Costa Coffee Introduce AI Future

Costa Coffee will optimise store staffing and strategically plan long-term labour decisions with AI-powered UKG workforce planning and forecasting solutions for frontline and hourly workers.

Headquartered outside London, Costa Coffee's corporate-owned locations employ thousands of full-time, part-time, and fixed-term workers at 1,600 sites across the U.K. The coffee giant partnered with UKG as the most effective way to align labour to demand and optimise staffing levels to ensure stores are always appropriately staffed, especially during the busy holiday season. After deploying UKG Strategic Workforce Planning, Costa Coffee increased staffing efficiency by nearly 50 percent during Christmas and 65 percent immediately after that.

"The results we've experienced with UKG are tremendous," said Katie Little, labour operations manager at Costa Coffee.

"Store managers can accurately plan their staffing needs well and make data-driven decisions, so our stores always have the right people with the right skills in the right place. This helps keep customers happy and ensures we have the ideal mix of employees, which creates a better experience for them, all while keeping us on budget."

The move to the AI solution marks a significant transformation for the retailer, as managers previously relied on spreadsheets and estimated, based on budget, the number of workers they would need at each location. This often led to under- or overstaffing of stores, resulting in overtime for some workers and the need to move others from one store to another to cover shifts. The problem was exacerbated during the Christmas season — one of Costa Coffee's busiest times — when having the right people in place to serve customers is essential.

"It was an inexact science and not an efficient way to operate. Because we didn't have access to labour data in real-time or the ability to properly forecast our needs, we were always planning with outdated information," said Matt Smith, retail operations standards manager at Costa Coffee.

"We also didn't have a line of sight into employees' outstanding vacation time, so we ended up understaffed before the Christmas holiday — because of all the vacation time our people were taking at the end of the year — and then overstaffed right after. It was very painful for store managers and employees, cost us money, and we knew we needed to change."

The inflection point came during the 2021 holiday season when Costa Coffee went live with UKG Strategic Workforce Planning as its centralised solution for labour budgeting, recruitment planning, and productivity. Leveraging workforce management information and labour analytics from each store location, the coffee giant more precisely forecasted its 2022 holiday staffing needs, allowing it to optimise and energise its existing workforce while tracking toward its budget.

"At one point, we had more than 300 contract types for our workers. UKG helped us standardise that process, and we've seen the total number of contracts decrease substantially," said Little.

"Because we can more precisely plan staffing needs months, we can take better care of our people by offering more hours to our full- and part-time employees and hiring fewer fixed-term workers. This cuts recruitment costs and helps us fill gaps to make timely hires when and where they are needed."

Another important benefit of Costa Coffee's partnership with UKG was the overall impact on its store managers.

"Managers are now empowered to run their business effectively and efficiently. With labour data available at a glance, our store managers can make smarter staffing decisions more quickly and are working less overtime themselves. We also know staffing significantly impacts customer satisfaction, and emerging technology like UKG will only strengthen our ability to provide an exceptional customer experience."