NRA 2019: The 5 Biggest Takeaways

Team Harri landed last week in Chicago and was in full force at the 100th National Restaurant Association Show. After days of meeting with hundreds of operators, here are the 5 biggest takeaways from this years conference:

  1. Retaining talent continues to be the primary concern of operators. With a majority of the industry narrative pointing to engagement as the key to preventing turnover, it’s very clear that a single dimensional solution, such as engagement, to solve a multidimensional problem such as turnover, is an incomplete perspective.  With wage inflation pressure adding fuel to the labor problem fire, operators are turning to lose-lose decisions in order to counteract rising labor costs and maintain economic equilibrium. According to the 2019 Wage Inflation Survey by Harri, 45% of operators experienced labor costs rise from 3-9%. In response to these changes, operators are making changes to labor and business operations ranging from reducing employee hours, raising menu prices, cutting jobs, and closing locations.  What’s compelling is the correlation between those decisions and a spike in turnover events (35%) that are occuring in their wake. Moreover, with 71% of respondents raising menu prices, the industry experienced a rise in average check values by 4.2% but a 2.1% drop in traffic (Bloomberg Intelligence). This means that operators (emphasis on casual dining and QSR) are losing elasticity in their pricing and will no longer be able to lean on rising prices to simply counteract increases in labor costs.  They need a sustainable solution that allows them to be strategic in managing the economics of the business, particularly in all facets of labor control.

  2. Unit-level adoption of employee facing technology continues to be an up-hill battle. Finding a technology platform that’s built from the ground up, mobile friendly, highly intuitive, and meet the expectations of a multi-generational workforce is a rare find. The Workforce OS by Harri was built with this entirely in mind. With the introduction of the Harri Live, operators can grant frontline managers the ability to access live sales and labor data, full scheduling management, employee requests, communications, live compliance alerts and team data in one place, on the go. The application also allows for cross-location employee data, which is useful to have up to date information at the unit level.

  3. Gaining a better hold on the candidate experience to attract and hire the right talent has felt like mission impossible for the industry.  Whilst there is certainly an emphasis on winning the War for Talent in today’s labor market conditions (the process of driving greater volumes of candidate acquisition in a highly competitive market), there’s simultaneously a Race for Talent (getting highly qualified candidates from point A ‘applying’ to point B ‘hired and on the job’ as quickly as possible).  Understanding and optimizing each stage of the candidate lifecycle is achieved in combination of enacting talent acquisition best practices and deploying device agnostic technology that generates speed, efficiency, and positive candidate experiences. As recently demonstrated at HR in Hospitality, Harri’s partnership with CAVA has resulted in a 107% improvement in their average time to hire and has attributed to their success in opening numerous locations in complex geographies and significantly improving overall retention rates.

  4. “People related challenges are just par for the course in the hospitality industry, everyone is dealing with the same issues and there isn’t a clear way to address them.”  We hear this almost everywhere we go given that so much focus remains on the inflation of raw materials, optimizing inventory management, and delivery's impact to the bottom line. The acceptance of the ‘status quo’ plagues the industry and leads to costly mistakes.  Recent examples like Steak n’ Shake, who made a 7.7 Million dollar error by misclassifying 286 store managers best exemplifies this conclusion. Specifically, Steak n’ Shake classified managers as exempt from overtime pay, then required those managers to work 50 hours or more a week in order to perform non managerial tasks while restaurants were understaffed.  This primary example only bolsters the need for tools such as Harri’s Smart Scheduling system. A system that is integrated to a biometrically controlled time and attendance environment and combines seamless demand forecasting, activity based manning matrices and streamlined schedule distribution to create an optimized sales forecast and help organizations maintain compliance to avoid costly errors like Steak n’ Shake.

  5. The power of one. The days of building, managing, and engaging teams through fragmented, one-off technologies are no longer an option given today’s operating environment.  The industry needs to deeply consider the value of consolidating employee facing technologies in the pursuit of driving the retention, engagement, and satisfaction of their employees.  According to TDn2K’s People Report, there is a direct correlation between brands that have the best metrics in overall sales, traffic, and intent to return and the aforementioned people related KPIs.  Aside from embracing the concept of driving business performance through employee performance, there's a tremendous opportunity to aggregate all employee related data under a single system ( from both pre and post hire events) that deliver insights to drive business performance and sales, optimize hiring practices and costs, decrease turnover rates, drive people related compliance and risk mitigation, and optimize labor costs.  Only a platform that integrates all of those points and interactions of the employee lifecycle can achieve such a powerful dynamic.

