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10 Restaurant Owners Share Their Top Advice for Retaining Staff

Alex Smith, CEO of Atlas Restaurant Group in Baltimore, MD and surrounding region

We make sure to do a great job with benefits. We pay 50% of all medical insurance, and we do things like life insurance and pet insurance. Unfortunately in a company of our size, we have had an employee pass away, and our life insurance police gives $50,000 to their family. It’s these added benefits that have helped us to retain.

We also do a $15 hour minimum wage with tip credit. If you’re a server, you make the state’s minimum wage, but we guarantee a $15 minimum wage in that if a server, busser, or runner, is making below $15, even with the tip credit, then we bump them up. Our starting wage for entry level positions, such as dishwashers or hostesses, start at $15 an hour. And that seems to be working for us.

We also try to give our employees as much opportunity to grow within our organization as possible. The CEO of our company started as a manager with us in our first store, and you see it all the time where a dishwasher becomes a line cook, a line cook becomes a sous chef, and a sous chef becomes an executive chef. Employees that start with us at $15 an hour when they come into the company have an opportunity to be making six figures as an executive chef at one one of our properties. We’re a growing organization, and people are moving up the ladder, and people are seeing that.

Once a year, we also do a listening tour. We have a third party who speak with our key staff members at every single position. So we’ll take leaders from the back of house, front of house, and the management team and get real-time feedback. Then we’ll sit down from a corporate level and figure out where we could be doing better, and then we respond. This allows us to really get down to the nitty gritty at the store level, to figure out how we can be a better organization. It’s a process of getting constant feedback from our hourly employees on what we can be doing at a corporate level to make the business more successful, and not only that, but to create a better environment.

Grace Dickinson | Back of House

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