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Cube & Star: The bar staff are revolting

12 January 2006

The festive season has been one of both joy and sorrow for Cube & Star proprietor Mark Turner. On the one hand, business has been very good, with numerous corporate party bookings making it a very successful Christmas in terms of sales and resulting in a turnover of £97,000 for December. And the kitchen is running smoothly under the captaincy of new head chef Arnaud Stevens, with a new menu in place and gross profit hitting the target of 70%.

But there have been a few staffing issues to contend with. Most alarming was a revolt by bar and waiting staff half-an-hour before a corporate event was due to start. Having found out how much the guest company was paying for the occasion, they downed tools and demanded a 12.5% cut for themselves. Hands-tied because of the imminent arrival of the party, Turner had to negotiate and agreed to give the staff 8% for the evening to proceed. Seven have since parted company with their employer and replacements have been found where necessary.

Turner had been increasingly aware of staffing problems front of house, including the abuse of staff drinks, resulting in leakage from the bar. "It's been a steep learning curve," he says. "It doesn't pay to be too relaxed with staff and be the nice guy. You need to have strict guidelines and house rules."

He was also aware that staff costs were spiralling out of control at 65%, through not being managed properly, and he made the decision to let his general manager go and to bring in consultants to make staff budgets work more effectively.

"I'm generally not a believer in consultants because I see it as admission of failure," he says. But he has now been converted, and concedes: "They have the ability to take a clinical look at the business without emotion, and offer solutions to fixable problems."

As a result, there's been a complete restructuring and staff costs now stand at 50-55%, with a target of 30% by the end of March. And there have been two significant appointments.

Cristian D'Luca has taken on the new role of sales and marketing manager, and is tasked with bringing in new business. "We need to have a direct sales and marketing approach into the City, so we created a role solely with that purpose," explains Turner.

The other is that of accounts controller, which has been filled by Helen Geng. She will have responsibility for the daily bookkeeping, profit-and-loss accounts and inventory control, the last with the assistance of an external stocktaker.

Meanwhile, there are two candidates in the running for the vacant post of general manager, both of whom Turner considers to be "very strong and keen".

Cube & Star

  • Address: 39a Hoxton Square, London N1
  • Owner: Mark Turner
  • Restaurant opened: May 2005
  • Club opened: November 2005
  • Number of staff: kitchen brigade, six, FOH, seven full-time, four part-time, sales/accounts, two
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