Raydal Hospitality LLC, managing company for Sabor Latin Street Grill, is constantly working on innovative ways to support its workforce and the community, says Miriam Espaillat, the company’s director of community engagement.
Raydal, which opened its first Sabor location in 2013, now operates 12 Sabor restaurants with approximately 230 employees across the Charlotte metro area and is rapidly growing. Recently, the company announced plans to open a Sabor in Greenville, SC, with more locations in the state to follow. Sabor’s menu includes influences from El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico and Colombia.
When it comes to filling workforce needs, restaurant owners face tough competition for talent in Charlotte given the area’s rapid growth, Espaillat says.
“I’ve heard it said that Charlotte is opening two restaurants a day, so obviously there’s a lot of competition,” she says. That’s one reason Raydal is committed to ensuring it has policies and practices in place that support attraction and retention of employees, including practices that allow employees to balance work and family needs.
Another reason is high turnover—the restaurant industry has a nearly 73 percent average turnover rate nationwide, and turnover in fast food restaurants can run as high as 130-150 percent, which means those restaurants are losing 100 percent of employees and then losing still more of the employees hired to replace those workers. That means retaining talent is also difficult.
Raydal offers full-time employees access to health, vision, dental and accidental insurance, and paid time off for both full-time and line employees that can be used for vacation or sick leave. And recently, Espaillat says the company introduced a flexible schedule option for managers, allowing them to work four 12-hour shifts and a set schedule.
While these benefits may be more available to workers in other industries, they’re much less available in the food service industry. Nationally, just 19 percent of food service employees have access to paid sick days (compared with 71 percent of US employees overall), leaving 81 percent without that paid time off. Only 14 percent of restaurant employees have health insurance through their employer (compared to 49 percent of all US employees). Flexibility, while a growing trend, is still relatively rare as well.
In addition to benefits, a robust on-the-job training program, where employees cross train across different teams to learn new skills, encourages employees to go for promotions or other positions, Espaillat says. Training can be completed online and in person. Additionally, management staff receive training once a month on soft skills or business skills, such as communication styles.
“We really, really want people to see working with us as a pathway. Our brand is growing, and you can grow with us,” Espaillat says.
The company also created an online employee platform, where Espaillat and her team post information about community resources such as mental health treatment or wellness.
“We are putting resources out for things we can’t cover but feel our employees should know about,” she says.
Perhaps most importantly, Espaillat says the company encourages a culture where open communication is supported, and where each employee feels valued as a person.
“We’re all part of the same community. It doesn’t matter if you’re the dishwasher or the CEO, you should have a quality of life,” Espaillat says. “We just have healthier communities that way. Our culture is to give everybody a voice. We do preach that. No matter your role, you are to be treated as a human being.”
Ernesto Hernandez, a father of four children ranging from a 1 ½ to 11, started at Sabor in November as a district manager. He oversees five of the company’s Sabor locations.
Hernandez, who previously oversaw five Chipotle restaurants, takes advantage of Sabor’s dental, vision and medical health insurance plans, and having access to insurance encouraged him earlier this year to go to the doctor for a preventative health checkup for the first time ever.
Hernandez says he also appreciates the flexibility he’s able to have in his schedule at Sabor. Though he has a minimum 50-hour requirement each week, Hernandez says he often can choose to work from home about 15 of his 50 hours, and he can often work around his children’s school schedules.
“Today, for instance, I don’t have to be in the store until 11 or 12,” he says. “And many days, I can be home to make breakfast and take the kids to school. As long as I’m in a restaurant by 10 or 11.”
Hernandez says his role includes assisting the general managers, overseeing operations, making sure labor is on par with sales and sales are projected correctly and determining pay raises.
“But most importantly,” he says, “what I find myself doing is being a leader more than being a boss.”
To Hernandez, that includes encouraging employees to care for themselves and their families. One example, he says, is encouraging employees to use their sick time when they need it.
“A lot of people get sick—a lot of us are parents, and our kids gets sick—and you can’t really have that around the food. So for me, I take that very personally,” he says.
Hernandez says he appreciates Sabor’s culture of open communication and often talks with employees one-on-one about their needs. He says he enjoys getting to know the people who work for and with him.
“If I could get paid only to talk to employees one-on-one all the time, I would do that,” he says.
One area Hernandez says he often helps employees with is ensuring they have the right number of hours and the right wage to support their family needs through their Sabor jobs, so employees can care for their families without taking a second job. Nationally, nearly 10 percent of accommodation and food service workers hold multiple jobs to make ends meet.
Supporting employees is one way Raydal can support the larger community, Espaillat says. Another way is the company’s involvement in initiatives like Leading on Opportunity, which takes a systemic approach to addressing the key determinants of early care and education, college and career readiness and child and family stability in Mecklenburg County with the goal of improving economic mobility in the area.
“We’re definitely invested in our community,” Espaillat says. “We are aware of the challenges. We are aware that we do have an economic mobility issue in Charlotte. And we want to use our resources responsibly.”
Sample Benefits—Raydal Hospitality:
- Paid time off for all employees – full-time and line
- Health, vision and dental insurance for full-time employees
- Flexible scheduling options for managers
- Access to community and wellness resources