Professional Comment

The Future of Post-COVID Hospitality is Streamlined Shift Management

By Jonathan Richards, CEO and Founder of Breathe (

The pandemic has taken a huge toll on the hospitality industry. Pizza Express announcing the closure of high street outlets, resulting in a loss of 17,000 jobs, is the latest in a long line of cuts. It’s estimated that the number of jobs lost across both chain and independent bars/restaurants is up 94% compared to 2019.

Needless to say, the need to get people back in is para- mount for the future of many bars and restaurants.The AA has introduced a COVID-19 confidence assessment scheme to reassure consumers that their favourite venues are abiding by the guidelines and creating a safe space to spend time. Elsewhere, the government has introduced the Eat Out to Help Out scheme in an attempt to reboot the hospitality sector and encourage people back out into the high street.

Keeping customers and staff safe is vital but challenging for small busi- nesses who are anxious to stay open and maintain pre-pandemic staffing levels, if possible.There’s many things to consider and complex risk assessments to complete — from reconfiguring table set ups for social distancing, to managing customer data.That said, HR admin can’t fall by the wayside.


The complex and time-consuming restrictions imposed on the indus- try by the government make it essential to streamline and improve shift management. Navigating out-of-date paper-based rotas is challenging for managers at the best of times, so inevitably the heavy administrative workload involved in reopening businesses has made matters far more difficult.

Firstly, shifts might look different. As the government has recommend- ed that businesses reduce the number of people in a workplace at one time, introducing staggered shift systems may prove beneficial.This approach helps businesses continue to comply with social distancing rules and eases the pressure on public transport at traditional peak times, both of which are key to minimising the risk of infection. Businesses might find that their staffing needs have changed as they adjust to the new normal, with measures in place such as extra time allocated for cleaning and some reduced food menus to allow for socially distanced kitchens.

Storing rota information in a centralised resource is critical for com- pliance and efficiency. Keeping a comprehensive record of hours, and who worked them, enables businesses to plan accordingly and steer through troubling economic uncertainty while keeping employees safe.

Keeping track of everything, especially now, is easier said than done. Digitalising admin just makes business sense.Working with a computer system gives managers complete visibility over any shift swaps or holiday requests; providing a singular version of the rota prevents any miscommunications or confusion about who should be coming into work and when.


Having a detailed record of shifts is essential, because if a customer reports that they have fallen ill it’s easy to quickly identify who was working that day and take the necessary steps to ensure that govern- ment protocol is followed. Using a rota system to confirm and approve schedules makes it easy to introduce staggered shifts as well as keep- ing up to date records of who has received safety training, ensuring that those who are working are aware of best practices and COVID-19 safety measures in place.

In the same vein, if staff have experienced symptoms themselves or been abroad to a country which has imposed a lockdown, it’s easy to track when they last worked and when they are due to return after quarantine.This is important information for businesses to have avail- able and easily accessible in order to prioritise the safety of employees and customers.

Ensuring venues are stocked with the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and sanitising equipment is not only a legal require- ment but is necessary for peace of mind. Keeping your employees’ well- being front of mind should always be a top priority. After all, they are a business’ most valuable asset.

Operating with a solid rota system in place will fill employees with confidence, too. Some are understandably anxious about returning to work and interacting with lots of different people on a daily basis. Organising shifts well in advance and ensuring that COVID-19 guide- lines are followed onsite will help to curb worries about coming into work.


The pandemic has shaken the hospitality industry to its core.There’s no hiding away from that. But it does present an opportunity for busi- nesses to review and enhance their organisation practices and get their house in order. Laying a solid foundation and managing your people effectively is a sure-fire way to safeguard against a number of adminis- trative headaches.

Moving away from paper-based rotas is key for running an efficient and organised workplace.With such a high risk of breaching health and safety guidelines, there simply is no room for error in developing an effective rota to manage this activity. In this new reality where venues must demonstrate compliance with various regulations, prioritising your people and slick process management will help see us through these troubling times.