How a four-day work week led to a “dramatic” change in this restaurant’s service culture

February 22, 2023 | By Rupkatha B

How a four-day work week led to a “dramatic” change in the restaurant’s service culture

LPM Restaurant & Bar recently implemented a four-day work week for its UAE operations that led to a “dramatic” change in the restaurant’s service culture, said its Middle East Director of Operations Alexandra Audon during an exclusive interview with RetailME.

A predicted rise in flexible working could contribute $10.04 trillion to the global economy by 2030, indicated a socio-economic study of changing workplace practices.

The four-day work week arrangement goes beyond just having one more day off in a week. It actually leads to higher employee engagement and better productivity at individual and business levels, believes Andrew Barnes, the mastermind behind the Four-Day Week initiative and founder of New Zealand based Perpetual Guardian. In fact, the four-day work week trial undertaken by Perpetual Guardian showed a 40% increase in employee engagement.

Against this backdrop as four-day work week is being deliberated and implemented in many countries and organisations across the world to prioritise employee wellness, several UAE-based businesses have started piloting and implementing this new working structure.

One such entity is LPM Restaurant & Bar that recently implemented a four-day work week for its UAE operations team following trials at its Abu Dhabi restaurant that ran from August to October 2022. During the trial period factors such as working hours, wage versus revenue (efficiency), staff happiness, guest satisfaction, task organisation and efficiency were carefully investigated. Finally, from a poll that was shared with the staff, 100% positively reacted to the change.

What was the main motivation behind taking the decision to transition to a four-day work week?

The hospitality industry has changed, and we wanted to embrace this change by making the first move. The main motivation behind the project is the well-being of our employees, putting their work life balance at the forefront to keep everyone focused, motivated and well-rested. Our team members are now able to organise their shifts to have three days off at different times of the week, and this way they can create a schedule that best suits their needs.

What kind of changes did you notice during the trial period?

The four-day work week was officially introduced after LPM Restaurant & Bar Abu Dhabi conducted a trial to measure the impact it would have on our 67 employees. After adjusting to the new change, the team began to react positively to the flexibility they were given. Furthermore, the service culture changed dramatically for the better, our customer engagement improved due to staff having extra time to relax, which led to more meaningful interactions with our guests. The trial period was a huge success.

Could you tell us about some challenges associated with a transition of this kind, and how can it be planned well – now that you’ve done it?

The main challenge for us was reviewing our internal organisation while also changing team members’ longstanding habits. It is always a challenge to ensure everyone’s happiness, despite having this in mind for any initiative we have. However, the four-day work week structure has received the support and acceptance of all staff members.

What are some aspects that organisations must evaluate before embarking on a pilot and full-time four-day work week?

Will this help my employees’ happiness at work? Will it improve guest experience, while not increasing the labour cost? Or will an increase of cost but improvement of staff and guest happiness increase revenue and profitability? These are some key questions that organisations must deliberate on before undertaking a change of this scale. In our case we did a thorough job in task reorganisation to create a new schedule while not affecting our trading hours and guest experience.

Globally, the hospitality industry is seeing a lack of interest from Millennials and Generation Z due to factors such as long hours while the pay (at the entry level) isn’t a lot. Are you trying to do things differently in this regard?

As far as LPM is concerned, in the Middle East especially, we believe we provide extremely good wages and benefits topped up by excellent tips from our guests and performance bonuses. Of course, you can’t compare our industry to another that does completely different work. In our case, a waiter can make up to $2,500 net per month along with accommodation, annual air tickets to go back home and a yearly bonus.

Going forward, besides the four-day work week structure, what are some other initiatives that you will undertake to ensure long-term employee wellbeing as well as attract younger people to join the industry?

We are always looking at providing a better work environment for the team. What’s key at the moment is short-term career path for every junior employee. With the internet, increase of high-end restaurant businesses in the region and ease of employment bans employees have a lot more choice and they know it. If we want to avoid somebody jumping the ship, we have to offer a clear plan for them, where we balance expectations from both sides to make it fair. We do that for all our team members. We also have regular reviews and sit downs (monthly and yearly appraisals) where team members are given feedback and get the opportunity to express themselves. Finally, there are regular incentive competitions organised for them to either get a gift or some monetary benefits. We have seen that this has helped in improving sales while positively impacting employee morale and guest experience.

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