Last Wednesday I had dinner at a Boston restaurant before “Wicked.” The food and service did not defy gravity. While ordering a martini, I asked if the establishment had blue cheese stuffed olives. “No” was the simple response from our disengaged waiter, Rick.

Engaged employee

In contrast, Saturday night I finally got to “Bocado,” a Worcester, MA tapas restaurant (There’s also one in Wellesley, MA). I have fond memories of the tapas in Barcelona, and of the “Sangria Con Cava.” Bocado didn’t have a Sangria "con cava," but they had an excellent sangria selection and amazing food. While the food was varied and delicious, the service really made Bocado shine for us Saturday night. Seated at the bar, service was provided by Matt and Veronica. I heard Veronica mention to a nearby couple her working experience. “I love working here it's a great company.” She went on to say the company, the Niche Hospitality Group offers a 401K plan, and just as important, work-life balance and flexibility. “I don't have to worry about child care,” Veronica noted. “If one of my kids are sick, they’re flexible around schedules.”

I chatted up Matt (one of Worcester's best bartenders!) a bit about his experience. “One of the owners is here tonight. You’ll see him working, cleaning tables. They grew up in the restaurant business. They’ll never ask us to do anything they wouldn’t do themselves.”

It was a delicious and fun experience. As a strawberry shortcake was being finished off and the bill being paid. I noticed a couple down the bar getting martinis. Matt was stuffing olives with blue cheese by hand… That's what employee engagement in the hospitality industry looks like.

Published: Monday, June 19, 2017