Many businesses are struggling to hire and retain staff, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, one food establishment in North Conway, New Hampshire, has not been affected by the labor shortage many restaurants across the country face.
Danielle Jones, the owner of Abenaki Trail Restaurant & Pub, has found meaningful ways to retain staff and keep them happy—one of which is treating them to expensive vacations!
Every year, Jones and her boyfriend, Bryan Dries, the restaurant’s general manager, pay up to $2,000 per head to cover the cost of flights and accommodations for their trips within the U.S.
Recent locations the group has chosen include Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Disney’s Magic Kingdom. In September, the team took a Caribbean cruise, and they have another one booked for April.
Even more impressive is that Jones invests another $10,000 annually to close the restaurant while their entire staff is on vacation.
This yearly tradition started when Jones heard a couple of different employees say that they’ve never been out of the state or of New England. After that discovery, they took their first trip with one of their cooks at the time, who ended up working with them for three years.
“We had a blast, so then it became an idea of mine to see who, if anyone, wanted to travel and where,” said Jones. “And, boy, was it a hit! So it’s been four years now of taking employees where they choose, and then I started to do one big trip a year.”
Jones knows she spends a lot of money on these expeditions, but she says keeping her staff motivated is a worthy investment. Her restaurant is thriving, finds it easy to retain staff and all her employees are inspired to work every day.
“These kids are bringing me back in the money to be able to do it again,” Jones told Business Insider. “That’s why I’m doing this, because you need them to stay open.”
The trips have also been an excellent way to build rapport and morale.
“We do so many things together that you truly become part of the Abenaki family,” Dries said. “Once that bond is made you help each other no longer out of an obligation of the job but you’re doing it to help a friend and family member.”
Jones also learned that appreciation for many restaurant employees is sorely lacking. Her dad worked in corporate positions in the restaurant industry throughout her childhood. She also worked in a couple of those from the ages of 14 to 22.
It didn’t take long before she knew that that type of environment didn’t suit her. No matter how hard she or her co-workers toiled, they weren’t appreciated. The turnover rate was extremely high, and there was also a lot of drama. So, she promised herself one thing.
“I decided that once I was able to open a restaurant, it would be very different from anything else I had seen but most importantly it would work,” she said.
And true enough, Jones stayed faithful to her promise when she bought the restaurant eight years ago. She doesn’t only treat her staff to awesome trips every year; she also gives them financial incentives randomly for doing a great job or just because.
The entry-level pay for cooks at the restaurant starts at $17 per hour. In fact, their highest-paid cook makes $30. Servers earn $5 an hour, which is above the state’s minimum of $3.26.
There is also a “Cheers to the Cooks” option on the menu, which gives customers the chance to tip the cooks if they enjoy an outstanding meal.
This year, the restaurant closed for Thanksgiving so staff could enjoy this time with their loved ones.
How Jones treats her employees is unheard of in most places, which is why she has no trouble finding and keeping talented workers. Abenaki employees stay for a minimum of three years on average because the boss pays well, offers exceptional perks, and, most of all, respects her staff.
“I genuinely respect the staff, who they are as people, what they do, and how they give me the ability to continue opening my doors every day to the public,” she said.
Jones isn’t the typical boss who just orders staff around. She works alongside her employees—cooking, serving, bartending, hosting, or washing dishes.
Dries has worked with Abenaki for almost five years, and he only has good things to say about his work environment. He hopes that people who hear about Jones’ leadership style will learn that “it’s not all about money but the bonds you make with co-workers, friends, family and customers.”
Visit the Abenaki Trail Restaurant & Pub’s Facebook page to learn more about this awesome food place and it was easy for hear to retain staff even during the pandemic.
***Did you enjoy our feel-good and positive story? You can help support our site by simply SUBSCRIBING and sharing our stories with your friends and family.