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Honest Burgers: From inflexible all-in-one to Deputy’s best-of-breed flexibility

London, United Kingdom
hospitality industry Hospitality

At a glance

  • Improved demand planning and labour forecasting
  • Accurate and automated payroll and tipping
  • Greater flexibility, integrations and agility

The Story

12 years ago Honest Burgers opened its first shop in Brixton Market, South London and made a name for themselves. In London’s crowded burger market they stood out with their innovative burgers, British beef, affordable prices, homemade lemonade and famous rosemary salted fries. 

“We were founded by Phil, Tom and Dorian. It started really small with the idea of making very simple but extremely good burgers and people absolutely loved it from the get go. We opened our Soho branch about a year and a half later, and then we’ve opened about five or six restaurants annually since then,” says Tommy Giraux, Head of Project Management, who’s worked at Honest Burgers for 9 years and worked his way up from the restaurant floor as a General Manager.

It was growth, growth, growth - and then COVID-19 hit the world in 2020 and everything stopped.  Honest Burgers made some big business decisions including ending its relationship with a leading all-in-one hospitality platform providing workforce management, payroll and other features. 

For staff scheduling, Honest Burgers went through a long period where they didn’t use a single rota system, even returning to using spreadsheets for rotas. They had a very restricted team of 5 people on-site during the pandemic, so it was the same rota every day - no customers coming in, only takeaways and delivery.

As Honest Burgers came out of COVID and their doors opened to customers again, they realised they needed a rota system that would allow them to accurately, proactively and efficiently track labour costs and predict demand levels and patterns. 

“Things are tough right now for hospitality. The industry is being hit in multiple ways. Firstly, the cost of living crisis is affecting our customers, affecting all of us individually as well. Secondly, energy prices are rocketing and finally, people took on different jobs during COVID because hospitality wasn't open. And a lot of those people haven't come back to the industry. Brexit obviously has really put a massive dent in the kind of workforce that's available to us. It's the perfect storm in many different ways. Recruitment and retention is one of our biggest challenges at the moment,” says Stuart Macnab-Grieve, Operations Partner at Honest Burgers.

With this tight squeeze of both recruitment challenges and high labour costs, being able to keep labour costs low, recruit and retain staff to meet demand and deploy the existing labour effectively has never been more important.

“We're really trying to streamline our operations at the moment and make sure that we are as efficient and effective as possible."

- Stuart Macnab-Grieve, Operations Partner at Honest Burgers

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The Challenge

Driven by this business objective, Honest Burgers began the hunt for a workforce management tool with a data-led approach to rota building and demand planning that offered reliable time tracking and accurate payroll processes. These benefits were key to making them a more trustworthy and attractive workplace to candidates. The four core issues they were looking to solve were: 

1. Improving Labour Forecasting, Demand Planning and Reducing Labour Costs

“Prior to Deputy we were running the business blindfolded. We had no idea what our labour costs would be until we actually started paying people,” says Tommy.

“We needed a system that would allow us to plug in forecasting so we can see what our staff availability is and when demand for staff  is likely to be high. This was really important for me. Knowing the challenges we’ve got with recruitment and retention, having visibility and a data-led approach was key for me,” says Stuart. 

2. Replacing An Inflexible All-in-one Solution 

Prior to Deputy, Honest Burgers were working with a well known all-in-one platform. They were using its schedule, HR and Payroll functions, and were frustrated with the lack of flexibility and innovation the platform offered. 

“Our operations and people team were frustrated with the platform because we were always met with a hard no or high costs and long timelines for any change requests we made. The  all-in-one solution was very rigid,” Tommy recalls.

“It was a one for all solution. Many businesses in the industry use it, and so it needs to be a fit for everyone. This means that if you don't fit in the same box as everyone else, you don't really get what you want out of it. So we decided to pull the plug and rip it out and start finding the best-of-breed solution for each department. And Deputy was one of the final pieces,” says Tommy. 

