Work Culture: Creating A Place To Love Not Leave

Work Culture: Creating A Place To Love Not Leave

Most restaurants, it turns out, do not close during their first year. Forbes reports on a 2014 study that shows only 17% of restaurants fail in the first year, a failure rate lower than some other service businesses. Bar and Restaurant Success reported that 2016 was the seventh successive year of growth in the industry and that wholesale food prices were going down in that year while menu prices went up. In addition, The Motley Fool reported that for the first time in 2016, the average American spent more on restaurants and take-out than on groceries! Seems it’s a very good time for restaurants.

Let’s not get carried away, though, with the idea that success is easy or likely. By the third year, almost half of restaurants close. So, what is the difference between success and failure?

We all know the mantra that food and service make the restaurant. Imagine, for a moment, that two restaurants in close geographic proximity offer the same quality food and equally good service. Which will prevail in the competitive restaurant industry?

Certainly management practices impact the ultimate success of a restaurant — but what about differences in the customer experience? Wait, weren’t we talking about equally good service? But consider this: in one of those restaurants, employees do their job and serve their customers well, if perfunctorily. In the other, employees do their job joyfully and serve their customers so well that they leave smiling and look forward to returning soon.

And that last experience has everything to do with work culture, creating a place your employees love and don’t want to leave. A great work culture not only makes your business more fun and less stressful for you and your employees, it is critical to your competitive success. It’s just good business to be a happy business.

Your employees are your face to the public, and they are most directly responsible for creating the experience that will bring your customers back again and again. If you want your customers to leave happy and satisfied and eager to return, focus on creating that experience for your employees through the work culture you develop.

What will keep your employees happy and satisfied, looking forward to work? What do your employees want?

What your employees want:

  • Employees want you to be clear about the core values of your business so they can align with them and represent them well. This means you need to be clear about your core values and reflect them in every aspect of your business.
  • Employees want to feel that they are “going somewhere,” that is, that they can advance in your business, whether in status or increased income and benefits or personal growth.
  • Employees, like all people, experience greater satisfaction when they feel part of something bigger than themselves, whether that’s a “team” or a concept they embrace and promote.
  • Employees appreciate fairness and integrity.
  • Employees appreciate recognition and contribute more when they get it.
  • Employees benefit from well-defined responsibilities and a measure of predictability but conversely need variety to maintain maximum enthusiasm and creativity.
  • Fun and laughter not only reduce stress, but they release “feel-good” brain chemicals.

Simple enough, but how can you ensure that you are doing your part to create the work culture that keeps your employees at their best as they serve your customers? Keep in mind both formal mechanisms as well as informal mechanisms.

Formal mechanisms include:

  • Staff meetings. It’s difficult in the restaurant industry to take time for staff meetings, but they are invaluable for building a team environment in which all contributions matter. Make staff meetings short, informative, and encourage staff contributions. Maintain a positive atmosphere, and let employees know what their channel is to deal with complaints.
  • Meet with each employee privately for a written “review”. Discuss employee’s goals at work as well as employer evaluations and areas that need work. Revisit these issues at each meeting to evaluate progress toward resolution.
  • Institute a health and safety program. Healthy employees are happier employees.

Informal mechanisms:

  • Nip problems in the bud. If you spot something going on, don’t let it fester.
  • Do not allow aggression among employees, active or passive.
  • Encourage positive attitudes and cooperation.

Most importantly, remember: people who laugh together stay together — and keep your customers coming back. Find things each day to laugh about. Plan laughter into every day, and seize opportunities to find humor in your environment. It’s an invaluable tool for defusing the stress that accompanies life in the restaurant industry.

Your employees will appreciate you for the interest you show in them and the supportive, happy culture you create, and they will, in turn, engage your customers in that experience.

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5 Things Job Seekers Wish You’d Put in a Listing

5 Things Job Seekers Wish You’d Put in a Listing

A lot of companies are having trouble drawing the kind of dedicated and highly skilled talent they’d like to see filling their key roles. Of course, it’s nice to have high standards right down to the coffee intern, but businesses everywhere are finding themselves either going short staffed or compromising on quality. At the same time, studies are revealing how important it is to find employees of the right personalities and lifestyles for your company culture, adding one more complication to the task of finding good hires. One thing you can do to help the situation is to improve your listings for job seekers.

