The Richmond, Va. club bypassed the typical soft opening for a few days of practical training designed to prepare the staff for real-world situations. Also, the Owners Association of Bella Vista (Ark.) Country Club offers impactful employee-assistance programs and benefits to boost employee retention.
(As featured in C+RB’s 14th Annual Ideas Issue, June 2020.)
Sometimes, the best way to make sure you get things right is to first see what it’s like to get them wrong. That was the approach The Country Club of Virginia (CCV) took as it prepared to open a new fast-casual restaurant.
Rather than a typical soft opening that just involves serving a few friendly first “customers” in a relaxed setting, CCV employed “Training Games” for its staff that unfolded over several days and included specific instructions to “guests” for what to order and how to act.
For example, large groups were directed to order food that would come from a single station, to create high-volume pressure on a particular worker and help instruct others on the staff on how to provide proper support in those situations.
One out of every seven guests was also given a unique scenario designed to create confusion in the dining room or on the line—everything from complaining about food to spilling it on the floor, knocking over a beverage, or telling a staff member the restroom was out of toilet paper or that someone took their food off their table.
CCV’s successful opening to the venue, which has received “glowing member reviews,” was directly attributable to the exceptionally high attention to detail in training and preparation gained by taking this harder approach to a soft opening, says Ryan Bender, CCV’s Food and Beverage Director.
Offering impactful employee-assistance programs and benefits will take on added importance as clubs ramp up to full operations, especially if they need to attract back staff that may have been laid off or furloughed. Programs instituted by the Bella Vista (Ark.) Property Owners Association, which includes Bella Vista Country Club, can serve as a model for going beyond normal offerings to be competitive and to position an organization as truly employee-friendly. Even before the pandemic, because of its location in the northwest Arkansas market that had low unemployment, and because of its non-profit, 501 (c) (4) status, Bella Vista put a premium on developing incentives that it saw as critical for employee retention, and built a three-fold program with these features:
• Paid Time Off (PTO) donations—A request was sent out to all employees asking for PTO donations for co-workers that had exhausted theirs because of personal or family issues. This eliminated an employee facing an extended time without pay, and in 2019, two employees who had emergencies with their children were able to take additional weeks off with pay, thanks to 50 employee donations.
• Employee Emergency Fund—This program provides limited financial assistance to eligible employees in times of disaster, personal emergencies or hardship. Funds are secured from voluntary employee donations through payroll deductions or personal donations.
• Employee Assistance Program—While most companies provide access to limited counseling sessions, Bella Vista’s program offers face-to-face and online counseling; performance/life coaching; support after a crisis; training and development; financial and legal consultation; work/life resources; and awareness/inspiration campaigns. The free program includes both a website and mobile app, with 24/7/365 access.