Treat your staff well so that you're always well-staffed with bar owner Ben Wiley

Last updated December 29, 2022 · By Dylan Blake

Ben Wiley is an owner of some of the best beer bars in Brooklyn. (In my opinion, they're the best.) Bar Great Harry and Glorietta Baldy are institutions, places you can always drop into for the best draft beers in NYC and an awesome, adventurous wine and cocktail list.

When I first started going to Bar Great Harry and Mission Dolores (another bar of Ben's that recently shuttered), I thought the top-tier drink selections were the reason those places flourished.

But after dozens and dozens of visits, I've come around to a different understanding. The drinks are key of course. So are the bars' consciously designed spaces. But what really makes Ben's bars so special is the staff. They're friendly. Knowledgeable. Helpful. But maybe most importantly, they seem happy to be there.

This isn't an accident. It's by design. Ben goes out of his way to treat his staff extremely well, because he knows it's one of the most important things you can do to make your business thrive and to make your life easier.

He was kind enough to share some tactics for how to treat your staff well—check out the video clips below to learn what they are!

It's a cliche, but focus on treating your staff really well in a holistic way.

Don't just pay them well. Treat them as human beings that you value.

4 things you can start doing (or continue doing) to show that you care about your staff

  1. Communicate consistently and often—send staff an opening email about deliveries coming in, parties that are coming in, etc. Make sure that goes out. Every. Single. Day. At the same time. Require staff to send you a closing email, too. Consistently communicating with staff—and asking the same of them—shows that you care. And that will make staff more likely to want to work for you.
  2. Pay staff on time, to the penny. Sounds dumb to call this "advice," but it's not exactly the norm in our industry. Make sure you're doing it.
  3. Offer staff bonuses, especially ones that indicate you know them as human beings: like a birthday, baby, or marriage bonus. Holiday bonuses are nice too, but not as personal.
  4. Staff gatherings are tough to schedule, but can be a lot of fun.

Proactively ask your staff for ideas, and actually incorporate those ideas into your business.

The great thing about this is it's not just to make staff feel heard. It's actually good for your business too, since your staff are the ones with their ears to the ground.

Checklists and processes show that you care. Use them.

If you can create a robust checklist and commit to actually consistently using (and updating!) them, everybody at the bar will be better off. Staff will love it too, since it will signal that you take your business seriously. In turn, they'll take their jobs seriously, making it easier for them to get value from their work.

Overlook—don't punish—mistakes.

When you do, staff will be relieved in the moment and won't walk on eggshells in subsequent shifts. This makes for a better customer experience and you'll be rewarded in the long run.

Of course, there's a difference between single mistakes and patterns. In other words, don't overlook too much.

Freebies (aka buybacks) are ok. Let staff know that.

There's of course a limit to what you can offer, but giving out freebies makes your staff's lives easier. It's worth building a little freebie wiggle room into your business analysis.

If you're struggling with this, just think of it as a marketing investment: someone who gets a free beer once is likely to want to come back.

Doing all this drops you straight into a virtuous cycle. Word will get around the industry and people will want to work for you.

Bartenders talk to other bartenders. Servers talk to other servers. If you're an awesome place to work, then when you inevitably have a position open up, people will be knocking at your door to fill it (and you'll probably already have resumes on your desk).

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