Scotland: Pubs bring in support packages for staff living expenses

Signature Pubs Group, which has 22 establishments across the country, has introduced loans, rebates, free meals, increased maternity pay and higher bonuses to ease the pressures workers are facing, including food inflation and energy bills.

Nic Wood, director of Signature, said the move also helps attract and retain staff in an already competitive landscape, made more difficult by Covid and Brexit.

However, the company is facing additional costs of around £2.4million this year that it did not face last year, including a massive energy hike, pressure on tariffs and wage bills, and Mr Wood has the recognition and support of the Scottish Government in its investments demanded in staffing.

“We had pretty big problems with recruitment,” he said. “A big part of that is Brexit and Covid, a lot of people are going home and not coming back.

“They didn’t get the same amount of resumes that came through the door.”

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He continued: “Before you could make your choice based on quality and experience to date, we’ve learned a lot over the last 12 to 18 months about how to make sure we recruit better and how to train better and how we drag people through the business like this.

“With that, we’ve done a lot of things, junior and senior chef programs, junior and senior employee and management programs, all set up within the company to try and grow the workforce that we have right now keep and encourage them to stay in hospitality and get better at what they do.”

He said with the “cost of living crisis, we’ve spent a lot of time on everything from wages to the tipping system to free meals for staff when you’re on shift, discounts when you’re off shift and in January can You walk into the pub and pick up a free meal whether you’re on shift or not.

He said: “We just made sure we take care of people.

“We host a staff party once a year where we close all venues and everyone goes to a venue for a full afternoon and evening of entertainment, drinks and awards. That is part of our work.”

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The company bonus system works from the kitchen to the office, he said.

“Part of the business and retention is trying to hold people and showing them that if they work hard and come up with ideas then they need to be rewarded for it.

“Staff get tips and their hourly wages, but if you want to move up the business with us and that gives you more time, more privileges and more vacation time, that’s also part of what we do as a company.”

He said: “So if anyone says if I join this pub what’s in it for me I’m saying that’s not the end, that’s a pub that’s in a cluster of 22 bars with varying service until from a boozer to a high-end steak restaurant, cocktail bar or hotel, that’s who we are and what we do.

“There is tremendous opportunity for people starting out as bartenders, running a business, from HR to PR to finance. I also think hospitality helps young people become more confident.”

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He said a £750,000 increase in payroll was one of many additional costs. “If you take electricity and gas last year we signed a deal and that has taken us as a company from £700,000 a year to over £1.65million a year.

“They have the same problem with rates. As a company that cost us a further £750,000 more last year than it should have.

“If you take those three numbers alone, we’re down to £2.4million. This cost me more to run my business than last year.

“That was before we hit the cost of living crisis and every single product I buy for my business was up 10 to 20 percent weekly.”

He said Holyrood should put forward more support for the sector, adding: “In recent years the Scottish Government has not treated hospitality in any positive way.

“They need to realize how much hospitality benefits the economy, recognize that if they want to build the economy in the future, they need to support the industries that contribute to their taxes, tourism and employment.”

He said: “In Ireland the Covid VAT rate has still not returned to the full rate.

“They kept that low, and that would support raising the minimum wage.”

“The rates side of things in England has certainly helped a lot more.” Scotland: Pubs bring in support packages for staff living expenses

Adam Bradshaw

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