It seems like John and I have always been students of great companies. To us, great companies are defined as those 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 which have always made us “weak in the knees” and that we’ve constantly emulated: Whole Foods, The Container Store, and Zappos (yes, it’s ironic that two of them are now owned by Amazon). These companies have given the world blueprints for creating work environments where employees can flourish.
That said, I wanted to share 4 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 find joy and meaning through their work.
1. A 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.
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 teammates avoid working late nights. This is uncommon in the food biz where late nights are the norm.
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.
4. Highly Competitive 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 extremely rare in the food service industry. Overall, we strive to keep all wages in the top 20% for comparative positions . In addition, our teammates are eligible on a weekly basis for a “Quality Bonus” based upon a full quality review of the previous week’s production.
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, the better our product, and the happier our customers (and of course, the more we grow).