Harri Expands Workforce OS, Introduction of Harri Live App and Smart Scheduling

Industry leading hospitality employee technology platform rapidly expands mobile and predictive intelligence functionality in response to challenging labor market conditions

Harri, the leading workplace management solution for restaurants and hotels, today announced new innovations that elevate the capabilities of its core labor management platform, Workforce OS, which helps hospitality business build, manage, and engage their teams.  Harri Live, the most effective mobile app offered to frontline managers, headlines these new expansions amongst next-generation enhancements to Harri’s suite of products including Scheduling, Learning Management, Analytics & Reporting and Integrations.


“After announcing the introduction of the Workforce OS nearly a year ago, we’ve taken monumental strides to deliver on our core mission; to build the deepest, richest and smartest technology platform available to strategically manage our industry’s greatest asset,” said Luke Fryer, Founder and CEO of Harri. “The days of building, managing, and engaging teams through fragmented, one-off technologies are no longer an option given today’s operating environment. We’re immensely proud to announce these amazing milestones and are invigorated by the continuous innovation that’s deeply rooted in our customer-centric values.”

According to Harri’s Data Intelligence team, sub-90 day turnover represents nearly $70 billion of wasted labor costs a year to the restaurant industry. When considering the impact of those turnover events to guest experience and sales, the net losses are even greater. The opportunity to help restaurants regain the employee retention initiative starts with recognizing that 65% of employees leave in the first 90 days due to scheduling dissatisfaction. Given such a compelling trend, Harri has released the first in a series of powerful new scheduling and employee development tools to address the industry's greatest economic opportunity.

Designed to support restaurant partners, Harri’s most recent innovations include:

  • Harri Live: The most powerful mobile application on the market granting frontline managers the ability to access live sales and labor data, full scheduling management, employee requests, communications, live compliance alerts and team data in one place, on the go.

  • Smart Scheduling System: This next generation scheduling technology saves managers time in building and optimizing schedules by combining seamless demand forecasting, activity based manning matrices and streamlined schedule distribution. An optimized sales forecast and schedule for a 50 employee full-service operation can now be created and published in a handful of minutes instead of hours.  

  • Learning Management System: To be progressively introduced over 2019, this LMS will be the first in market to intelligently respond to both an employees’ stage in the employment lifecycle as well as their individual employment needs. The first module - Workplace Harassment & Discrimination Training - directly addresses training needs specific to sexual harassment and related local regulation.

The aforementioned products work in conjunction with Harri’s existing Workforce OS platform, connecting over 250 top hospitality brands with the talent, technology, and insights needed to help build, manage and engage talent. With more than 30 modules, Workforce OS provides solutions for talent acquisition, employer branding, applicant tracking, scheduling, communications, compliance, analytics, and more.



Mental Health Awareness Week gives us an important opportunity to stop, take time out and be mindful of the issues and indeed stigma’s surrounding so many people in our industry struggling with mental health problems.

The latest research by industry charity, Hospitality Action, found an alarming 80% of our workforce found their job to be stressful some or most of the time. Over half (51%) said their work was stressful all of the time. The charity believes the research reveals a ticking time-bomb beneath the UK hospitality industry, regarded by those in it as a fast, unrelenting and sometimes unforgiving place to be. The charity also cited that workers encountered pressure, adrenaline peaks and crashes, plus long hours, which it warns could make for a dangerous cocktail.

Talk to any operator and they’ll say the pressure on front, back and head office teams to deliver a consistent service and experience every day is hugely stressful and no easy feat. However, delivering a great experience should never be at the detriment of those who make it happen and it definitely shouldn’t be bad for anyone’s health. Stress = depression = anxiety, which are three of the key issues our industry faces.


Employers can go a long way towards creating an open and positive culture, one which ensures employees don’t struggle in silence and feel supported. We’re seeing some great examples set by the likes of Caravan Restaurants, Rick Stein and several other operators, who are striving to make the modern hospitality setting a more open, inclusive and inviting place to work.

c log.png

Elsa De Jager, Head of People at Caravan, says: “The company actively champions mutual respect, inclusivity and diversity across front and back-of-house.” The operator believes creating a culture of teamwork and support among employees is key to supporting mental health. Elsa continues: “How can brands expect their team to excel at work, if they don’t feel good about themselves in their role and in their place in the business?


Similarly, Rick Stein is another operator focused on supporting and nurturing his team. The company has dedicated part of its employee experience to the concept that “small things make a difference”. It offers staff accommodation when it can, rewards for long service and social events. The brand also actively promotes its Employee Assistance Programme provided by Hospitality Action, with a 24-hour helpline and resources to promote health and wellbeing within the industry.

