Restaurateurs Sat and Amanda Bains have announced plans to switch to a four-day week in order to improve the working conditions for staff.
Opening from Wednesday through to Saturday only, the change in hours will be introduced in November and is the latest in a series of developments from the two-Michelin-starred Restaurant Sat Bains with Rooms. Last month, the pair launched Nucleus, a new dining concept housed in Sat’s development kitchen.
The couple said that they had made their decision after extensive research consulting with fellow industry leaders and gleaning financial information from their advisors. Staff will gain 48 days per year more in leisure time and will see no decrease in their current salaries or benefits. The move will, however, mean that the couple will potentially be worse off by a six-figure sum.
The four-day week will be trialled for an indefinite period from the beginning of November, but the intention is for it to be a permanent change. Amanda commented: “We will have to review it, but we’re putting our money where our mouth is and, if it is successful, we will carry on. We think it’s a positive thing to do – it’s high risk but there will be high rewards hopefully. We’re fortunate that it’s just Sat and me – every penny we spend, every penny we lose is out of our purse, but we believe in it.
“We have many close friends in the industry. Everyone, to varying degrees, has experienced a shortage of talented, hard-working and aspirational people applying for new openings and the industry is suffering as a result. We’ve tried other things but by changing the hours we work at our own restaurant, we hope it will shift the dynamic for the better. We’ve come to realise that it is feasible and maybe the long-term benefits outweigh that initial risk.”
With almost 60 years’ experience within the industry between them, Sat and Amanda say they have witnessed what appears to be a growing trend in a shortage of suitable applicants throughout the industry.
Their research highlighted that most candidates and existing workforce are looking for good pay and career progression, quality time off with friends and family, and excellent working conditions. By offering all three of these key elements now, they believe they will retain and provide longevity to existing and potential candidates, and attract a new generation of eager, passionate and motivated staff willing to join and help rejuvenate the industry.
“I would like to think that others will follow suit,” added Amanda. “We can’t give people the weekend off, but with Sunday, Monday and Tuesday off they now have the time to drive to Cornwall for a couple of days or get a flight to somewhere within Europe.”
Asked if retaining staff was an issue at the Nottingham restaurant, she said: “London is our main competition – staff go to London and think the grass is greener, they have more money and we can’t compete with the social life that it offers, but they are living one-and-a-half hours out of the city.
“We find nowadays that where people used to stay for years, they now will stay up to a year. We need consistency and we’re happy to put the time into training new staff, but we want aspirational people, we want people who want to work here and we want them to stay for a few years. We want to be leaders, we’ll take the hit and hope that long term it will work out better from a customer point of view and a staffing point of view.”
She said staff had been “pleasantly surprised” by the news. “Long gone are the days of working crappy hours for low wages – no one wants to do it and why should they have to? We do want 20% more performance out of them though, but they are thrilled to get another 48 days off a year.”
Sat, who scooped the Chef Award at the 2015 Cateys last week and the Special Award at the Craft Guild of Chefs 10th anniversary awards last month, commented: “The industry has changed from when we were young and training. I’m old school. I’m used to the unsociable hours but why should the next generation have to be? We’ve got to try and make this brilliant industry attractive again. I’m passionate about training the next generation coming through, but the pool is drying up – front and back of house. We need incentives to attract the workforce. It’s a massive decision for us and yes it will affect our profits, but we both firmly believe this hopefully will be a solution.”
He added that he hopes the extended weekend will afford him the time to concentrate on dish research in his own development kitchen while the restaurant with rooms is closed.
“We’re frequently so busy here, it’s often difficult to get uninterrupted time to just focus on development. Not only is this going to make the team here a very happy bunch of people, but I can also lock myself away on my own for an entire day if I choose, just to experiment with flavours, processes and ingredients. So many people surround me normally I’m actually looking forward to getting a bit out of my comfort zone at this point in my own career and indulging in that luxury again.”
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