September 7

Professionalizing the Industry, One Worker at a Time

Hai Hospitality tells us how their benefits and perk package encourages a growing career within the food and drink industry — setting the trend of professionalizing a career in our industry.

Hai Hospitality is an award-winning restaurant group that’s made a positive difference to employment within the restaurant industry since 2003 when Chef Tyson Cole opened the first Uchi in Austin, Texas. Since then, Hai Hospitality has grown to include four restaurant concepts: Uchi, Uchiko, Uchiba, and Loro Asian Smokehouse and Bar, with additional locations in Houston, Dallas, Denver, and Miami. While the restaurant group has become a powerhouse in our industry — they’ve stayed true to their beliefs that their employees make Hai Hospitality the success it is today. Hai Hospitality has fostered an environment where each employee can grow professionally and personally, offering benefits and perks that make it possible to have a successful and satisfying career in the restaurant industry.

“Hai Hospitality puts growth first and foremost,” Kristen Hubby, Social and Digital Strategist at Hai Hospitality, told us. “Opportunity for growth is provided across all team members, from those in administrative/office roles to those working in our restaurants — there is a path for success.” Hai Hospitality’s emphasis on career development is likely one of the best perks about working at one of their restaurants. They’ve invested in creating an atmosphere where employees who seek knowledge and growth can find it, and there is something for everyone.

From their beverage program that provides discounts and guidance to those who want to achieve Sommelier, Sake, and Cicerone Certifications to their organized family meal, there is an opportunity for career advancement available to both FOH and BOH employees. Hai Hospitality is known to encourage culinary creativity and freedom through their daily family meal. Hubby described that those in the BOH interested in participating could sign up on a roster where two or three team members are scheduled to collaborate to produce a meal for everyone every day.

“There is a lot of creative freedom on what is offered each day, and it’s really fun for the staff to bond and a great way to create that family and team member vibe,” Hubby explained. A family meal can be an excellent opportunity for someone to have the resources to explore their culinary style and receive feedback from their peers in a non-stressful, accepting environment.

In addition to career development, Hai Hospitality is invested in its employees’ personal growth and wellness through a generous benefits package available to all full-time employees. Their benefits include medical, dental, vision, and accidental coverage with a wellness benefit. To be considered full-time and eligible for healthcare benefits, an employee must work a minimum of 130 hours a month for two consecutive calendar months and maintain this minimum to remain eligible. Hubby explained that their benefits package is ever-growing. Still, she is particularly grateful for their Employee Assistance Program (EAP) added just last year that is available to all employees, whether full-time or part-time. The EAP provides free, confidential, 24/7 counseling and coaching for anything an employee might seek help with. Professionals are available over the phone or through facetime and are an excellent resource for struggling employees seeking assistance.

“The Employee Assistance program is necessary being in the environment of the world we’re in today, but also just being in the restaurant industry,” Hubby said. “Mental health is something that is very prevalent, and the struggle is there daily for a lot of people. This program helps as a resource for those of our staff seeking someone to talk to.” EAP’s are becoming increasingly common in restaurant benefit packages and can be a meaningful and cost-effective way for employees to take action on their mental and physical health.

Another fantastic program that Hai Hospitality started for their employees at the beginning of the Pandemic is the Hai Life Foundation — a 501 (c) (3) non-profit dedicated to assisting employees when in crisis and extreme financial hardship. What started as a fund to help those furloughed due to the pandemic has become an ongoing fund that will remain as a resource available to Hai Hospitality employees. “Too often, employees in the food and beverage industry find themselves facing extreme financial hardship stemming from unforeseen circumstances,” The Hai Life Foundation site claims. “The Hai Life Foundation and extended community of supporters is here to help.” The foundation is run by hand-selected employees who oversee the donations and applications.

“It’s been an amazing initiative and resource,” explained Hubby. “It’s an honor to work for a company that puts employees first and help[s] them when it’s needed.”

Restaurants who do good for their employees and are paving the way to a more professionalized industry by creating opportunities for career advancement deserve to be recognized. We know the industry has a lot of work to do, but restaurant groups like Hai Hospitality see making a difference in their employee’s lives a necessity and making a career in the restaurant industry possible — which is a much-needed breath of fresh air these days.


About the author

Ashley McNally likes to cook, loves to bake, and is always dreaming of her next meal. With over 13 years of experience working in various roles within a restaurant — McNally has made a home in hospitality.

About the author

Ashley McNally likes to cook, loves to bake, and is always dreaming of her next meal. With over 13 years of experience working in various roles within a restaurant — McNally has made a home in hospitality.


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