Finding talent has proven difficult for many employers during the ongoing labor shortage, but The Twelve Thirty Club has started to attract attention with a financial offer that far surpasses average rates in the industry.
The Nashville-based concept plans to draw employees for 160 open positions by focusing on what workers may arguably want the most—cold hard cash. Lead servers will be paid $2,000 per week for the first eight weeks of training, and their pay is predicted to be at least $100,000 per year.
“It’s a financial commitment, first and foremost, but we feel that it’s a financial commitment spent in the right place—investing in our people,” says Nick Bill, Twelve Thirty’s director of operations.
The $100,000 figure is a careful projection based on menu prices, the number of seats, estimated number of customers, gratuity rates, and number of servers. Twelve Thirty will likely employ 200 people when the entire concept is up and running.
The types of employees Twelve Thirty is looking for range from lead servers, bartenders, and hosts to line cooks, barbacks, and dishwashers. Kitchen employees will make up to $25 hourly. Beyond wages, Twelve Thirty will pay for Level 1 Sommelier Certification for all employees hired for its full opening.
“We know the food is great,” Bill says. “We know the drinks are great. We know the venue is amazing. The people are the X Factor, and how you take care of them is the biggest difference maker.”
Twelve Thirty is situated in a city known for its love of music and nightlife. The venue comprises multiple floors, beginning with the April opening of the First Level, a honky-tonk that hosts live music from rising and well-known stars. That was followed by Honorary Member—a 50-person lounge serving cocktails and shareables with mid-20th century modern design and decor.
On September 8, Twelve Thirty will debut The Rooftop Terrace, which has views of lower Broadway and is designed with greenery and outdoor fireplaces. The headliner is the 400-seat Supper Club, a venue built with live music, an elevated menu, plush chairs, and black marble tables. That will open on September 28.
Twelve Thirty was founded by 12-time James Beard nominee Sam Fox and is backed by award-winning singer-songwriter Justin Timberlake. The industry veteran met Timberlake at the Pilgrimage Music Festival a few years back, and the two began discussing the idea of bringing back a “Supper Club.” Fox, with an extensive culinary background, and Timberlake, a music industry icon, both played a role in the formation of Twelve Thirty.
“At the end of the day, they’re both entertainers,” Bill says. “Justin, more music focus, and Sam, entertaining guests with food and service. So their relationships and what they do are pretty similar and combining them was like a match made in heaven.”
The labor shortage has become a longstanding burden across several industries. The U.S. saw a record high 10.1 million job openings on the final business day of June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with accommodations and foodservices representing a significant portion. Black Box Workforce Intelligence found that full-service restaurants are operating with 6.2 fewer employees in the back of the house and 2.8 fewer in the front of the house, compared to 2019.
Across all industries, there are roughly 70 percent more vacancies versus pre-pandemic levels and 10 percent fewer people looking for work, which is the largest gap in recorded history. Retaining employees has been an issue, as well. Turnover rates and voluntary quits are at an all-time high and surpassing pre-COVID marks, Black Box reported. Full-service restaurants saw a turnover rate of 106 percent in June, versus 102 percent in 2019.
Twelve Thirty’s labor strategy goes beyond just giving new employees lump sums of money as a sign-on bonus. It’s a true investment in its people, Bill says, and its success leans on that. Hiring is still challenging, but after the First Level’s debut, the director of operations notes that word is spreading about what Twelve Thirty can offer employees.
“Offering them a place where we’ll invest in them and they’ll have a great culture and a beautiful space, we feel gives us a competitive advantage,” Bill says. “ … We put our staff on a pedestal to a fault. Sometimes it may come back to bite us, but we truly care.”
He adds, “We’re looking to create a family here, a 33,000-square-foot mom-and-pop restaurant.”
Bill characterizes Twelve Thirty as a never-before-seen concept in Nashville due to its mixture of music, food, cocktails, and culture, and the guest response has validated that notion. The company saw an influx of business from bachelor and bachelorette parties as mask mandates and travel restrictions lifted in the spring. In May the CDC recommended that fully vaccinated individuals could return to normal activities, including not having to wear masks in public indoor spaces. However, with the rise of the Delta variant, the organization switched its guidance in July and stated fully vaccinated people should wear masks indoors in areas of high transmission.
So far, Twelve Thirty hasn’t had to adapt much in terms of operations, but the next few weeks will show the real impact on business, Bill says. The venue continues to conduct daily temperature checks for staff and monitor symptoms. If staff members do not feel well, the company pays for a rapid COVID test.
“You have to focus on what you can control,” he notes. “We’re still moving full speed ahead on absolutely everything.”
For the next two weeks, the brand will conduct job fairs Monday through Friday where applicants can be hired on the spot. Entry-level positions are available for anyone interested.
As everything comes together in one cohesive building, Bill looks forward to creating new memories and guest experiences and rewriting the script for Nashville’s lower Broadway area.
“As long as you’re a good person, there’ll be a good job here for you and you can turn any sort of job into a career,” Bill says.