CLEVELAND — Kaalah Hale is now the kitchen manager at Green Rooster Farms, reopened for three weeks now.
She’s returned to Driftwood Hospitality, where she first worked five or six years ago. “I started as a server, for catering, I've just kind of moved my way up,” she said.
Like the story you’ve heard – restaurants have had a hard time finding help. What’s different with Driftwood Hospitality is boosting employee benefits, implementing culture changes to make the work more attractive.
“A lot of other restaurants were trying to hire me, but they weren’t paying enough. Honestly, it’s the pay and the company,” said Hale.
“Our biggest challenge right now, and it probably sounds like a broken record, is staffing,” said Chris Hodgson, the president of Driftwood. “When I started cooking, I was maybe making $8 an hour. I think our starting wages now it’s between $15 and up to $22, $23 dollars an hour,” he said.
In addition, Driftwood has arranged for special rates with Kinder Care, to cover the bulk of childcare fees. Other benefits include discounted cell phone rates, free meals, mental health support, and on-the-job training.
“When we started talking to our employees, we were finding the dishwashers were working in the morning, coming here and working and then potentially doing a third shift. And you can burn out doing that,” said Hodgson. “We said we have to stop the turnover. We need to build a family. We need to make sure that they know we’re invested in them. That we’re going to pay them a fair living wage, that they’re going to be able to hold one job, go home, take care of their families.”
With that new outlook, Driftwood is looking to hire 450 employees, in a variety of roles, from full-time to flexible positions.
“We’ll be opening concessions at Playhouse Square, all of the restaurants are reopening, the special events that we have…” he said.
“Paying your workers a livable wage while trying to live in Cleveland, rent’s just not cheap, and a lot of employers need to realize that like Driftwood has,” said Tyler Elliott, who just started a few weeks ago. He’s fulltime, while they work around his graduate school schedule at CSU.
Benjamin Good has been promoted to general manager.
“You need a lot of flexibility for sure. You need to be able to jump where they need you to go,” said Good. “We are always in need of more employees, more hands, more workers, people that are dedicated, willing to put in the time, it's really hard to find people like that.”
Hodgson says the catering business is busy already. And restaurants are coming back online now - as more workers return to downtown.
If you’re interested, you can find more information and apply by clicking here.
*Editor's Note: The video in the player above is from a previous report.