Workplace transparency is not a new concept, but in the past few years it has certainly come under the spotlight. It is now one aspect of company culture that more and more hospitality businesses are prioritizing. The hope for many employers is to provide an equitable environment for their teams, enabling them to gain financial stability as well as awareness of growth opportunities as they continue along their individual career paths.
To get an industry-specific perspective on leading with transparency, we asked Frasca Hospitality Group (FHG - Peter Hoglund, Jodi McAllister and Bobby Stuckey) to share their insights and best practices.
FHG is based in Colorado, the first state to implement by law that compensation details be publicly listed in job descriptions and advertisements.
- Workplace transparency breeds a culture of trust, collaboration and retention.
- Communication and consistency are crucial for maintaining transparency.
- Transparency establishes trust and empowers employees.
- Transparency should be incorporated into recruiting and hiring practices (e.g., detailed job descriptions, timely communication, open discussions during interviews).
- Being open with employees about the company's performance and future plans can keep anxiety levels low, while providing an increased sense of ownership and trust.
Workplace Transparency 101
What is workplace transparency? What are its benefits?
It has to be part of your culture. We consider this a skill or a mindset. Workplace transparency breeds a culture of trust, collaboration and retention. - JM
What are best practices when it comes to implementing transparency in restaurant operations?
Consistency. Communicate expectations frequently and early on. Provide avenues for communication with frequent check-ins or one on ones, provide anonymous reporting platforms and encourage direct communication with the executive team. As a company, we explain our decisions and encourage employees to ask questions or share feedback. This encourages collaboration and makes people feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves. - JM
Why is transparency important?
Trust. You build trust as a leader when employees don’t have to guess why you made a decision. Trust makes team members feel empowered. Empowered employees won’t wait until it’s too late to communicate issues or feedback about their work experiences. - JM
What areas of transparency are especially important for the hospitality industry to focus on?
Compensation growth and sustainability.
Our example of this would be our model of Whole House Tip Pool vs. Service Fee Models. All gratuities that come in have to be paid out to employees. We believe in this transparency so there is no confusion for our guests or employees. Sustainability results in a higher quality of living for our employees and greater retention of career minded employees. - JM
What are some drawbacks to leading with transparency?
- It may impact or slow down decision-making.
- You can’t always predict how people respond to updates. You can't predict how people will react to what you share or protocols you put in place.
- It doesn’t mean every opinion is weighted equally. Accepting feedback doesn’t mean you’re going to act on it. - PH
Your Experience with Workplace Transparency
With Colorado being the first state to require compensation details in job ads and the lift in minimum wage, how have these changes impacted your daily operations?
The transparency of the point system makes it essential for us to have constant communication with management about our criteria. It has also created equitable pay between both front and back of the house teams. - JM
What was your approach to implementing more transparency? How did you get started?
- Recruiting and hiring - There are ways to create transparency throughout the entire recruiting and hiring process, all of which will benefit us. Detailed job descriptions, timely and honest communication from hiring managers and open discussion during the interview process, are all examples of ways we work towards being more transparent.
- Performance management and career development review periods.
- Company performance and goal-setting - being open with employees about the company's performance and future plans can keep anxiety levels low, while providing an increased sense of ownership and trust.
When it comes to transparency, how do you educate candidates when recruiting? What details do you feel are the most important to share?
Our teams talk about our compensation package and pay structure during the interview process. We offer observation shifts before hiring so candidates can speak with our team about their overall employment. If you start as soon as the hiring process starts, you’ll find employees who care about your company and understand its values. - BS
One of our major topics we share when recruiting is how is our Whole House Tip Share is different than a Service Charge Model. Here are the main ways they differ:
FHG Tip Model
- Guest Facing Approach: An optional tip line is provided on the guest check (averages 20 - 22% based on historical data)
- Internal Process: Every single dollar goes to the restaurant’s tip pool and is distributed between all hourly employees
Service Charge Model
- Guest Facing Approach: A mandatory percentage is applied to a guest’s check
- Internal Process: It is not required by the business to distribute the entire service charge to the team
What areas of employer transparency have proven the easiest to implement? Which have been the most challenging?
The easiest aspect of pay transparency to implement was the internal posting requirement for any leadership positions. It’s great for morale when employees can see an opportunity to grow within our restaurants. The results can be overwhelmingly positive.
One of the most challenging aspects for us was the pay minimum wage differences between Denver and Boulder. Before moving to the same base hourly rate, in January 2023, of $17.29 for all FHG restaurants, it felt like we were competing between locations. From the perspective of an individual job seeker, this had a big impact. Imagine if they see a job post for Frasca at $17-22 (12.56 + tips) per hour vs. Tavernetta at $21-$26 ($15.87 + tips) per hour. More often than not, they would choose the higher wage. - JM
How has transparency impacted your employee retention?