Increasingly, employers are recognising the overwhelming pressures a career in hospitality can bring, and are actively seeking to balance those pressures with a more flexible and inclusive approach to work, whilst demonstrating empathy, understanding and providing access to help and advice.

Here are our top tips to creating a happier and more rewarding workplace:

  • At the start of each shift, operators should be asking managers to take a moment to connect with each member of staff to ask how they’re doing. Consider a pre-shift meal to get everyone talking and bonding. Operators need to take a top-down approach to leadership and ensure everyone gets a chance to check in.

  • Foster a warm, friendly environment and promote an open-door policy for employees to voice concerns with the reassurance of full confidentiality. Hospitality can be a stormy environment, which is part of its highs and lows. However, teams should know there’s a safe, supportive harbour when they need it.

  • Employees like to know when they’re doing a good job and operators should be loud and proud of each person’s achievements – on and off-shift. Owners and managers who take the time to acknowledge and say thank you for an employees contribution to the business, will be the ones reaping the benefits of a happy, contented workforce.

Harri & Only a Pavement Away : Coming Together to Fight the Candidate Crisis and Decrease Homelessness

Only a Pavement Away held its inaugural conference on Tuesday the 19th March. This unique organisation acts as a conduit between charities and hospitality operators with the aim of getting the homeless, ex-veterans and ex-offenders into employment. There are an estimated 32,000 homeless people in the UK and another 5000 who sleep rough every night. The conference saw the industry come together to debate and discuss how as an industry, we can play a major role in the government’s initiative to end rough sleeping by 2027.  The event was co-hosted by the Only a Pavement Away charity & by consultancy Think Hospitality. Panellists included industry experts, politicians, leading operators and journalists.


It’s no secret that those who have been or who are homeless face obstacles to entering the labour market. Dulal Ahmed, Employment Services Manager at Crisis stresses the need for a change in approach to the homeless crisis – employment being at the root of it:

It’s a win-win approach. Employers gain access to a previously untapped yet motivated pool of staff who just want to be given a chance to get on in the world of work. They already have tenacity from overcoming hardship, they just need people to believe in them’. Ben Stackhouse, CEO of Pub Love added: ‘By taking a chance on someone and believing in them when nobody else does, you are gaining unrivalled loyalty from that person in return’.

In the past, there hasn’t been an organisation which connects charities that deal with the homeless and ex-homeless directly to willing employers. More importantly there haven’t been open roles readily available to these vulnerable individuals….until Only a Pavement Away.

Ex-homeless journalist Ed Mitchell spoke to us about his time on the streets as a result of alcoholism. He lost his job and his family in an instant. Many of the audience were close to tears at his admission that despite getting his life back on track, he is fighting a constant battle to stay on the right side of a very fine line and that at any given point he still feels ‘only a pavement away’ from being homeless again:

Rents go up, but benefits stay as they are. Ironically the 1-bedroom studio I have ended up in is right above a liquor store. Without a purpose and a steady source of income, no matter how hard I try, I will end up right back where I started.’

During the six-month period that Ed was homeless, when trying to seek help, he never spoke to the same person twice. The process of trying to resolve his situation was extremely disjointed and felt impossible. He stressed: ‘Throwing money at problems does not solve anything. Solutions need to be thought out in advance and the people involved behind the scenes need to cooperate. If not, all the good they are trying to achieve will never happen. He concluded by thanking Only a Pavement Away for thinking differently. ‘Bringing like-minded employers together who can offer us employment gives us hope that we can actually sustain the life we are working so hard to rebuild’.

Next to speak was Magistrate David Apparicio, now founder of The Chrysalis Programme, a development course aimed at preventing reoffending.  He believes that our justice system is broken because it consists solely of negative reinforcement which alone, will never produce a positive outcome. David went on to tell the story of a man who he once faced in court. The man had stolen a sandwich from a supermarket because he was too broke to buy one. The only punishment David could give him was ironically a £50 fine.  As a result of processes like this, ex-offenders often re-offend in order to pay off their sentences and consequently David see’s the same people in court time and time again. Out of the 5000 rough sleepers on UK streets, 1650 of them are ex-offenders. How does this link to our industry and the objective of decreasing homelessness...? Because 75% of people are less likely to re-offend if they get a job. ‘It’s no wonder that Only a Pavement Away have chosen ‘Stability through Employment’ as their mantra.

The conference also marked the launch of a new logo for the charity.


