Amid the media storm about service charges, Hawksmoor co-founder Will Beckett shares how the restaurant group has kept its staff happy
We didn't start out as great employers, although we did start with great intentions - we knew we wanted to be a good place to work and that we wanted people to be happy here. Learning how took a long time, but we've been pretty successful - we've been ranked in The Sunday Times' Best Companies To Work For Top 100 for four years in a row (earning a maximum three-star rating each time) and are currently ranked the 12th best employer in the country - the highest-rated restaurant company in the list.
In an industry where short-term employment is depressingly commonplace, we try as hard as possible to create jobs that people enjoy and to be a company where they can settle down and build a career. It seems to be working - people tend to stay with us for a really long time. We're sure the decent money helps - at Hawksmoor and Foxlow people earn a vocational-level wage (waiters and chefs earn as much as, say, policemen and teachers, and managers earn as much as doctors or headmasters), all the service charge is distributed to staff and we offer a range of benefits to help staff with their wellbeing, financial planning, childcare and to help them cope when they have unexpected problems. We even offer free English lessons to people with a basic understanding of the language to help them get ahead.
However, we think there's a lot more to creating great jobs than just paying well. We treat people fairly in terms of their hours and opportunities, train them for a career (hopefully but not necessarily with us - we aim to fill 80% of senior vacancies with internal promotions), work hard to ensure they have a good boss, give them plenty of feedback (and get theirs), treat people like individuals and hopefully give them jobs and places to work in that they can be proud of. We also try to get them involved with the charitable side of the company by getting them involved with fundraising and volunteer work - we pay everyone an extra day's holiday a year if they use it to volunteer.
Hopefully Hawksmoor Group is proof that you don't need to sacrifice principles to do well as a company. Even as we've bought a company (Sam's in Chiswick and Harrison's in Balham) we've tried to do the right thing - all staff have been offered voluntary redundancy, a job in Hawksmoor or a job in the new restaurants, with the vast majority staying with us
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