No point in denying it, things are going well for the Belly. I like to think it’s a combination of different factors that makes you guys wanna spend a bit of time and some of your hard-earned money at HB. The coffee is good, the food’s banging but also, to wrap it all up together, there is this intangible thing in the air that makes you want to stay and come back. Call it atmosphere, ambiance, mood, whatever, it plays a huge role in the overall experience and it’s the result of a healthy, happy, well taken care of staff. The people that look after you, from the moment you set foot through the door till the moment you’re walking out, hopefully full and happy, actually want to be here and, most of the time, are enjoying themselves. That makes a huge difference.

When Sarah and I decided to open HB, we knew from the get go what kind of bosses we wanted to be. Tough but fair. By tough I mean that we expect a fair bit from our staff. Nothing crazy, the usual suspects, never be late, if it’s dirty clean it, take good care of our customers, be knowledgeable about the menu, no cell phone while you’re on the job… that kind of stuff. It’s nothing extravagant but we are relentless about it. We’ll repeat the same stuff over and over again till it gets done. No compromises. And in return we’ll be fair to you. All the hours are paid. Sounds crazy but it doesn’t happen everywhere. At HB you work 10 hours you get paid 10 hours. No salary for unlimited hours, we need you to stay longer, you get paid extra. Tough weekend? We might throw in a bonus. Monday night (our Friday night), beers on the house. We all go out for dinner together? We might pick up the check. It’s normal, it’s fair and it works. From the moment one of your employees gets frustrated about something, shit gets weird. Everyone can feel it, it’s heavy, it lingers around and it sucks. You need to address it straight away and fix it. Or you can be proactive about it.

We’re now in mid-March and our current staff is going to be pushing all the way to the summer break at the end of July. That’s a long ass time. Even though I’m confident they could tackle it, I feel like by the end of it they couldn’t possibly provide a good service. They’ll be over it and you’ll feel it. That atmosphere I was talking about earlier, it’ll be gone. Based on this logic, Sarah and I decided the other day, while enjoying a delicious lunch at Le Servan, to take things a little further in the matter of staff-care. The HB team is going skiing!

We’ll be closing the shop a tad earlier on Sunday March 15th, pack up the rental van and hit the road towards Hirmentaz, a small village by the Switzerland border. Marty and I will be splitting the driving and we should reach Alice and Michel’s house by midnight. They own a cute chalet in the mountains. Sarah and I stayed there for a few days when we first moved back to France. They make their own bread, brioche, charcuterie, cheese etc. on premises, at the farm so we’re in for a treat. The idea is to relax, eat well, sleep, ski, breathe some pristine air, enjoy each others company without the usual hustle and bustle of the Belly getting in the way. We’ll drive back on Thursday. Sarah and Marty will hit the prep on Friday and we’ll be back in time for your food and coffee needs on the weekend. Rested and happy, ready to take this thing all the way up to July.

Now, as you’re reading this you might have mentally started to do the math, especially if you’re a business owner, and the answer is yes, it won’t be cheap to take all of us skiing for a week, even more so since everyone will still get paid their full wages while we’re away. But whatever. The way we look at it, they’ve earned it. For Sarah and I it makes sense to wake up every morning and give 200% of our energy to Holybelly because it is ours and we get direct satisfaction from its growth and success but for our staff, even though we hope they are getting something out of it on a personal level other than a paycheque at the end of the month, to involve themselves as much as they do is truly remarkable and we want them to know it’s not going unnoticed.

Thanking your staff after a long day is great, a tap on the shoulder, a beer, a kind word, that’s all good but I strongly believe that, as an employer, you have a responsibility to take good care of the people who work for you, the people who get out of bed in the morning for the sole purpose of busting their asses in your café. The same way you invest in new equipment for the kitchen, new mugs, a new espresso machine, you should invest in your staff’s well being, no matter the price tag, because at the end of the day even if you serve some good food and some nice coffee, if your staff sucks and hates your guts because you treat them poorly or unfairly, it’ll show, it’ll ruin the experience and it’ll run your business to the ground eventually.

Anyhow, 6 days before we hit the slopes! Can. Not. Wait. 🙂