Here are some answers to questions posed by your teammates.
Do you look for the 51% in the back of house staff the same way you would the front of house staff?
We absolutely do! Not just in our kitchens and dining rooms, but in our Home Office, at Union Square Events – in every position at USHG.
How do you find the 51% in someone?
Danny laid out in Our Playbook the characteristics and questions that serve as the foundation for finding and keeping 51%ers. And since we first named our Family Values, we’ve also created a class for our hiring managers called “Interviewing for Hospitality” to make sure we are all doing it the same way!
With recently announced changes in minimum wage law, are you willing to share your strategic thoughts on how this will affect staffing and USHG’s continued growth and success?
The recent changes in the law certainly affect our short term strategic planning, but not our overall mission, goals or values. We are committed to raising wages in our kitchens, not just now, but long term. While the increase in the minimum wage can give us a template, we also want to go further than that with revenue or profit sharing for the culinary teams. And in our dining rooms, by forgoing tipping and establishing a clear path for career progression, we hope to provide our dining room colleagues financial growth opportunities as well.
Raising wages along with revenue sharing will mean our menu prices will continue to rise – and this will be the case for our peers and colleagues too. The cost to dine out in New York City will unquestionably rise as well. Our belief is that the increased transparency of Hospitality Included, along with the Excellence, Hospitality, Integrity and Entrepreneurial Spirit of our teams, we will still be able to provide an extraordinary experience at an extraordinary value –and you, will be key to our success.
What is the greatest growth opportunity for USHG?
The greatest growth opportunity for USHG is…growth! As Danny named in Our Playbook, we must grow in order advance our culture and create opportunities for development and advancement for all of our people. We have a lot of exciting ideas in the works – and many more we haven’t even thought of yet!
Now that Shake Shack is no longer a part of USHG, Blue Smoke has the most 'corporate chain' restaurant feel out of any of USHG businesses. What role does USHG see Blue Smoke filling in the future of the company? Does Blue Smoke have a solid future with USHG as it enters the new era of HI?
Yes! We are incredibly proud of both Blue Smokes as well as Jazz Standard and we truly believe Hospitality Included could be an amazing opportunity for all three. Just how we do that, and how we navigate menus that are distinct yet share a common feel and key items, is still being discussed. It’s Entrepreneurial Spirit at work!
With each rollout of Hospitality Included, we have worked with each of the teams to collect input on what matters most to them to take into consideration in this transition. We intend to do this not only with both Blue Smokes- but also for all of our businesses that will transition to Hospitality Included.
On the subject of staffing, will Home Office be willing to consider training and development at the management level to ensure efficient and athletic staffing for shifts?
Yes! And it’s not just the Home Office, but the leaders and managers of The Modern, Maialino and North End Grill are also sharing their best practices across USHG. As far as expanded training, we have more than doubled our training programs recently! See what’s available on the Learning and Enrichment tab at inside.ushgnyc.com.
In the spirit of transparency, can you speak to any staff drop-offs at the Modern or Maialino-- is there any truth to anecdotes citing a significant ($100 to $300 less) drop in pay for servers after HI transition?
To be honest, compared to earlier this year that experience has been true for some.
All of our businesses have been steadily raising prices for the past year. Part of this is business as usual and part of this has been to get ahead of the switch to Hospitality Included. Those increased prices have resulted in increased tips, but only for some – those increased tips don't benefit our kitchen colleagues at all.
For Hospitality Included, we are guaranteeing the average wage of each dining room position during the same period last year. We chose this path because February and May and November are very different months in the restaurant industry and we wanted to be fair and transparent.
While there have been some drop offs week over week, almost everyone is meeting the guarantee, which means most positions – on average – are earning more than last year. Still, any loss is still a loss and we don't mean to minimize that. We can only be honest and transparent and appreciate what this means for our staff.
Will we receive hard-copy compensation models showing scenarios for pay at either the macro or individual level?
As part of the switch to Hospitality Included, given the variability of compensation, every dining room team member receives access to their historical pay and their historical average – the same data we are using to make sure Hospitality Included is a success for our people!
USHG has always been highly regarded for its generosity towards guests. Said hospitality is something staff members all hold in high esteem. With Revenue Sharing, is there a way to compensate staff for our generosity by creating a house account for comps that ultimately will be placed back into the pool instead of just being voided directly from the check?
This is an important question that we know is on many peoples’ minds. USHG will never shy away from SFNs (“Something for Nothing”) or plus 1s, those small treats that make a guest’s visit extra special. That said, as Danny says in his service seminar, we are sacrificing some ‘today dollars’ for many more ‘tomorrow dollars’. That generosity is one of the many things that drives repeat business and raves from our guests. Those SFNs aren’t revenue. But skillfully deployed, they will be! And those tomorrow dollars ALL go into revenue sharing!
