Date
27 May 2017
Restaurant owner Ah Yuan (left, in black shirt and shorts) and his staff enjoy a trip to Taiwan, while Wing Lai Yuen rewards its senior staff. Photos: Facebook/Yuan Is Here, Facebook/Wing Lai Yuen
Restaurant owner Ah Yuan (left, in black shirt and shorts) and his staff enjoy a trip to Taiwan, while Wing Lai Yuen rewards its senior staff. Photos: Facebook/Yuan Is Here, Facebook/Wing Lai Yuen

How to incentivize staff during difficult times

All told, local restaurants are facing another challenging year because of the falling number of mainland tourists and the poor economy.

But it’s nice to know that some local eateries still manage to keep body and soul together, and, in fact, have found reasons to cheer.

They take advantage of the low season to treat their staff to a sort of an incentive trip.

That’s exactly what the post-’80s owner of a Taiwanese cuisine outlet in Sai Ying Pun did to thank his staff for helping it break even after more than a year of operation.

According to Sky Post, the 34-year-old boss Ah Yuan spent HK$80,000 to treat his 14 staff to a four-day, three-night trip to Kaohsiung and Kenting in southern Taiwan.

Raised in Kaohsiung, Yuan believes the key to his restaurant’s success is the authentic taste of his Taiwanese menu, which he changes every six months. 

His clients’ favorites are Taiwanese minced pork rice (魯肉飯) and Taiwanese fried chicken (鹽酥雞).

Aside from being his way of thanking his staff, the trip gives them the chance to strengthen their friendship and sense of belongingness with one another and simply to relax.

“To be efficient, one needs to take a good break. By doing so, service quality will be enhanced,” Yuan said, adding that Hong Kong people are just too busy with their work and often find it hard to relax.

Aside from the cost of the air tickets, Yuan reckons about HK$200,000 in revenue was lost as a result of the four-day break.

But the gain, in terms of having a motivated and dedicated staff, far outweighs the costs, he said.

In fact, he intends to make it an annual affair for his staff.

Elsewhere, the owner of Japanese restaurant Katsuisen also considers travel as a good way to keep up the morale of his staff.

Every October, he takes his 20 staff in his two outlets to Tokyo or Osaka.

With a budget of US$6,000 per staff, the annual trip helps boost the employees’ sense of belongingness and teamwork while lowering staff turnover.

Also, the trip serves as a training course.

“When I teach them how to prepare food or serve customers, they may not agree with what I say,” said the 34-year-old owner and head chef. “But when they see with their own eyes how the locals do it, they are convinced and they automatically follow.”

“Even better, the trip allows them to think: ‘If Japan can do it, so can Hong Kong.’”

On the other hand, a restaurant owner must reward not only the young workers but also those who have spent the best years of their lives on helping the company grow.

Yeung Wong Siu-ling, boss of Wing Lai Yuen Sze Chuen Noodles Restaurant, finds it her duty to reward senior or retiring staff.

In fact, she allots 30 percent of the profit of the company’s new shop for the benefit — travel and hospice care — of her old employees.

Yeung also intends to retain retiring staff as consultants, giving them full pay for half a day’s work of training younger staff, something akin to the role played by Robert de Niro in The Intern.

You may think this bodes well for PR and marketing, but try to imagine what would become of Hong Kong Inc. if more local companies follow what The Intern suggests, with Septuagenarians working way past the usual retirement age of 65.

Remember, only in difficult situations can a company show its true worth. Amen.

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BK/DY/CG

EJ Insight writer

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