Following warnings that the industry faces decline unless it addresses the current chef shortage, Ahern, whose restaurant opens next week, hopes his approach will encourage staff into the business and crucially, retain them.
Ahern told BigHospitality he believes Wahleeah is a trend-bucker. When investors asked him who else was offering a profit-share scheme to staff, his response was: “To my knowledge, nobody.”
“We wanted staff to feel like they were getting something back and it’s made a big, big difference to us. They’ll be able to see how much we value what they do,” he said.
“We don’t want to be one of those horrible corporate cultures where we line everyone up for a hug every morning and I’m sure we’d be breaking numerous laws if we did. We just want people to know that if you’ve come in and put in a hard shift that we value it.”
Ahern, who entered the hospitality industry just before he turned 35, says that he feels his late entry into the restaurant world has shaped how he runs his business.
“I’ve worked in some very busy places and I’ve seen the difference between well looked-after staff can make as they’ll go that extra yard for you. They can be responsible for a big increase of what you would take in a day,” he said.
Around 80 per cent of the staff at Waheeah, which opens next week, is made up of full-time employees. Dave can fill up a staff rota with just full-time staff if he needed to, a rarity in the London restaurant industry, especially as he says that the majority of his staff have left all of their previous jobs to join the new restaurant, putting a lot of trust in the project.
“We would’ve expected to, like the majority of places, have a 50-50 split between full-time and part-time staff, and when the part-time staff are on zero-hour contracts and working in two or three different places it’s hard to get the best from someone, and quite understandably,” Ahern said.
“You can’t expect 100 per cent of someone’s loyalty if you’re not paying 100 per cent of their wages.”
While Ahern hopes that offering his staff a share of the profits will help with recruitment and retention, most of all he wants a happy work-force.
“We’re not going to say that we’re going to make people rich doing this, that would be silly, but we give our staff 100 per cent of their tips, we don’t take anything,” he said.
“We appreciate that, no matter how good your idea is, if you don’t have staff who care about the job it’s very, very obvious. Every little bit of success we have the staff shares.”