Happy Teammates = Happy Customers

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Teammate Scott working on a mise en place recipe.

John and I have always been students of great companies.  To us, great companies are defined as those companies which create environments where employees are given the opportunity to flourish and do meaningful work (it also holds that these companies are profitable as a result of creating such environments).  There are three companies (and their respective leaders) which have always made us “weak in the knees”, and we’ve constantly emulated: Whole Foods, The Container Store and Zappos.  These companies have given the world blueprints for creating work environments where employees can flourish.

I wanted to share the basic tenets of our philosophy when it comes to teammate happiness.  Thus far, we’ve found that these tenets have helped us create an environment for our teammates to do meaningful work…and as a result by happy:

1- Compensation – Our type of culinary work is physically and mentally demanding, and we pay wages to reflect the energy and effort of our teammates.  Our current minimum wage is $15/hr, which is unheard of in the food business. Overall, we strive to keep all of our wages in the top 20% of comparative.  Over time, we’ll be transitioning to a Container Store type of wage model where wages will be even higher, reflected in the philosophy that a great worker is far more productive than a good worker.  If we have all great workers, we can pay them even more. Extremely productive teammates and a very low marketing budget allow us to pay higher wages.

Teammate Ester demonstrating some knife skills.

2- Work-Life Balance – In the high-end food industry it’s common for line cooks to work 60+ hours per week, including 12+ hour days and late nights.  We don’t see this in harmony to a healthy, happy lifestyle. We’re a nourishing food company. To create our type of food, it’s essential for our teammates to have life balance so they can be sharp, energetic and passionate for their work.  Many of our teammates average 40 hours, and we do have those in leadership roles who work 50 – 55 hours. In addition, our production is from 6am – 6pm, so no late nights which is uncommon in the food biz.

3 – Personal Development – Constant training and education is a cornerstone of our company.  This is partially a product of a growing company, but regardless of company growth we provide opportunities for professional and personal growth on a weekly basis.  It’s not just about helping teammates develop culinary skills. We’ve found that coaching life skills, such as communication and problem-solving are vital, and teammates love learning & refining them.  Over time, we’ll be creating “The Foodery Academy” which will be an internal school of sorts of on-going culinary, leadership and life skills.

Teammate Danny saying hello to our expanding menu.

4 – Core Values-based Approach – At our company, all decisions have to pass through a set of 8 Core Values.  These core values act as a filter and generally make life much easier for everyone.  Any decision, whether is be culinary, finance, marketing or human resources is done through this lens.  This is something we learned from Zappos and Whole Foods. Our core values are applicable inside and outside of the company, so they’re not merely about how to create amazing food.  For example, Core Value #3 is Choose Obligations Wisely and Always Follow Through. This is our take on the old adage, “do what you say you’re going to do”. Our teammates know how important it is to keep your word, because their fellow teammates and customers are relying on them.  And of course, this is just as applicable in life with family and friends. It also means it’s ok to say “no” when you think it’s not feasible to take on a project.

By no means do we think we have it all figured out, but we’ve found that the more we focus and deliver on these 4 tenets, the happier our teammates become, the better our product becomes and the happier our customers become (and the more we grow).