The Key to My Restaurant’s Success


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Amali staff James Mallios with Amali staff

 

I grew up in a Greek community in Flushing, Queens, and was one of only three children in my grade school class whose father did not own a diner. So perhaps it was only natural – my destiny? – that I would switch from practicing law to running a restaurant. From the start, I knew restaurants operated differently than other businesses. We often clarify that it is the "restaurant business," not just "business.” The subtext is that there is no tougher business, and I think this is true. My restaurant, Amali, has received a number of national and regional awards. I admit, I remain surprised that people enjoy our restaurant as much as they do − particularly when there are so many good restaurants in New York. But I believe there is one specific reason for these awards, and Amali's ability to succeed financially: We do not lose people. Sure, people leave. But it is rare that someone tells me that they are leaving Amali for restaurant X. I can count on one hand how often this has happened in the last three years with front-line employees. I was proud to share our accomplishments with Deputy Secretary of Labor Chris Lu when he visited Amali in June. Over our meal, I told him that our lack of attrition matters more to me than any of Amali's other accomplishments. When people talk about the importance of sustainability in restaurants, they usually focus on food. A sustainable relationship with your colleagues is no less important. In the field of law, people stay at jobs if they are paid well, treated decently and have opportunities for advancement. Benefits matter, too. This is the norm in almost every industry, but for some reason, treating workers well is often met with fear and resistance in the restaurant business. Too often benefits – things like paid leave, health care, continuing education, etc. – are seen only as a line item in QuickBooks, if that. But there is no line item for the server who remembers guests because they have worked with you since day one. There is no line item for the cook who correctly seasons the octopus a la plancha and plates it 30 seconds quicker because this is the 1,987th time they have plated it. There is no line item for the event planner who never forgets to send a Christmas gift to an Am Law 100 firm because this is the fourth year they have held a summer associates event with us. The philosophy that works in other industries also has helped Amali achieve our low rate of attrition. Treat your employees well. Pay as many benefits as you can. Reward tenure. Promote from within first. Pay at market, or above if you can afford it. At Amali, we began small. First, we joined a health care cooperative so our employees and their families had access to a good doctor. Over time, we started providing continuing education for servers and some managers, financial support for cooks to attend apprenticeships abroad and bring back new skills and ideas, promotions from within first, and dining stipends for line cooks to expand their palate. Recently we began offering three months' paid maternity leave and two weeks' paid paternity leave for management employees. For hourly employees, we offer one month of paid maternity leave and one week of paid paternity leave. In 2017, we will offer paid vacation in excess of one week for hourly employees with over one year of tenure. These principles seem to work in every business. It makes sense they would work even better in the toughest business. James Mallios is a managing partner at Amali.  

La clave del éxito de mi restaurante

Crecí en una comunidad griega del barrio neoyorkino de Flushing, en Queens, y en el colegio era uno de los tres niños únicamente que su padre no era dueño de un restaurante. Quizás acabó siendo natural por lo tanto – ¿lo mismo cosas del destino? – que dejara  el ejercicio como abogado para terminar manejando un restaurante.

Amali staff James Mallios con empleos de Amali

 

