When I was 19-years-old, I worked at an Italian restaurant called Sully’s in Bend, Oregon (where Jake’s Diner is now). I absolutely loved that job, and I was good at it. I learned to up-sell, recommend wines, and mastered the art of timing. My average ticket was much higher than other servers because of it. The owner recognized this, and so he asked me to teach the other servers about how to sell and serve wine. After my presentation, he slipped me a $20 bill.
I remember how stoked I was as I rode my bike home.
When he mentioned that the carpets needed cleaning I offered that he could save money by renting the machine and I’d get the job done on Sunday when we were closed. He paid me minimum wage for my hours, and handed me a cash bonus.
I eventually took a job at one of the finest dining establishments in Bend (at the time) called Rosette. It was a super classy place with superb food and service. The owner was there at all times overseeing everything, and when I did a particularly good job he’d pour me a glass of uber-expensive wine, or sometimes send me home with a bottle. I loved being rewarded for a job well done.
When I worked in sales at a radio station, I was given trade certificates for lunch, had an expense account, and had my hotel rooms while on personal vacations paid for. Once, the entire crew was taken to the Oregon coast for a “Retreat” where we bonded over fresh seafood and playing on the beach.
When I worked for the Los Angeles Daily News, I earned the title of Salesperson of the Year, and received a trip to Paris and a large cash bonus. Years later, I won the same honor at the Bulletin newspaper and was presented a check for over two-thousand dollars.
I haven’t mentioned working for the Yellow Pages, or for a local NBC station, or for a glossy magazine company. Those companies had no incentive program in place to reward their employees. No bonuses, no perks, no pats on the head “good dog” policies. I was still a top producer for these companies, but didn’t feel valued. I stayed no longer than 18 months at any of these places. When I gave notice, it was only then that I was offered a higher commission or quota bonuses. Too little too late.
Sully’s, Rosette, The Daily News and the Bulletin were my favorite jobs. I worked hard, made the companies money, was proud of my job, and was rewarded for it.
I haven’t forgotten that now that I’m an employer.
The trip we took to Hawaii was a bit over-the-top, yes, but I feel it will inspire loyalty and hard work in the next year. It also should inspire new employees to work hard and stick around. The restaurant business is notorious for employee turnover, thus keeping a trained person loyal is crucial to its success.
Besides the vacation, I make sure to reward our staff in other ways. Gift certificates to a local salon, free hotel rooms while out-of-town, jewelry, taking them to lunch or dinner, sending them home with a new brew or bottle of wine… and of course, the cash bonus on particularly busy nights.
Most of our crew are young adults without a lot of job experience. I often wonder if it’s assumed that all future jobs will be as rewarding. It took me quite a few jobs to realize the generosity of a company, because hindsight is 20/20.
It’s why I still consider working at Sully’s 17 years ago to have been one of my favorite past jobs.