Often the most appealing listings are the ones that wear their business culture on their sleeves and give you a real idea of the personality-nougat inside the hard chocolate shell of corporate presentation. This gives job seekers a better idea of who you are and whether or not they’re a good fit for your team. To help the process, here are five things most job seekers wish you would share on job listings, but most companies never do:

1) Team Personalities

When job seekers are skimming through hundreds of potential positions, saying that you’re hard working and dedicated to customer service simply isn’t useful information because that’s assumed. What they really want to know is whether or not you match their sense of humor. Is the office full of chipper morning people or is there a regular coffee-pot crowd? When a team gets behind on a project, to they lock down or ease the tension with painfully funny puns?

2) Your Realistic Skill Expectations

A long list of skills may make you feel like you’ll get a grade-A pro, but most people are acutely aware of what they do and do not know and these lists can be pretty intimidating. Job seekers understand that you would like someone who’s familiar with every POS platform under the sun, but it’s hard to measure up when you say it like that. Instead, try asking for someone with the truly necessary skills and the attitude of an active learner willing to dive in and get up-to-speed on the ‘everything else’ list.

3) What the Break Room is Like

The break room is an important part of employee stress relief, but some break rooms are seriously nasty. Even if your break room is perfectly clean, the way it’s decorated and how employees treat it is a huge indication of your true company culture. Whether your business-casual or silicon valley chic, most employees don’t get a chance to see this all-important room until they’re already hired, but they’d definitely like a peek beforehand.

4) Flexible Schedule Options

Lets’ face it, most employees will eventually need time off. Even the workaholics who like making perfect attendance and staying late to clean up may one day have to stay home with a sick child and knowing how welcoming a company is to their occasional scheduling needs is a big decider for most job seekers. When you’re up front about a company daycare, sick days, or flexible parent hours, you’re a lot more likely to get enthusiastic applicants who have noticed a rare opportunity to be a good employee and parent at the same time.

5) Opportunities for Advancement

You want employees who want promotions, right? These employees are more likely to work harder, try to improve their stats, and will support their entire team more enthusiastically when they feel there are raises and promotions in their future. On the flip side, job seekers want a job where they will have opportunities for advancement. Even if you didn’t plan to cover this topic until six months in, you can provide this vital source of motivation from before day-1 by mentioning upward mobility in the listing itself.

Finally, when writing your job listings, remember that you’re talking to people, not another company. You want employees who will be happy and productive in your open positions and they want to know that they’ll be welcome in both personality and working style in the new environment. In other words, you want the same things, and you can make that happen with a listing that speaks to real human concerns instead of some corporate ideal employee.

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Employee Turnover: Get Ready, It Happens — 5 Ways To Slow It Down

Employee Turnover: Get Ready, It Happens — 5 Ways To Slow It Down

Turnover rates in the hospitality industry are going up, hitting a whopping 72.1% in 2015. Compare that to the average employee turnover rate for all private-sector workers, 45.9%. If you own or manage a restaurant, according to the laws of averages, you should expect to replace almost three-quarters of your workers each year!

In addition to giving you headaches, disrupting the work flow in your business and disrupting the customer experience, this kind of turnover impacts profitability. The Center for American Progress reports that an employee earning below $30,000 a year costs 16% of that annual salary to find, hire, and train. Replacing a waiter or waitress earning an average $20,880/year, then, costs about $3,340. More highly trained employees like chefs and head cooks, earning an average $46,620-$74,240/year, cost $7,460-$11,880.

Looking at it from a different angle, if you have 20 waiters and waitresses, you can expect to lose 16 of them in the coming year. At a cost of $3,340 each, that’s $53,440 subtracted from your bottom line.

Why is the employee turnover rate so high in the restaurant industry? Low pay, long hours, minimal or no benefits and limited advancement opportunities make it likely that employees consider restaurant work a temporary situation rather than a career.

In addition, characteristics of restaurant employees factor heavily in turnover. Younger employees are more likely to leave as are part-timers. Often younger employees are students, and restaurant work is secondary to other commitments. Older employees sometimes take on a restaurant job when they lose work or experience money difficulties. When challenges ease, they leave.