De siempre supe que los restaurantes funcionan de una manera diferente a cualquier otro negocio. A menudo hacemos referencia no sólo al “negocio” sino  al “negocio del restaurante”. Y muchas veces se dice que no hay otro negocio más duro. Y creo que así es. Mi restaurante Amali ha recibido varios premios nacionales y regionales. Admito que me sorprende que a la gente le guste tanto, sobre todo teniendo en cuenta la cantidad de buenos restaurantes que hay en Nueva York. No obstante, creo que hay una razón específica de por qué hemos ganado estos premios, y de la clave del éxito de Amali: nuestros empleados no se nos van. Naturalmente que algunos se van. Pero es raro que alguien me diga que se están yendo de Amali para irse a trabajar al restaurante X.  En los últimos tres años puedo contar con apenas los dedos de una mano el número de veces que eso me ha pasado con empleados de primera línea. Tuve el orgullo de compartir nuestros logros con el Secretario de Trabajo Adjunto Chris Lu cuando visitó Amali en junio. Durante la comida, le dije que nuestro nivel de retención laboral es más importante para mí que cualquiera de las otras cosas logradas por Amali. Cuando la gente habla sobre la importancia de la sostenibilidad en los restaurantes, generalmente se refieren a la comida. Pero una relación sostenible con tus compañeros no es menos importante. En el campo de las leyes, la gente permanece en sus puestos de trabajo si te pagan bien, te tratan decentemente, y tienes oportunidades para avanzar. Los beneficios también son importantes. Esa es la norma en casi todas las industrias pero, por alguna razón, tratar a los trabajadores bien es a menudo visto con recelo y resistencia en el negocio de los restaurantes. Con demasiada frecuencia, beneficios como licencia laboral pagada, seguro de salud, o educación continua entre otros, son vistos sólo, si acaso, como un elemento enteramente secundario. Pero no hay nada como un mesero que conoce bien a los huéspedes porque ha trabajado con usted desde el primer día. No hay nada como un cocinero que correctamente sazona un pulpo a la plancha y pone el plato 30 segundos más rápido porque es la vez número 1.987 que lo ha hecho. No hay nada como un planificador de eventos que nunca se olvida de enviar un regalo de Navidad al bufete de abogados Am Law 100 porque este es el cuarto año que han hecho su reunión anual de verano con nosotros. La filosofía que funciona en otras industrias también ha ayudado a Amali a lograr nuestra baja tasa de salida de trabajadores: tratar bien a tus empleados; pagar tantos beneficios como sea posible; recompensar la antigüedad en la empresa; promover primeramente desde dentro; pagar lo que se paga en el mercado, o por encima, si es posible. En Amali comenzamos de a poquitos. Primero nos unimos a una cooperativa de salud para que nuestros empleados y sus familias tuvieran acceso a un buen médico. Con el tiempo, empezamos a proporcionar beneficios de educación continua para meseros y algunos jefes, ayuda financiera a cocineros para cursar  programas de aprendizaje en el extranjero y traer consigo nuevas habilidades e ideas, promociones primeramente desde dentro, y estipendios de comidas para que los cocineros expandan su paladar. Recientemente hemos comenzado a ofrecer tres meses de licencia remunerada por maternidad, y dos semanas de licencia remunerada por paternidad, para empleados de la dirección. Para los empleados por horas ofrecemos un mes de la licencia por maternidad con sueldo y una semana remunerada de permiso por paternidad. En 2017, ofreceremos vacaciones pagadas de más de una semana a los empleados por hora con más de un año de antigüedad. Si estos principios funcionan en todos los negocios, tiene sentido que también sea así, e incluso mejor, en el negocio más duro. James Mallios es un socio gerente de Amali. Siga el departamento a Twitter @USDOL_Latino y Facebook @USDOLLatino.


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Comments

I love greek food; I am happy your restaurant have the HUMAN FACTOR Included in your policy and vision

What a fabulous business person you are. It is true that things are different in the restaurant business, but because of the way you treat your employees and your customers, you would be a success in any business. I would love to work for you. Too bad you are in New York. If I am ever fortunate to visit New York, your restaurant will be one I will visit. I will also be passing this on to my friends and relatives who live in New York and that area, for them to come dine there. Because of what you do for your employees, I know the food will be fabulous!!

I have worked in Human Resources for over 20 years and I do not find very many owners, CEOs, or executives that "get it" like you do. Thank you for renewing my faith that there are some people out there who do.

Es porque usted es un hombre magnificado. Y para esto estoy muy agradecido.

It's refreshing seeing that there are more and more business owners out there that seem to care, and effectively use passion to drive up sales as well as productivity that does the whole community good. I feel fortunate to live in Austin Texas, where we have a plethora of restaurants like the one you are running that think about the dishes from the top down. Meaning where they source their produce, who they enlist to help with the restaurant, and how the treat the customers and staff. It's all too often that you go out and try something that simply doesn't warrant the visit and charges you an arm and a leg, only to leave feeling unfulfilled and disappointed. These things all start with how and why you treat your staff and the people that come into your restaurant. Thumbs up to a great business owner.

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