Friday, March 6, marks Employee Appreciation Day. This is two in a two-part series of how restaurants are rewarding and encouraging their employees. Click here for part one.
Employee appreciation programs in restaurants come in many forms, but one consistent method of appreciation is an employee of the month or employee of the year recognition.
Eschelon Experiences, a restaurant group based in Raleigh, North Carolina, that operates six concepts, does both. Each establishment names employees of the month, while Eschelon also rewards a front of the house employee, back of the house employee, and manager within the group each year.
The purpose of this program is to motivate, inspire, and engage not just the winners, but all personnel within the organization. The three honorees receive a $500 cash prize and $500 toward a professional development course, a form of appreciation that further pays back the restaurant company by enhancing its employees' skills.
This year, all three of the winners of Eschelon's person of the year categories came from Raleigh's Cameron Bar and Grill, which serves American classics and was Eschelon acquired in 2011.
"I've worked at places where your time and effort sometimes isn't appreciated, so I really enjoy the fact that Eschelon does honor those who put in time and effort toward the company,” says Franklin Berroeta, who won person of the year for the front of the house.
Berroeta, who joined Cameron Bar and Grill four years ago and works as a server, received the opportunity to bartend last year at Cameron, as well. "It's something that I've always wanted to do, and I was very excited when they asked me if I wanted to do it," he says.
The opportunity to take on a new role within Cameron has helped Berroeta better understand the operations of the restaurant in general, he says, while also taking on a larger leadership role and more responsibility. His dedicated to Eschelon was further underscored by his raising $2,000 last year during one of Eschelon's quarterly Month of Giving events, during which servers encourage diners to donate to local charities.
Kyle Lynch took the manager of the year honor at Eschelon. Lynch has worked at Cameron Bar and Grill for six years, starting out as a server and bartender before moving into management.
"I try to lead, first and foremost, by example with my staff, having come from the serving aspect and doing a lot of jobs in the restaurant," Lynch says. "I want them to know that personally I am willing to do any job in the restaurant, and I want them to have that same attitude. I think that trickles down."
He notes he is also looking forward to his training course in July as an opportunity to progress his management skills for the future. "It motivates me quite a bit."
The third employee of the year honoree at Eschelon Experiences was Francisco Garmedia, who took home the recognition for the back of the house.
By Sonya Chudgar