Operators across the country beefed up their HR practices with new ways to work with their teams.
Joanne Chang has worked hard to maintain the supportive, encouraging culture at her four Flour bakeries, her restaurant Myers + Chang and her commissary kitchen, all in Boston. “It’s easier to hire and keep people,” she says, and it’s earned her a reputation as a good employer. Each of her stores features a whiteboard where staffers can write notes when they see co-workers delivering great guest or internal service. At the end of each month, the notes are gathered, and upper managers pick the top five across the company and hand out gift cards.
Chris McCracken, director of nutrition services at the University of California San Diego Health System, starts the subject line of every email he sends to his staff (and they do the same) with one of three words: Action, Information or Response. The universal prompts help recipients prioritize those emails that require them to do something or weigh in on something, while leaving the FYI-only messages for last.
Helping staff retention, Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group in San Francisco lets workers customize their benefits. On top of healthcare and paid time off, employees can choose from Netflix subscriptions, dining credits, commuter checks and sommelier certification reimbursement.
“Fail fast” was an oft-repeated mantra by restaurant tech experts at this year’s FSTEC conference. Former TGI Fridays CIO Tripp Sessions takes that idea literally. To incite an IT team to explore a new technology, he suggests choosing one with an API and asking the group to mash it up with a data set in a specified period of time—and offer a $500 gift card if they deliver. You’ll be amazed by the quality of their work, he says. And you’ll pinpoint where you need to spend time bolstering their knowledge.
Tools for deaf staff
A busy Houston location with a number of deaf staffers added simple tools to improve the experience both for those employees and guests. For instance, when coffee is finished brewing, the timer flashes and vibrates instead of beeps. And staff take orders on digital dry-erase boards.
Newk’s Eatery used to send out a booklet to teach individual restaurants about its quarterly LTOs, but it’s switched to e-learning. Corporate sends out a webinar a week before the rollout, and it has an interactive component for managers to type in questions. Instead of wondering who was reading the snail mail, Newk’s now can track who is watching.
Bar Marco, a wine bar in Pittsburgh, takes its staff education on the road by organizing and paying lodging and travel expenses for brief group stages. For instance, on a two-day trip to Chicago, the bar team spent time at mixology lounge The Violet Hour, and the pastry chef shadowed at Blackbird and Baker Miller, taking what she learned at those restaurants to apply at Bar Marco.
Pop of red
As part of its makeover earlier this year, Donatos updated its staff uniforms to appeal to millennials, said CEO Tom Krouse. In addition to a choice of a T-shirts and hats, associates can add a personal “pop of red” to their gear, such as a necklace, bandanna or shoes. “It’s stuff they want to wear, instead of corporate-looking,” Krouse said.