3. Removing Reliance On Spreadsheets

In the early days after the pandemic, after they’d quit their old all-in-one hospitality workforce solution, Honest Burgers briefly moved to spreadsheets to manage their rotas and payroll. It was chaotic and disorganised.  

“If you’re a single restaurant, I can see how spreadsheets make sense. You've got your spreadsheet, your staff can see it, they can see their own rota. But on a chain level, you need to have access suddenly to 45 different spreadsheets. None of them have the same formulas in there. There were no NI holiday pension calculations in there, so trying to figure out that kind of cost was impossible,” says Stuart

“When you get bigger, you need a system that can give you that oversight, right? Overseeing so many restaurants using spreadsheets was a pain from an operations perspective,” says Stuart. 

4. Payroll and Tipping  Errors

The use of manual spreadsheets was leading to expensive payroll and tipping errors.  “We were getting hundreds of messages from staff who’d been paid wrong, or spending hours checking that tips had been paid correctly,” says Stuart.

“Our operations and people team were frustrated with the all-in-one platform because we were always met with a hard no or high costs and long timelines for any change requests we made. The  all-in-one solution was very rigid.”

- Tommy Giraux, Head of Project Management

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The Solution

Today Honest Burgers are now using Deputy in 45 sites and every staff member in their restaurants has access to Deputy.

The benefits are clear:

1. Improved Demand Planning

A primary factor in the decision was being able to see where demand was and accurately determining how to deploy labour to be more effective. 

“The biggest challenge we've got in hospitality right now is managing staffing levels. And so being able to use the same number of hours but more effectively to take more sales, that's a massive benefit for us,” says Stuart. 

“Deputy gives us a lot more accurate data to make the right decisions for our General Managers. It helps us manage costs, manage labour, and manage food waste. As of now, Stuart is able to see a week in advance what the labour costs and needs would be like or what's looking like a quiet or busy week, so we can get our ducks in the row before the week starts,” says Tommy.

“Deputy gives us the ability to visually see on a graph when our demand is coming based on real data from each individual restaurant, and not just an average of our 45 restaurants. I’m really pleased we’ve got a system now that does this because it’s made my life easier,” says Stuart.

“I think a lot of restaurants and hospitality businesses underestimate how important having this kind of overview is. I’ve worked in hospitality for 20 years, and I’ve only used something similar once or twice and I think more businesses would benefit from it,” says Stuart. 

“Now general managers can have a good insight into their on and off peak periods and see that their sales don’t climb until exactly this specific time and actually drop off at this particular time, and that they’ve got a block of staff on at that low period, and they could consider deploying staff differently based on what the system’s telling them,” says Stuart. 

“This gives us a huge sales growth opportunity. We can keep the same labour spend but deploy that labour into better areas. That for me is the big opportunity that we've got from using Deputy,” says Stuart.

2. Improved Payroll

“We used to have loads of payroll mistakes. Now with the Deputy and PayCaptain integration there's clearer visibility for team members to see the actual hours that they've worked and exactly what they will get paid. So any issues can be picked up much earlier and way before payroll is actually closed. 

Deputy has massively reduced the number of payroll adjustments we do every single week. Previously they were 170 a month! So obviously now there's a lot less people that get upset because they didn’t get paid properly, which improves the employee experience,” says Tommy.


“There’s no guesswork with pay anymore. Everyone knows exactly what they’re going to get. From a recruitment point of view, that’s huge because the one way to upset someone is to pay them incorrectly. So it’s really helped,” says Paul Hunt, Head of Tech. 

3. Accurate Tipping 

Tipping has also become more accurate, making Honest Burgers a more attractive place to work in hospitality.

“I used to spend about 25% of my week fixing mistakes to tips and service charges. We barely get any payroll or tipping mistakes anymore. Everything’s automated so there are no more errors,” says Tommy.

“We would spend hours going through receipts and adding adjustments manually, but now it’s just automated. We use Deputy hours to calculate the service charge split. We produce a report at the beginning or end of each week to say here’s what people worked and we send it off to TiPJAR, and they then calculate the tronc split based on that. That’s made our life hugely easier and a lot less complaints,” says Paul.

