'It's very fair and it's not much to ask of a business'

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

After a troublesome year for the industry, two months ago, Dean Banks successfully relaunched The Pompadour, the historical restaurant which closed in January 2020 after almost a century.

Exceeding even his expectations, The MasterChef The Professionals 2018 finalist told The Staff Canteen that he was over the moon to be in such a fortunate position so soon after opening. 

"Pompadour's fantastic, we're smashing it," he said, with great reviews coming through and a shout-out from Michelin as a reward for their efforts.

Having consulted with his team, the chef is set to trial a four-day work-week at the restaurant in October. He explained that first the priority was to make sure it was possible, and then to work with his team to find the most suitable arrangement for them. 

"From day one we would have loved to go to four-days, but you never know how the business is going to go - if you're going to get enough revenue to pay everyone's salary.

"Now we feel in a comfortable position to go down to a four-day."

As was the case for Billy Boyter at The Cellar, the chef explained that it took some thought as to how to make it work specifically for The Pompadour, as there is no one size fits all when it comes to operating a profitable hospitality business.

"Most of our staff are salaried and we pay generously, so you need to make sure you can afford to do that," resolved, in his case, by removing the evening service on Wednesday and adding a lunch service on Saturday.

The reason they are calling it a trial rather than a permanent decision, he explained, "is that we want the staff to vote and see what they want, let them decide if they want to keep the four day or go back to a five day."

If there is any doubt in his mind, he explained, it is because at Haar in St Andrews (which he is set to reopen soon, and where a four-day week is already in place), the team's eagerness to work four days on, three days off hasn't been as clear cut as one might expect. 

"Some of the chefs came to me and said they were finding themselves lost having three days off consecutively. A couple of them actually went and got part-time jobs, working one day a week at another restaurant."

"That's why we want to let the staff decide at the end of it."

Another concern is whether guests will be taken off guard by the move.

"You have the slight worry - especially in the city centre - of whether customers think you're just a weekend venue, does that relate to them in their head and maybe you'll lose your weekday bookings, but I think that's why we trial it and find the best formula."

"We may decide that we open a Wednesday and close a Sunday, we don't know yet, so we'll just be diverse and roll with it to get the best thing."

A living wage campaign

What's more, the chef is paying his teams the Living Wage, and believes that anyone with the means of following suit should do so.

He is a member of the campaign, launched to tackle in-work poverty by setting a threshold of minimal pay - at £9.50 an hour in Scotland, England and Wales and £10.85 an hour in London - above the government's minimum wage, or national living wage, which he has found comes at little cost to his business.

"I did a calculation - you're paying people £9 an hour minimum wage and your average person is doing 38-hours a week, it's an extra £19 per week to pay them a living wage. I think it's very fair and it's not much to ask of a business," with the obvious understanding that what applies to his business might not work for all. 

"It may have a different effect on others and everyone is different," he said, "but I find it an easy solution."

Important in making this work, he said, is the task of educating the public about it, namely so that they understand the impact of paying a living wage has on the cost of dining; addressing the discrepancy between their desire for better conditions for hospitality workers and cheap food. 

"They have to understand it, of course if we're going to pay minimum wage we can reduce our prices to coincide with that, but we don't want to pay minimum wage." 

The chef would still like to see more businesses paying the living wage, but understands that to this end he and others like him need to be vocal about it. In fact, he remembers when he first started as a business owner and wasn't aware that there was such a thing.

"It was Callum [Richardson] from The Bay Fish and Chip Shop in Stonehaven who posted it on his Instagram. He put the 'Living Wage' logo on there and I asked him what it was because I didn't have a clue."

"The more we talk about it, the more we educate other people and other businesses, the better. It's definitely possible. Staff want it, it helps with retention, so why not everyone do it." 

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 26th August 2021

'It's very fair and it's not much to ask of a business'