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colombo social

Building a social enterprise to share culture and help underserved communities

Sydney, Australia
hospitality industry Hospitality

At a glance

  • Controlled labor costs
  • Reduced rostering from a full day to 30 minutes
  • Easily flip between rostering and payroll for all businesses

The Story

Sometimes a passion project develops over a few drinks and a home-cooked meal. At least that’s what happened for Peter Jones-Best and Shaun Christie-David, co-founders of Colombo Social.

More than just a place to serve food, Colombo Social is a social enterprise restaurant, with the majority of the front of house staff seeking asylum.

Friends for more than two decades, Peter and Shaun loved a good home-cooked meal by Shaun’s mother, who comes from a Sri Lankan background. One night they decided that they needed to do something to share that authentic Sri Lankan food with others — and help underserved people at the same time. And so they started developing the idea of Colombo Social.

Peter has more than 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry, working in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, in every type of establishment from nightclubs to pubs to fine dining restaurants to cocktail bars. And Shaun has more than 15 years of experience in finance, sales, and social enterprise, doing what he can to raise social awareness about important issues.

“I’ve got that experience in hospitality and Shaun’s from a finance and business background and has the Sri Lankan connections there with the recipes coming from his mom,” says Peter. “But we’re not just a Sri Lankan restaurant. Shaun comes from a very strong social ethos background and we both feel strongly that we want to give opportunities to others who need them.”

"We decided when we opened the business that we would employ and train asylum seekers and refugees. They're all from different backgrounds, different countries. And while they all may not be asylum seekers or refugees, they’re struggling to get by."

colombo social

The Challenge

With his extensive experience in hospitality, Peter knew the pains of clunky, outdated scheduling systems.

“I really didn’t think the Bundy clock existed, but that’s what one of my previous restaurants was using and it was a nightmare,” says Peter. “I’ve been through just about every type of system — the Bundy clock, handwritten timesheets, pen and paper.”

One of Peter’s previous establishments not only had 80 employees, but each employee had different business units and their time and their labor had to be allocated specifically to those business units. And then within those business units, there were different categories.

“Rosters were shared either through a Facebook group, email, or just printed and stuck up in the staff room,” remembers Peter. “It was hard to make changes because any time someone was sick, you would have to take it down and put a new one up. Managing leave was incredibly difficult. You’d have to keep a separate calendar. I had to keep one just on paper.”

Layers within layers within layers. So, for Peter, it was a no brainer when someone suggested they use Deputy. And it was just as easy a decision to bring Deputy to Colombo Social.

"Deputy is just so simple and easy to use. It’s affordable. The minute we switched from the Bundy clock to that, and I realized just how easy it is, I took it to the next place."

colombo social

The Solution

Even though Colombo Social is much smaller than Peter’s previous establishments, with anywhere from 15-20 staff, he can’t imagine using anything but Deputy for scheduling.

“The ease of creating timesheets and getting payroll done within half an hour, that’s a luxury for me on Monday mornings,” he says. “We have two business units now with the charity that we started, and it’s quite easy to flip between both for rostering and payroll.”

On top of just freeing himself from mundane and timely tasks, Peter’s noticed the huge financial payoff of switching to Deputy.

“The yearly savings was ridiculous,” Peter boasts. “The big thing in hospitality is labor. I can control everything else to a degree, but labor is that huge variable cost that can sink a business. And I can see that in Deputy. Then you want to talk about time value of money? To have my Mondays back and just literally half an hour to approach this payroll instead of a couple hours or a half day. I think that’s got a very tangible financial value attached to it as well.”

The benefits go on. For everyone, communication is much easier. With Deputy’s News feed, Peter and Shaun can post important business information and ensure the staff sees it.

“We use the News feed to post all our COVID restrictions and guidelines for the staff,” says Peter. “It’s good to have that proof so we can say to the government ‘Yes, we posted to our staff.’ You can also require it to be seen so I know every staff member who’s seen it. But then there are other ways to use Deputy’s features, like for licensing. I can have our house policy put up there and I can prove that by the fact that they’ve clicked yes, they’ve seen it.”

The freedom of not being stuck spending hours on scheduling and balancing timesheets means that Peter and Shaun can focus on their business and social enterprise development. They started Plate it Forward to offer meals to those in need, especially those impacted by COVID-19. They welcome and train individuals who want to learn about culinary skills. And they’re always looking for other ways to bring wellness, acceptance, and culture into the community.

"Rostering and timesheet scheduling now takes about half an hour, with what used to be almost a full day of operations."

colombo social
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