OPINION: Norfolk restaurant boss: Why my staff are doing a four day week

General manager of No.Twenty9 Bar and Restaurant Rachael Parke

General manager of No.Twenty9 Bar and Restaurant Rachael Parke - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Rachael Parke, general manager of No.Twenty9 in Burnham Market explains how they are putting staff happiness first after 18 months of uncertainty

When the going gets tough the tough get going! 

As we know the hospitality industry has reached a critical point.

With a cocktail of Covid and Brexit some restaurants and bars are once again having to look at reducing covers and service times as customer demand outweighs staffing levels.

We have not even reached ‘high season’ on the Norfolk coast and yet most establishments have reached their capacity dictated by the amount of chefs and front of house they have available.

Here at No.Twenty9 we have been fortunate but certainly not bullet proof as staff look at changing their careers after a taste of time with their families during furlough and search for a better work/life balance. 

For us it was not viable as a business to look at reducing business any further, after all we have a lot of making up to do!

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It was time to be proactive. 

Each employee was interviewed as to what they loved and what could improve their working conditions and we have immediately reacted and believe this new regime could just save our sanity as well as our industry.

Rachael Parke explains how consulting with staff has resulted in a radical change to their work/life balance

Rachael Parke explains how consulting with staff has resulted in a radical change to their work/life balance - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Firstly, each employee will be paid for every hour they work. This industry is renowned for seeing chefs work well in excess of their contacted hours without any financial recognition, this must stop now. 

Well-being and mental health is a huge topic and we feel this is fuelled by the necessity of having junk food on the run, increased alcohol consumption, smoking, energy drinks and more, so we now offer our team a fresh, healthy meal and a chance for chefs and front of house to sit together and bond.

Work/life balance was a high scorer in a reason to throw down the whites and now we operate a four day working week, guaranteed three days off and we are only one chef away now from offering a four day rolling rota which means you will be able to plan weekends with friends and family and look well into the year to organise and enjoy free time. 

We are taking some commitment from our guests too to ensure we have the right team in place to offer a great experience and we know that ‘no show’ has been an additional problem. 

We introduced a booking policy where card details are secured and in the event of a ‘no show’ or a late cancellation we automatically deduct the card for £15 per guest. 

This has ceased all ‘no show’ issues and cancellations are now only received if there is a real, genuine reason. 

This ensures that our staffing levels are correct and every seat is utilised and offers job security and longevity of the business.

Our team, suppliers and guest experience are top of our priorities and we feel it’s time for a ‘new normal’ to save our industry - the social love of food and drink.