With help from the Black Arts Company, you will soon see this logo stencilled across the pavements of the UK, reminding us that jobs for people who need them are in fact ‘only a pavement away’. Future objectives of the charity include getting 300 people off the streets in one year and creating training kitchens that homeless people or those in danger of homelessness can access to learn and develop useful skills.

This concept ties in nicely with Fred Sirieix who spoke about the idea of treating prisons like schools where life values and skills can be not only taught but developed in the time that would otherwise be wasted. The First Dates and Million Pound Kitchen star drew on his childhood and how great parenting and teaching shaped the person he is today, instilling in him great attitude and values. He concluded by telling the audience that: ‘making the world a better place involves taking action’.

IMG_3816 (1).jpeg
IMG_3800 (1).jpeg

When Emma Osborne, Regional CEO of Sodexo Probation and Reemployment asked women prisoners their opinion on going into employment after being released, their response was excitement and delight with the only reservation being apprehension of the interview. Organisations like Only a Pavement Away inform employers of the applicant’s prior situation, therefore questions such as ‘where were you before this?’ can therefore be avoided/ treated with caution. Emma tells the audience that she is a huge advocate of the program but needs to see more jobs being posted.  

Harri is the applicant tracking system of choice for Only a Pavement Away. We have given our ATS to Greg and his team at no cost, so that employers can post jobs out to the charities that represent the ex-homeless, ex-veterans and ex-offenders. By doing so, we hope to encourage our clients and all other hospitality employers to join the scheme, and post any jobs they think could be applicable to someone trying to rebuild their life and re-integrate into society. It’s important to note that these prisoners have not done anything violent. Crimes such as stealing will have gotten them in trouble, which we are not accepting as OKAY but are simply providing a way for the cycle to be broken and for people to gain back stability. We also want to equip operators with motivated talent so they can fight the ongoing candidate crisis our industry is currently facing.

Tim Foster of Yummy Pub Collection has been hiring individuals through homeless charities for a while. With hindsight, Tim tells us that as an employer, getting involved in schemes like this is far from easy because you can never assume things are always okay. Whilst the staff Tim has hired have been hard working and committed, they are all fighting their own inner battles and without continuous support, can feel very overwhelmed by employment. Hearing from The Ivy Collection, Brewhouse Kitchen and Young’s Pubs who have all hired people through Only a Pavement Away, the lesson learnt is that despite all the effort; it HAS been worthwhile.

Hospitality is not a job, it’s a career. If we can decrease homelessness, lessen the candidate crisis AND give people lifelong stability…well, then we’re doing something right!


Harri and New York City Hospitality Alliance Launch New Digital Platform to Combat Harassment and Discrimination in the Workplace

NEW YORK, NY (February 21, 2019) – Harri, the next-generation software solution that helps hospitality businesses build, manage and engage their teams today announced, in partnership with the New York City Hospitality Alliance, a new digital anti-harassment and discrimination training platform for restaurants and nightlife establishments. The platform will provide hospitality-relevant training modules for employees, using a curriculum developed in partnership with Fox Rothschild LLP that fully complies with the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act.

“Acts of harassment and discrimination have no place in our people-centric industry,” said Luke Fryer, Founder and CEO, Harri. “Aside from the entertainment industry, no other professional community was as seismically impacted by the #MeToo movement. The operational realities of the hospitality workplace require a more intensive and curated approach to educating our employees regarding workplace behaviors. The potential for damage is significant to both employees and owners, which is why Harri is taking an active role alongside our partners at the New York City Hospitality Alliance to help our clients mitigate risk and improve the integrity of the restaurant workplace.”

The platform, a module within Harri’s TeamLive workforce management suite, will comply with New York City and State requirements and will exceed the minimum legal standards by covering anti-discrimination laws. In doing so, the platform is intended to help cover two of the industry’s biggest blind spots. With the rise of minimum wage impacting profitability and a seemingly unstoppable onslaught of employee-related legislation, the industry requires a comprehensive solution to risk mitigation and help in ensuring that restaurants are a fair, safe, and welcoming place to work. Specific features of the platform will include:

  • Training Customized for the Hospitality Industry

  • Content Covering Anti-Harassment and Discrimination

  • Streamlined Platform Providing Legal Compliance

  • Audit-Friendly Functionality Providing Employee Completion Status and Record

  • Platform will be available in both English and Spanish

“We must stop sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, and help ensure our members comply with the newly enacted anti-harassment training requirements. That’s why we’re proud to partner with Harri to provide restaurants and nightlife establishments a high-quality training program that’s customized for the hospitality industry workplace,” said Andrew Rigie, Executive Director, NYC Hospitality Alliance.

The platform will be hosted by Harri and available starting April 2019.