Case Study
Business Smart: Eastcut Sandwich Bar

Eastcut Sandwich Bar started as the brainchild of two guys from New York. Brad Bankos and Steve Wuench bring the art of the delicatessen sandwich to Durham in a comfortable and approachable way, and that welcoming, family-friendly environment extends to their employees, as well.

Their mission clearly states they are a “people business” with a focus on offering fair pay, a safe and comfortable work environment, and fostering development and growth.

These values are what led Bankos and Wuench to implement more family-friendly practices like accrued paid time off and maternity packages in an industry where both practices aren’t as prevalent. Less than half of food service workers have paid sick leave, and only 20 percent of all workers have access to paid family leave.   

Beyond following their values, Bankos and Wuench both say adding family-friendly practices has led to better business outcomes, too. Turnover has gone down, and employees feel cared for, which fosters loyalty and boosts morale.

“We feel like morale at Eastcut has improved over the course of time as we’ve iterated on these family friendly practices,” says Bankos.

These iterations are based on conversations and feedback from their current staff and what would help them. That’s how they began to form a maternity package.

Tricia Buzzelli and family

When Eastcut’s Front of House Manager Tricia Buzzelli became pregnant during the COVID pandemic, Bankos and Wuench started talking with Buzzelli about her needs and how they could accommodate her as an expectant mother. “They wanted to support me through my pregnancy and wanted me back after,” says Buzzelli.

This kind of support is invaluable to her. As she puts it, “I could go find another job, but I wouldn’t find people who care about me and want me to be successful as a working mom as much as they do.”

Bankos and Wuench eventually offered Buzzelli two weeks (80 hours) of pay at $15.00 an hour – unprecedented in the restaurant industry. “It was only a couple weeks” says Wuench, “but we thought it was the right thing to do. I think it’s part of a broader theme of what we want to accomplish in 2021.”

As Bankos and Wuench look forward, they have altered their paid time off policy and are figuring out how to incorporate health care into their benefits suite. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, they knew they had to provide a way for all of their employees to take the time they needed to care for themselves and their families. They extended their paid time off accrual benefit to all employees – part-time and full-time. “When we announced this broader initiative,” says Wuench, “we received a lot of positive feedback.”

Beyond what Bankos and Wuench call their “human reasons” for making these changes, the owners of Eastcut have also seen economic benefits to implementing family friendly policies. “We’ve seen clear results,” says Bankos, “Our turnover data has really gone in the right direction, and we’ve been able to attract stronger, more motivated and stable talent.”

“When I go to work,” says Buzzelli, “everyone’s happy. Everyone supports everyone. And that comes from the top down.”

This kind of environment had made all the difference for Eastcut employees. “Sometimes you can feel like a slave to the industry,” says Buzzelli, “But if restaurants widely adopted family friendly practices like maternity leave, health insurance, and paid time off, I think people would feel valued and thanked.”

Sample Benefits

  • Paid Time Off
  • Competitive living wage, with potential for performance bonuses 
  • Employee dining program 
  • Ongoing training in restaurant management and financials 
  • Bi-weekly, direct deposit