Elbow Room — A place to gather and enjoy something new

Elbow Room — A place to gather and enjoy something new
Stacey Sikorski

By Stacey Sikorski

Elbow Room opened their doors during the summer of 2017 in the Britannia area in Calgary, Alberta. The name is a clever play on words, being that the restaurant is located off Elbow Drive with 95 seats in a cozy space. Attracting diverse groups by offering brunch, lunch, and dinner—they do it all really well.

Elbow Room offers an innovative, uncomplicated menu with the goal of bringing friends and families together. It’s a mix of diverse, unique, Canadian cuisine presented as a mingled-menu experience, which encourages guests to share plates or keep the meals for themselves.

For Executive Chef/Owner Ryan Blackwell and Restaurant Director/Partner Josh Brennand, the restaurant was two years in the making. They met while working at the same restaurant years ago, then reconnected recently. Having both been in the industry their entire working lives, they hashed out the concept of Elbow Room and developed the business plan while the building was being constructed.

One operational aspect unique to Elbow Room is the two-level layout. The kitchen is downstairs and the bar is upstairs, plus, there’s a patio. The varied levels and areas make scheduling staff tricky, but it’s definitely an easy place to keep in shape at—simply pick up a food-running shift and you’ll never need to go near a StairMaster again!

During the two years of planning, they had time to develop the details and operational aspects of the restaurant, and deciding on a scheduling software was on the to-do list. Mark Blackwell, an owner of Elbow Room, had once shared the stage with 7shifts CEO Jordan Boesch at a tech event and learned about the software at that time. Mark passed along the information to Josh and Ryan to research.

Prior to implementing 7shifts at Elbow Room, Josh had experience with other scheduling methods. For years he would use Excel and then post the schedule, which gave way to  emailing the schedule as technology progressed. One of his previous employers used Schedulefly, so Josh was familiar with different scheduling tools. “This time we went with 7shifts. It’s been better, faster, and more innovative,” says Josh.

“I tested 7shifts out with a couple of the staff members here. I was familiar with the competition and saw whatI could get out of 7shifts. It was great, so we went with it.” – Josh Brennard, Restaurant Director and Managing Partner.

Josh Brennard, Restaurant Director and Managing Partner at Elbow Room

7shifts has saved a lot of time for Josh. In the past, dealing with shift trades or other schedule changes used to depend on face-to-face communication, phone calls, or texts. “I used to have a schedule-off binder and a request-off binder along with the schedule. Now staff can just put their requests through on the app. 7shifts is a multitude of different things. I can approve everything right there.”

“My scheduling manager can create the weekly schedule in 1.5 hours.”

The POS system used at Elbow Room, TouchBistro, integrates with 7shifts. The managers easily monitor sales at Elbow Room through the labor budget tool, which which helps them keep a close eye on labor targets.

Staff at Elbow Room

Being a new restaurant, they started out with a high labor target of 25%, and with 7shifts labor budget tool, were able to cut it down 4–6% each week for the first month. “As we get further, we’ll be able to cut down more, and having it right in front of us on the schedule makes it easier,” says Josh. “The labor budget tool is how we’ve completely done all of our forecasting since we’ve opened.”

7shifts brought unexpected benefits to Elbow Room when Josh learned he could send attachments through messaging. The discovery was a huge time saver. “I grabbed the group for the Front of House Servers, sent off the food syllabus and some questions/concerns, and was done. I thought I was going to have to get everyone’s email off of 7shifts and send out an email, but it was right there. So easy.”

“The biggest benefit to being a 7shifts client has been the labor cost savings and ease of communication between staff,” says Josh.

Short-term goals for Elbow Room include winning the title of Best New Restaurant in Calgary’s Avenue Magazine, as well as Best Dining Room and Best Wine List. They want to be the go-to place in not only the surrounding neighbourhood, but a city-wide destination location as well. Josh says the goal is to have everyone talking about Elbow Room and know that they’re offering fun and innovative food.

When asked what scheduling advice he can provide to his colleagues, Josh’s answer is similar to what other management has said. “Do your schedule early. That’s all the advice I have. We post ours four days in advance.”

Food and drink at Elbow Room

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Stacey Sikorski
Stacey Sikorski

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