4. Easier, More Up to Date and Better Rota Planning

“Deputy is the first time we actually have a virtual live rota in the whole time of Honest Burgers. Even when we were working with the all-in-one solution, people were just printing out rotas and putting it on the wall. So now we have a live version that’s always up to date. There’s no more taking a screenshot and sharing it on a group chat. What you get on your app is always the most up to date version of it. There’s no confusion between version 2.0 of the rota made a day ago and version 5.0 made today so it’s much easier to make changes and to find people”, says Tommy. 

“Automated rota scheduling just makes life easier - being able to copy and paste, drag and drop shifts, having all our requests in one place, holiday leave in one place, everything’s just simplified,” says Stuart.  

5. Improved Data Reporting

“The big thing that Deputy allows us to achieve is extraction of data. We’re looking to build a data warehouse that brings data from all our systems into one. Deputy’s OpenAPI is all encompassing and allows us to grab anything we need out of it. This provides us with business insight and analyses that will help us identify opportunities and risks and inform business decisions,” says Paul.

6. Best-of-Breed Flexibility 

The need for flexibility was the key reason Honest Burgers developed their best-in-class strategy rather than sticking with an all-in-one platform. 

“We needed a solution that was flexible, open to development and making amends to the tool to fit our needs,” says Tommy.

Honest Burgers have integrated Deputy with PayCaptain, TiPJAR, Wagestream, Bamboo and MarketMan. 

With Deputy, Honest Burgers could plug in the tech ecosystem they were putting together. 

Deputy is able to connect with their point of sale(POS) and pull real-time data, connect with MarketMan, their restaurant management system and extract demand forecasts, as well as connect with their HR system.

By developing a best-of-breed strategy Honest Burgers are able to leverage the “plug-and-play” nature of the cloud to take advantage of the latest innovations in hospitality and meet the evolving needs of their business. 

7. Positive Staff Feedback 

Hospitality hires a lot of young people who live on their smartphones. Deputy has also improved the employee experience for Honest Burgers’ young employee demographic. 

“Having a great smartphone app where the team can see their shifts, and make requests for shifts all in one place is gold. They don’t have to sit in front of a laptop. They get a notification when their rota is ready, and they’re good to go,” says Stuart. 

“The feedback’s been really positive. It’s easier for managers to build rotas and deploy staff to different areas of the restaurant - either back of house or front of house management. We've also set up an area for non-operational hours, so we know if people are in meetings or they're not actually on the floor serving customers. It's helpful and it's very easy to use,” says Stuart.

8. Easy and Fast Implementation

Implementing and onboarding Deputy at the restaurants was also easy and straightforward. “It took about 10 days for most of the sites to really get into it. The platform’s not complicated and it’s pretty intuitive to use,” says Tommy.

“We’ve worked with a lot of external software suppliers and Deputy definitely is one of the most responsive. We never had to wait days to get a response. The implementation process felt like a two way conversation, rather than us getting yes or no answers to our questions. And finally there was so much great documentation around the API which has made it really easy to use, and meant that I have not been in touch with support too much. There’s been very little we’ve not been able to do via the API”, says Paul.

What would they say to hospitality chains considering whether to go with an all-in-one or best-of-breed solution?

Reflecting on the decision to stick with an all-in-one solution or move to a best-of-breed approach, Tommy Giraux, Head of Project Management commented: “Depending on the size of your business, it might make sense to use an all-in-one platform. However, once you start to grow and if your business needs change, a best-of-breed approach can give you more flexibility and agility.”

“In addition, labour recruitment and retention are the biggest challenges in the hospitality industry right now, so you need to be able to deploy labour effectively, and if your current system does not enable that, then there’s definitely a big opportunity here for you with Deputy,” says Stuart Macnab-Grieve, Operations Partner at Honest Burgers.

"Depending on the size of your business, it might make sense to use an all-in-one platform. However, once you start to grow and if your business needs change, a best-of-breed approach can give you more flexibility and agility.”

- Tommy Giraux, Head of Project Management

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