What incentives will there be to work busy nights (i.e. Fridays and Saturdays), and not just arrange a schedule with comparable hours composed of slow lunch shifts that will make the same money weekly?
We believe strongly that the weekly revenue share is one of the key benefits of Hospitality Included: it directly contributes to the professionalism we believe USHG and the industry is ready for. For The Modern and Maialino, the ability to work those busy shifts is a key component to advancement and growth!
What is the biggest surprise (good or bad) that you have encountered during the process of implementing PHI?
The biggest surprise thus far is how well our guests have taken to it! Both Maialino and The Modern have seen their service scores rise after the switch!
Can the Home Office develop some sort of example spreadsheet for us where we could plug in current sales numbers and hours we work to approximate what we might be making based off of the experiences of the businesses currently operating under HI?
The Home Office provides this information, tailored to each business, during the transition. Each business sets up and runs Hospitality Included slightly differently, including the shares each position earns. Because of this, until the business is fully invested in the process we aren’t able to provide a simple spreadsheet for those restaurants that haven’t switched yet.
How have the HI businesses been dealing with guests that insist on leaving a tip for outstanding hospitality? How does that money, if accepted, get distributed?
Each Hospitality Included does continue to see a small amount of tips left by chance. Those tips are distributed by points and shift, just as the law requires.
When will the business that are still using the tipping model be informed about their H.I. roll-out?
We have learned so much from the first 3 transitions! We are in the process of using our learnings to inform a defined roll-out schedule for all of the businesses that will transition to Hospitality Included. As soon as we have this confirmed—we will communicate this! Stay tuned!
Unlike the other restaurants in the company, Blue Smoke caters to guests who are typically more 'price-sensitive.' What will USHG do to combat the possibility of a drop in business once prices on the Blue Smoke menu go up under HI?
The other restaurants would be surprised to hear their guests aren’t price sensitive! Finding, keeping and protecting value is key to who USHG is. Proper pricing and bringing all of our guests along with us is vital for Hospitality Included to be a success. The right menu price mix is an art and a science, and each item is individually examined to find the right balance. While some prices may go up, others may stay the same, which is actually a price decrease once the elimination of tipping is factored in. We are making sure Blue Smoke and Jazz Standard get the proper space to ensure their roll out is as successful as the first three!
What criteria has USHG been using to decide the order of restaurants adopting HI?
Everything from a restaurant’s business cycle to layout and style of service. Does a business have a patio? Switching during patio season would be incredibly hard for our teams! We want to be careful and make sure we learn and improve with each new restaurant that makes the switch.
Under HI, will the company be more transparent in terms of the financial aspects of the restaurant and the company as a whole? Though bad news can often incite fear, employees under HI are now stakeholders in the business and deserve to be kept in the loop as far as the bottom line of the financial reports.
We completely agree! Hospitality Included provides us with a whole new world of transparency – including the ups and downs of business, by day, week, month and year. All of this is available to the full team as a restaurant makes the switch.
Though being ahead of the pack in terms of switching to an HI concept is a smart move, what missteps or poor planning has USHG encountered so far in the rapid change to established restaurant culture in NYC?
We are very conscious of the fact that we are asking some of the smartest and most talented people in this industry to completely change their way of thinking. How do we make sure that our leaders have the bandwidth they need to embrace this change? With each new roll-out we learn (again and again) that each of our restaurants is unique and different. What worked at one may not work at the next, and we try and remain humble and eager for new learnings. The key to ensuring that we are getting even more excellent with each roll-out is employee involvement and feedback. We need your ideas and input to help make it better!
How has the recruitment process changed for restaurants under HI? Have the overall standards been raised?
We have always prided ourselves on our high standards. What has changed is the conversation. We now focus on development, growth, and that we see a career at USHG as a professional career. We don’t exclude anyone who doesn’t want a career in our industry – it’s not for everyone – though it has certainly helped career-minded professionals find us!
We've heard a little about the 'tier system' put in place to categorize the staff. What are the requirements being put in place by the businesses currently under HI used to dictate tier advancement for staff?
You’re talking about the levels! Each position has three levels and each of those levels earns a greater share of revenue. While each business is different, growth is founded upon a demonstration of our Family Values in that role, as well as specific key responsibilities. Each role at each restaurant has an updated job description, so everyone knows exactly what it takes to advance!
What alternatives to SFNs have HI businesses been employing to add special touches to the guest experience without costing the restaurant, and in turn the floor staff, money?
We still proudly extend SFNs to our guests! What may have changed is how and when we extend +1s (think more a taste of another dessert and less a buy-back at the bar). Furthermore, all of our restaurants have always provided additional generosity, from finding a cab to extending an umbrella, to researching a guest’s options for the evening. Knowing the guest’s agenda is the most important thing, and that doesn’t cost anyone anything.