You can cushion yourself against losses in productivity and profitability and reduce turnover by developing solutions based on the reasons restaurant turnover occurs:

  1. Characteristics of restaurant employees. The ideal employee is one who sees work in the restaurant industry as a career path. This means during the hiring process, you’ll want to get a sense of a potential hiree’s life plan. Hopefully they have not only past experience in the industry but future plans that include work in some area of hospitality. Even verifiable volunteer experience showing engagement with food and hospitality is promising. Since most turnover occurs among younger and older workers, look for mid-range in age, mid-twenties to mid-forties. Verify that a hiree’s skill set fits the particular job description.
  2. Compensation. When you consider the real cost of replacing valuable workers, higher pay doesn’t seem as costly as replacement. Work out your compensation policies so wages are at least competitive and workers receive regular raises. Find ways to recognize extra effort and on-the-job achievement.
  3. Working conditions. Workers are more likely to develop a sense of loyalty to your business if they experience a cooperative, optimistic work environment and have good opportunities for communication. Holding regular staff meetings which all attend and where respect is the basis of conversation do a lot to build team-spirit and a well-coordinated effort. These meetings can include working out challenges that affect the whole group, but save private grievances for individual monthly review sessions. Be sure to build in flexibility with things like dress codes and scheduling. Encourage creativity and ingenuity. People like to exercise these characteristics!
  4. Advancement. In brief, monthly review sessions, provide opportunities to raise more personal issues, but focus these one-on-one meetings on growth and improvement for your employee. How is your employee experiencing their job with your organization? Are there areas in the employee’s current job where they can improve? Where they excel? What is the next step for your employee? This question is especially critical. Long-term employees want to know there is room for them to advance, and they want to see a clear path to it.
  5. Benefits. Long-term employees look for and want benefits. If you have 50 employees or more, you must provide them. Even if you employ fewer than 50, consider providing something. Benefits can serve as a perk to make you more competitive. As a smaller operation, even if you can’t provide big benefits like health, you can offer other things that let your employees know you value them. Free food is always appreciated.

In addition to policies and best practices that make your restaurant environment a great place to be, cultivate personal practices that inspire loyalty: greet your employees each day, praise them when you see extra effort or something you appreciate, include them in planning and problem-solving. If you hire thoughtfully with an eye to the long-term, offer competitive compensation and extra perks, and create a pleasant, energetic, creative working environment with opportunities for growth and advancement, why would an employee ever want to leave?

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How to Help an Employee Who has a Drug or Alcohol Problem

How to Help an Employee Who has a Drug or Alcohol Problem

Drug and alcohol addiction is fairly common among men and women from all backgrounds, races, and classes. Up to 60 percent of people suffering from addiction work full-time, according to a recent report from the National Business Group on Health. That means it’s more than likely that you’ll end up having to face an employee who has a substance abuse problem at some point in your career.

So, how do you handle it? Can you fire someone for alcohol or drug addiction? How is addiction handled according to the FMLA? Here’s what you need to know about how to help an employee who has a drug or alcohol problem:

1. Know what to look for

Knowing the signs of substance abuse is the first step toward helping someone who is dealing with it. Some common signs include being “sick” or coming in late often, general sloppiness while at work, careless attitude and missed deadlines or goals. Physical symptoms vary and can include bloodshot eyes and overall appearance of fatigue and tremors. Employees who are abusing alcohol or drugs while at work might avoid you and other co-workers after breaks, and they might display signs of being intoxicated, such as talking too loudly, slurring their words or being incoherent. If left untreated, one employee’s addiction could result in a work-related accident, costing your company money and potentially hurting other employees.

2. Handle it with delicacy

Confronting anyone about substance abuse must be handled carefully and privately. Brush up on your company’s policy toward substance abuse, including any programs or counseling it might offer. When you speak to your employee, you’ll need to have an action plan in place. This means knowing whether they can take time off or deciding if it’s their last day. According to FMLA, employees who receive health benefits from their workplace could qualify for up to 12 weeks unpaid time off since addiction is considered a health condition. If your employees are not getting benefits, talk to HR generally to find out what, if anything, you can offer your employee to help them seek treatment. Your employee will be more likely to admit to the problem and seek treatment if they know they can do so with discretion and without the risk of losing their job.

Make sure your employee knows that they can seek treatment confidentially. You don’t need to give other employees (aside, perhaps, from HR) the full explanation for their absence. If your company does not have a plan in place, see if you can find local substance abuse programs that are free or within your employee’s budget.

