Onward and upward
Windsor Alehouse on Punt Road is something of an innovation itself. Formerly Pint on Punt, this familiar three-storey building transformed itself from an all-Irish pub to a classical beer bar, changing the way it does things in the process. “It was tough at the start,” says manager Ewan. “We actually got rid of what we were renowned for previously. It’s baby steps, everything’s baby steps. Everything takes a while. Build it, and they will come, slowly add a bit, add a bit.”
Some things remain, but most were updated to attract a new clientele. Patrons still get their drinks at the iconic horseshoe-shaped bar, but where Magners, Budweiser, Heineken, and Guinness used to be are 19 taps offering up local and international craft beers. With its high stools, bright lights, and modern rustic decor, it’s come a long way from its Irish pub roots. A whole new team is running the place too, with Ewan at the helm, himself new to Melbourne. He is not your average manager.
“It’s horses for courses, you know?”
“In the hospitality industry, there is a ridiculously high turnover of staff, which is one of the biggest problems,” Ewan notes. At Windsor Alehouse, however, they’ve only had to hire two people in the past year. Having a good working environment where you’re valued, get paid on time, and have good rapport makes a difference. “We’re a very honest group,” says Ewan, who advocates getting things done in the fastest, most straightforward way, including schedules.
True to the principle of reinvention, he keeps aces in their places with a great workforce management platform. “I love that I just went boom, and that’s it. Everybody’s paid, all my databases have the monthly email,” he remarks. Because clocking in and clocking out, rostering, and timesheets are all taken care of quickly. Thanks to Tanda, Ewan has more time to connect with his staff and their patrons. “It’s good”, he says, because, “The more you’re sat in an office, the more likely you’re going to sit in that office.”
But it’s still horses for courses at Windsor Alehouse – different people for different situations. “It’s knowing your staff and who you’re working with, really,” he notes, underscoring the importance of staying connected and maintaining a degree of flexibility. Some employees take off on weeknights, others need their weekends off. Accommodating everybody’s social life leads to an appreciation that makes them stay and work better. Filing for leave, unavailability, and requesting shift swaps are also done through the Tanda app.
What can get in the way of running a great pub?
- Unnecessary admin, brought on by legacy staff management systems.
- Inability to cater for your individual employee’s needs without a flexible system in place.
- Lost face time with the customer every time a manager has to correct a timesheet or amend a roster in the back office.
“You can’t be missing the heart.”
“A lot of pubs, especially chains, they run it from an office. So everything’s up in a folder in head office, and there’s no heart to it. It’s missing the heart,” he says. Heart is the most important thing in Windsor Alehouse, and we’re not just talking about their signature comfort food. The rapport between the barmen and the actual customer is emphasized and in fact, that’s how they built their regular customer base. “If I go into a place and the person is sour and doesn’t want to be there, I immediately think something up the chain is wrong,” he adds.
Staying creative is also key to maintaining a unique pub experience, and Ewan puts his faith into his managers to do that. Instead of telling them what to do, he gives them small tasks where they can express themselves. “Our barman Shaun makes a sick cocktail, man, I swear. He does the cocktail list, which is encouragement in itself. I chuck him an extra pint for it,” he says, and staff bond over beers afterward. “We need to be a team, you all sit down and have a beer together, because at the end of the day you want the guy next to you to cover for you, as much as you cover for him.”
“Are you well, man? Here’s a pint.”
When asked what makes him a successful manager, he bursts into laughter, the sound rising over the din of the pub: “I don’t know if I am!” But falsely humble he is not, the twinkle in his eye suggests there’s a lot more to come for Windsor Alehouse. They’re still too small for any blanket policies or constraints that chain pubs can have, so changes in the staff’s schedules are easy to manage with Tanda. “I don’t think I’ve rejected any holiday request. There’s always a way to accommodate everybody. I think people appreciate that.”
Ewan has been running pubs for 13 years, and he’s come a long way from his Carlsberg-drinking days in Scotland. He didn’t know anything about Windsor Alehouse’s craft beers at first, he admits, but it has opened him up to new experiences. Today, whether he’s downing a Carlsberg in his hometown or serving up a Nine Tales Amber Ale on Punt Road, you’ll find him behind a bar with an easy smile, asking you the same thing: “Are you well man? Here’s a pint.”
How does Windsor Alehouse do it?
Through Tanda, Windsor Alehouse have access to a number of scheduling and compliance tools, here’s just a few of their favourites.
By uploading key documents such as RSA and first aid certificates into Tanda, managers at the alehouse are able to ensure that all staff qualifications are up to date, thanks to push notifications and expiry reminders.