Restaurant owner who takes staff on company paid vacations has hired easily during labor shortage

Many companies are struggling to hire and retain employees, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, not a single food establishment in North Conway, New Hampshire, has been affected by the labor shortage many restaurants across the country are facing.

Danielle Jones, owner of Abenaki Trail Restaurant and Bar, has found helpful ways to retain employees and keep them happy – one of which is giving them expensive vacations!

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Each year, Jones and her friend, Brian Dries, the restaurant’s general manager, pay up to $2,000 per person to cover the cost of flights and accommodations for their trips within the United States.

Recent locations chosen by the group include Las Vegas, New Orleans and Disney’s Magic Kingdom. In September, the team took a Caribbean cruise, and they booked another cruise for April.

Even more impressive, Jones is investing another $10,000 a year to close the restaurant while all of their employees are on vacation.

Staff of Abenaki Trail Restaurant & Bar wear blue shirts while standing in front of a fountain
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This annual tradition began when Jones heard various employees say they had never been out of the state or New England. After this discovery, they made their first trip with one of the chefs at the time, who ended up working with them for three years.

“We had a blast, so it became my idea to see who wants to travel and where, if someone wants to travel,” Jones said. “And boy, it was a hit! It’s been four years now that I’ve taken employees where they choose, and then I’ve started taking one big trip every year.”

Jones knows she spends a lot of money on these excursions, but says keeping her employees motivated is a worthwhile investment. Her restaurant is thriving, she finds it easy to keep the staff and all her employees are inspiring to work every day.

“These kids are giving me back the money so I can do it again,” Jones told Business Insider. “That’s why I’m doing this, because you need them to stay open.”

Abenaki Trail Restaurant & Pub signage finds it easy to retain staff
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The trips were also an excellent way to build relationships and morale.

“We do so many things together that you really become part of the Abenaki family,” said Dries. “Once that link is established, you will no longer help each other out of a job commitment but you are doing it to help a friend and family member.”

Jones also learned that the appreciation for many of the restaurant’s employees is sorely missed. Her father worked in institutional positions in the restaurant industry throughout her childhood. I also worked with two of those aged 14-22.

The staff of the Abenaki Trail Pub and Restaurant wear colorful clothes on the golf course
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It wasn’t long before she knew that this kind of environment was not for her. No matter how hard she or her co-workers worked, they weren’t appreciated. The turnover was very high, and there was also a lot of drama. Therefore, she promised herself one thing.

“I decided that once I could open a restaurant, it would be completely different from any other I’ve seen but more importantly, it would work,” she said.

True, Jones kept her word when she bought the restaurant eight years ago. She not only treats her employees with great trips every year; It also gives them random financial incentives to do a great job or just for that.

Staff of Abenaki Trail Restaurant & Bar on Lake
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Entry level wages for restaurant chefs start at $17 per hour. In fact, their highest paid chef makes $30. Servers earn $5 an hour, which is above the state’s $3.26 minimum.

There is also a “Cheers to the Cooks” option on the menu, which gives customers a chance to tip the chefs if they enjoy a great meal.

This year, the restaurant is closed for Thanksgiving so the staff can enjoy this time with loved ones.

How Jones treats her employees is unheard of in most places, which is why she has no trouble finding and retaining talented workers. Abenaki employees stay for an average of at least three years because the manager pays well, offers exceptional perks, and most of all, respects their employees.

Abenaki Trail Restaurant & Bar staff with skydiving certifications
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“I sincerely respect the employees, who they are as people, what they do, and how they give me the ability to continue to open my doors every day to the public,” she said.

Jones is not the typical boss who only orders employees. She works alongside her employees – cooking, serving food, watering, hosting, and washing dishes.

Dries has worked with Abenaki for nearly five years, and he has nothing but good things to say about his work environment. He hopes that people who hear about Jones’ leadership style will learn that “it’s not just about money, it’s about the connections you make with co-workers, friends, family, and clients.”

Visit the Abenaki Trail Restaurant & Pub Facebook page to learn more about this great food place and it was easy to hear about the staff retention even during the pandemic.

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