3. Be firm in your expectations

Substance abuse is considered a health condition, but that doesn’t mean you should (or can) condone intoxication at work. Be firm in your expectations-your employee needs to know that they are expected to adhere to company guidelines regarding drug and alcohol use and that their actions are putting their co-workers, and potentially their customers, in danger. Make it clear that you are committed to providing a safe, drug-free work place for all of your employees. That means the employee can no longer show up intoxicated. If they do not want to take time off for treatment, make it clear that you expect their performance to improve.

Handling an employee’s drug or alcohol problem is a delicate situation, but it’s one that should be handled sooner rather than later. Waiting for your employee to seek out treatment on their own probably won’t work, and it could result in an accident, not to mention wasted wages on a non-performing employee. Use these tips to help your employee understand the consequences of their addiction and to seek the help they need.

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15 Employee Appreciation Ideas that Won’t Break the Bank

15 Employee Appreciation Ideas that Won’t Break the Bank

We’ve all heard the phrase “Happy wife, happy life.” Well, think about what would happen if you replaced “wife” with “employees.” Typically companies rely on their employees for a lot more than they might give them credit for. Aside from expecting our employees to carry out the normal responsibilities of arriving to work consistently and on time, and requiring them to perform various duties as needed, we have to recognize that sometimes employees are the only link between whether our business thrives or not. One customer’s experience with an employee can determine whether they go on Facebook and tell everyone to use your services or whether they Tweet to millions that your product is awful.

Sometimes all it takes to make an employee love coming to work, rather than dreading it, is to show them a little appreciation. According to the national day calendar (did you know that was a thing?), employee appreciation day is observed the first Friday in March. However, you can really make it whenever you want to. If you want to go the extra mile, schedule two a year, one a quarter, or have one every time your team reaches a big goal. We’ve taken the guesswork out of it with 15 employee appreciation ideas that won’t break the bank.

1. Recognition board

We’ve all seen it before: the “Employee of the Month” plaque where one lucky person gets recognized. Well on Employee Appreciation Day, take the time to recognize all of your employees. Include a photo, how long they’ve been working for you, and a fun fact to make everyone feel special.

2. “Thank you” notes

A little thank you goes a long way, and handwriting a note makes it even sweeter.

3. Raffles

Sure, it might be too expensive to buy every employee a gift, but raffles are fun and exciting. Get a couple of gift cards or movie tickets and give everyone a ticket. They’ll feel like they won the lottery!

4. B-I-N-G-O

Like raffles, Bingo has that element of surprise that people love. Play a few rounds after work and have some small prizes to give away.

5. Special parking

Mark a coveted spot and rotate who gets to use it each week.

6. Discounts$$$

If your company has 20+ employees, chances are other businesses would want them as customers. Partner with some other businesses on the block like gyms or hair salons to offer your employees some real perks. Or just buy them an IndiCard and that’s already been done for you!

7. Pizza

It’s amazing what people will do for some free dough, sauce, and cheese.

8. Ice cream

It’s equally amazing what people will do for some free ice cream. Provide a topping bar to make it even more delicious.

9. Make break room more inviting

Install lockers, a magazine rack, a Keurig, and a few comfy chairs so that breaks are actually relaxing.

10. Have a company park day

It can be as simple as grilling burgers and hot dogs at a park or go all out and hire a DJ and rent inflatables.

11. Photo booth fun

Hire a company to set it up for a few hours one day. Post the pictures in the office and let them take home a keepsake. If it’s too expensive to hire a professional, DIY with a backdrop, fun props, and instant cameras.

12. Brag buttons

It might sound cheesy, but it’s pretty cheap to design a button with your company logo and keep them on hand so when you catch an employee being outstanding, they can wear it as a reminder of how awesome they are.

13. Birthday treats

Everyone should feel special on the day of their birth, so make sure you at least give them cards. If someone has to work on their birthday, give them a cupcake or candy bar too!


14. Break coupons

While it may not be feasible to give everyone extra vacation days, you could easily give them coupons for a 15-minute break that they can redeem at their leisure.

Although we’ve provided some fantastic ideas, you could also get feedback from your employees. Create a survey or poll to find out what they would enjoy. Their input will help you understand their preferences. Employee appreciation is a win/win for everyone.

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