established metrics, such as service hours per cover, that can be used to determine acceptable service levels based on forecasted dining room activity? As part of this process the club will need to consider carefully its own definition of "acceptable service levels" to members to ensure that members do not have a lackluster service experience in the dining room. After all, without selling a new membership, a club is not able to bring a new customer into the dining room to replace a dissatisfied member.

Track covers

It is difficult to forecast dining room activity without reliable historical data. Does the club track covers? Have servers been trained to accurately input cover information to the point of sale system? Are cover counts occasionally spot checked to ensure accuracy? The failure to capture cover information in the food service business accurately will make effective and efficient staff scheduling a virtual impossibility. Clubs should adequately train servers to capture covers and communicate to them the importance of this to the club's business. F&B managers should occasionally spot check cover input while walking the dining room during service hours.

Other activity

Club dining amenities do not exist in a vacuum from the rest of operations. Weather conditions, number of tee times and local special events should be considered when developing staffing schedules for the food and beverage department.

Strike a balance

It is important to consider the pitfalls of over- and understaffing in the food and beverage area as managers attempt to balance cost control and excellent service. Understaffing carries the obvious cost of members not being served timely and being dissatisfied with their experience. Extended understaffing will result in more stressed staff, more errors on the floor and in the kitchen, and eventually result in increased staff turnover in an industry with some of the highest existing turnover rates. Aside from the cost implications of over staffing, extended over staffing can result in the development of a leisurely work culture where work expands to meet the capacity of the resources available, and employees become bored and disinterested.

In conclusion

Managers should obtain a robust understanding of how their food and beverage scheduling and staffing system operates and, in consultation with other stakeholders, develop measurable expected standards of service in the kitchen and dining room. Coupled with reliable data to predict member dining activity, food and beverage leaders in the club industry should be well placed to demonstrate and implement a business-like approach to food and beverage payroll management.