We want them to be thinking about their overall financial wellness and sustainability. If employees are truly interested in an opportunity for advancement, we’ll work with them to identify what kind of education, coaching or skill development they’ll need to successfully move into that role. Our employee review cadence allows us to have check-ins to discuss an employees’ performance and also discuss their aspirations so we can help them work toward those goals. When employees see that their company is willing to invest in their development, it can drive their motivation to stay and grow with the company. - JM
Beyond salary, what other components do you feel should be part of compensation packages for restaurants?
At FHG, we believe we're more than restaurants. We hold ourselves incredibly responsible to provide our teams with career-worthy compensation and a healthy working environment. You commit to us, we commit to you. We're in it for the long run, and hope our teams are too.
Does this come at a cost? Of course. To operate our businesses successfully, this decision will increase our prices across the board, but in an appropriate and transparent way.
- Being more than a restaurant to our guests means bringing more to the experience than just great service. Our aim is unparalleled hospitality.
- Being more than a restaurant to our team means showing them that we see their employment as a long-term career opportunity, and we show them this with our wage structure, 401(k) with company contribution, sick and vacation paid leave, medical, dental, and vision coverage, life and disability insurance, alternative transportation incentive program and more. - BS
Which roles/ team members within your restaurants do you feel it has been easier to recruit talent based on your transparency?
The Culinary Team. Since moving to a Whole House Tip structure, the pay gap has decreased significantly between front and back of house. Also, when candidates know the difference between Whole House Tip Share vs. Service Fee, it helps them make educated decisions.
This year, our executive team made the decision to compensate our Boulder teams at the same hourly rate as our Denver teams. Because we distribute tips to both our front and back of house teams (what we call "Whole House Hospitality"), we also forgo the tip credit that is given to businesses who distribute tips to the front of house only. In doing so, we are now proud to offer all hourly employees a starting hourly rate that matches Denver's new minimum wage of $17.29, plus tips, regardless if they work at our restaurants in Boulder or Denver. Why? Because we believe it's the most equitable thing to do. - BS
Which roles/team members within your restaurants have you found benefit most from the new changes in the recent laws?
Hopefully the entire team! - JM
About the Frasca Hospitality Group Team
Bobby Stuckey: Bobby began his hospitality journey in his native Arizona as a blue-haired punk rock kid. He then moved to Colorado to join The Little Nell restaurant in Aspen as a sommelier in 1995. In 2000, Bobby joined world-renowned Chef Thomas Keller at The French Laundry in Yountville, California, where he also met Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson. Bobby and Lachlan opened Frasca Food and Wine in August 2004, in Boulder, CO. Bobby received his Master Sommelier Diploma in 2004. In 2007, Bobby and Lachlan launched Scarpetta Wines. In January 2011, they opened Pizzeria Locale Boulder, now known as Pizzeria Alberico, a contemporary pizzeria inspired by the traditional pizzerias of Naples, Italy. In the fall of 2017, Bobby and Lachlan, along with partners Peter Hoglund, and Continuum Partners’ Mark Falcone, opened Tavernetta in Denver’s Union Station neighborhood. In December 2019, they opened Sunday Vinyl. When not at the restaurants, you can find Bobby logging some serious mileage running or biking, listening to vinyl and drinking a great bottle of wine with his wife, Danette.
Peter Hoglund: Growing up all over the country, it was attending CU Boulder for college that originally connected FHG Partner Peter Hoglund to Colorado. After graduating, he headed to Jackson Hole, WY, working for Gavin Fine’s Fine Dining Restaurant Group. Peter has worked at Frasca since 2010, where he began his journey within FHG as a glass polisher. In 2012, he became the General Manager of Frasca Food and Wine, leading the team through a time of significant growth. In 2015, he became a partner with Bobby and Lachlan. Peter’s primary role is overseeing new projects & restaurant concepts, while working closely with our Controller and GMs on each restaurant’s financials and helps create better systems for the company as a whole.
Jodi McAllister: Jodi joined the Frasca team in early 2013 as a leader of the front of house staff at Frasca. She then moved to GM of Pizzeria Locale, followed by AGM of Tavernetta Denver. In 2019, she was named Director of Human Resources. A Human Resources Director with a passion for the hospitality industry. She originally thought her career would be in operations, but found more interest in restaurant culture and the people behind the hospitality experience. Jodi enjoys creating processes that improve employee performance leading to increased productivity and positive output. She is confident in management and staff level coaching, enhancing leadership skills and aligning HR strategy with other functional areas to achieve growth in the hospitality industry.