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Deputy helped hospitality business Boathouse Group keep going strong before, during, and after the COVID lockdown

Sydney, Australia
hospitality industryHospitality

At a glance

  • Easily generated wages off timesheets
  • Ensured new COVID security roles are rostered by trained staff
  • Instant all-staff communication

The Story

Starting out from a single café on Palm Beach in Sydney, Australia, the Boathouse Group has grown to eight venues. According to general manager Thom Williamson, who joined Boathouse Group as a chef three years ago, its success story is all about a love of making people feel welcome. “Back in 2008, a couple bought an old wrecked café on Palm Beach and put everything they had into it. They filled it with colour and beautiful things, and quickly built up a following,” says Thom. “Then, they expanded through a sheer love of hospitality.”

While Boathouse Group’s three cafés are the “boiler room” of the business, it now offers a bakery, deli, accommodation, and a pub on the central coast. From small gatherings to large celebrations, Boathouse venues supported more than 500 events each year. That is, until a global pandemic hit.

"It's all about a love of making people feel welcome."

The Challenge

As for so many hospitality businesses, COVID transformed the Boathouse Group's business. “It was a dramatic and sudden hit,” explains Thom. “We closed everything except the bakery straight away and tried to turn our homeware business into a grocery store.”

Of course, the pandemic had an immediate hit on staffing, too. Typically, Boathouse Group has between 300 and 600 staff depending on the season, with a 20/80 mix of full-time and casual employees. The impact of lockdown meant all casual staff had to be stood down, as well as most full-time staff. While some full-time staff were told they could return in a few weeks, the lockdown actually lasted three months.

Boathouse group was able to keep around 16 venue managers and head chefs on board through lockdown, albeit on much-reduced salaries. “Credit to the shareholders for letting us do this,” says Thom. Although the grocery store trial didn’t work out, the group managed to pivot pretty quickly to different business models.

“We were pretty strategic straight away,” Thom continues. “We were already pushing our catering business, and once we had our website sorted, we moved that online, offering things like pre-made meals and canapés.”

Despite this, with minimal staff and managers back working in the kitchen, Boathouse Group needed to find every possible efficiency to keep the business running. In the tough new operating conditions, it was more important than ever for managers to be able to make sure that staffing levels were in line with expected demand on each shift. And Boathouse Group had the additional challenge of not only following new safety protocols but also making sure staff were trained in new COVID security roles.

"COVID was a sudden hit but we were able to pivot strategically."

The Solution

Throughout these dramatic shifts in its business, Boathouse Group has relied on Deputy. “It’s the main reason that we stay afloat — we couldn't live without it,” says Thom. “We love the Xero integration, which means we can generate wages straight off people’s timesheets.”

Deputy’s integration with Xero also helped Boathouse Group to save time and work efficiently— even with reduced staff levels.

In addition, Boathouse Group uses Deputy’s integration with Kounta for POS and ordering. “Wages are such a huge thing in hospitality,” says Thom. “We have targets for what our wage percentages are, and by using Kounta and Deputy together we can see what the average spend is going to be each day. We can then type in on Deputy what we’re predicting income to be on that day, and base our percentages on that. So if it’s raining in the morning we can adjust based on previous revenue days. It’s taken a while to get off the ground but it's been great.”

And as Boathouse Group ramped up again after the lockdown, Deputy’s Kounta integration was also instrumental in helping them to allocate staff more accurately across their different businesses.

Deputy’s Sections feature is also supporting Boathouse’s COVID security, allowing staff to be rostered in new roles as “COVID safety officer” or a new “Hosting” role that manages COVID security at the door. Now, the Boathouse team can make sure these roles are populated by people trained to do them.

But it’s not just the back-end details that are important for Boathouse Group. Throughout everything, communication has been critical. During the lockdown, Deputy’s in-app messaging gave Boathouse Group managers the perfect channel for keeping everyone updated.

“Whether it’s as small as offering up open shifts or as big as a COVID announcement, Deputy is the ideal way for us to make sure the Boathouse team is always connected,” says Thom.

"Deputy is the main reason we stay afloat."

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