Sunday, November 22, 2009

Why Working in a Restaurant Generally Sucks and What We're Going to do About it....

I think we can safely say that most people see restaurant positions as dead-end jobs. Parents point to cooks in grease laden aprons dutifully hovering over their grill or fryolator, and say to their children, threateningly: "See what will happen if you continue to bring home C's, you'll end up flipping burgers". Even the employees themselves are aware of the limits of their job. They'll quit without a blink of the eye in the case of something better coming along - whether it's "a real job", an acting gig, or even a job at a nicer restaurant that pays better. That's just the way it is. There is a mutual understanding between restaurant employers and restaurant employees, where the employer does not expect the employee to stick around for a measely rate (or measely tips depending on the kind of restaurant) and the employee does not expect much from the employer either. In other words, there's generally an expiration date that's not far off. Oh and not to mention that it's hard work (yeah try standing on your feet, running around, dealing with rude customers, and getting burned by frying oil daily) for not a lot of pay.

Now, let's talk about the importance of the word "generally". Restaurant jobs generally suck. Do they have to? Not at all. Danny Meyer, who is arguably the most successful restaurateur of our time (some background info: he owns many popular dining establishments in NYC including Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Shake Shack, etc.) attributes his success to his philosophy of employees first and profits last. And of course it's easy to adopt this philosophy and even preach it, but the trick is in practice. To practice it takes patience, it will cost you, and will require you to abandon greed. In the end, it yields positive results (and monetary results too!). In-N-Out Burger is another great example - they pay thier employees a minumum of $10/hour, in addition employees get free meals, benefits, etc. If you have ever been to an In-N-Out you know that the service is unusually good. Does it pay off? Absolutely. Employee turnover at In-N-Out is well below the industry standard. But paying employees slightly above average is not the only answer to the turnover problem. Chin works at Flour Bakery and is perfectly happy. Why? Because good effort is recognized and acknowledged. It's that simple. Whether it be an incremental raise after three months, free pastries at the end of the night, or a holiday party - these are all things that say: "I know you work hard, and I appreciate it." Here's the funny part, though - employers don't have to go to great lengths to make their employees work hard. As wise Greg said the other day: "people will work hard because it is in their nature to do so." But it's up to the employers not to take that for granted.

To conclude, Saus hopes to practice what we preach. Our mission with Saus is to create an experience so positive that even the most discerning customer will return with friends in tow. We should strive for the same positive experience with our employees. We should constantly be asking: "would you ever subject your best friend to the work you do at Saus?" The answer should be an affirmative yes.


Tanya said...

I couldn't have said it better, Renee! Here here!

Vicky said...

If I'm still in the area, I would love to work for you guys! lol