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Lessons to learn from employee experience (EX) star Honest Burgers

09/03/2022 Audrey Langevin Comments Off

As we’ve seen with the latest Hospitality Rising, the biggest recruitment campaign, hotel and restaurant chains are determined to come together to reboot the sector and adopt healthier workplace culture. Although many businesses still face challenges in retaining their staff, a new survey from Caterer.com found that salaries are currently increasing in hospitality, which is encouraging!  

But if there was one company that we should probably shout about for its unique employee experience, we’d choose Honest Burgers, one of the UK’s fastest-growing hospitality brands. You probably heard of their happy people, which demonstrates that maintaining balanced company culture is possible in our industry, despite the challenges of the last two years and before; and at Otolo, we think this kind of initiative deserve us to talk about it.

At a glance: 

A pretty honest background

Breathing Diversity and Inclusion values

A new employment contract

Brilliant tech to support people initiatives

Caring for employees’ mental health

The Honest Incubator Programme

The coolest employee handbooks

4-week paid sabbatical leave

Private health insurance for all

What happy employees say about Honest Burgers

A pretty honest background 

Created by Tom Barton, Phil Eles and Dorian Waite, Honest Burgers came from feasts between friends in Brighton. The three friends started to sell burgers at local events – using “well-aged, grass-fed British beef with homemade chips, cut and cooked fresh, never frozen” until they made it a business in Brixton Village in 2011 which today has restaurants in 40+ locations in the UK and employs 1,000 people. Aiming to promote local businesses, their restaurants serve beers and ingredients from nearby breweries and food places.  

As many reviews on Glassdoor celebrate (see last paragraph), Honest is a place where you can “be yourself”, “have a voice” and take ownership of your “career development with tailored training programmes”. The thing is, we need more brands in the industry to be brave, bolder and promote their company culture. Let’s take a look at Honest Burgers’ incredible people initiatives and see if it encourages you to change something in your company culture.

Breathing Diversity and Inclusion values 

Not everyone is fairly given a chance in the industry, that’s why Honest Burgers aims to implement more Honest experiences because “society needs a brand they can love and trust”. For starters, the brand created The Honestly Diverse Camp to be run by its staff and to help the company become a more equal place to be for current and future employees. 

What’s it for? To influence and encourage change and pivot where needed, working closely with their People Experience department. By making small improvements to become more inclusive, and for other companies in the industry to join too.  “We think recruitment decisions and people development should be decided on people’s behaviours and skillset, to remove the human bias that in certain cases outweighs decisions. So, everybody feels they’ve had a fair chance.”

A new employment contract  

In April 2021, Head of Employer Brand Oli Cavaliero and Head of People Experience Kate Moscardini presented a new employment contract as they thought their former contract only protected their brand so they wanted to change that to protect their teams as well. What does the new contract include? Transparency, simplified terms, guaranteed hours for everybody, excluding zero-hour contracts, no one being on minimum wage, regardless of age or position, and private healthcare for everyone. Cool terms with a cool design, too. 

Brilliant tech to support people initiatives  

The question here is how do you keep on being special as a business? Even though “sometimes you need to check your ego and renew yourself”, former People Director Chantal Wilson said amid the pandemic during a Fireside chat with The Bot Platform, Honest Burgers made a point to “add that spark” to their people journey, while still taking actions to make it human, as Head of Employer Brand Oli Cavaliero expressed in an interview: “For me, a big thing is treating everyone as a human – actually treating them as a human. Not just talking about it.” 

And if you chose to make your team stronger in tough times and implement innovative initiatives for your teams, you’d need the tech to back it up and help you make magic. Honest Burgers nailed it by adding bots to keep them going and help improve their processes and admin tasks. 

What is it? “The Bot Platform can solve a wide variety of problems, it all depends on what bots you end up building. But you should always start with the problem first.” Essentially, it helped staff know where they’re at in their sick pay i.e. during the lockdown, manage workload and collaborate, as well as access training. The platform also enabled the company to explore new ways to work at the end of the lockdown. 

Caring for employees’ mental health 

To anticipate Brexit and help build resilience amid the lockdowns, Honest Burgers launched The Homefront Programme, to keep their people healthy and sane and contribute to their daily work routine. Virtual wellness and exercising sessions, open conversations, nationwide updates on the pandemic and its impact on the company life, virtual drinks… the brand took care of every detail to keep their employees happy and informed. 

The Honest Incubator Programme 

Heard of intrapreneurship? While entrepreneurs run their own companies, intrapreneurs are responsible for innovating within an existing organisation. Successful intrapreneurship uses existing company frameworks and resources, and this approach usually leads to initiatives that help the wider company innovate. It’s also why Honest Burgers launched The Honest Incubator Programme for anyone within the company to have the chance to set up their food brand, counting on the support of Honest Burgers.

The coolest employee handbooks 

Having observed most employee handbooks can discourage people to read entirely, the company designed its own – Build it: The rebel playbook for employee engagement. That’s exactly why Honest Burgers changed their handbook, removing all fluffy parts. To keep legally required parts they checked with a solicitor the mandatory bits but made it better, going from 12 pages to 10 bullet points!

4-week paid sabbatical leave 

Another amazing perk for the UK-based expats working amongst the company staff is surely the four-week paid sabbatical benefit, two weeks more than the usual two-week limit. Head of Employer Brand Oli Cavaliero implemented this to “enable their 70% non-UK employees to visit and catch up with family and friends, or just enjoy London outside work”.

Private health insurance for all 

To tackle well-being questions and maximise employee happiness, Honest Burgers have decided to provide all employees with paid private medical cover through Vitality, which encourages employees to remain healthy by educating and rewarding them for healthy living. The list of health benefits provided by the contractor is endless: free GP, physio and therapy sessions, exercising, online resources, videos, loyalty freebies from coffee to a free Apple Watch, etc.

What happy employees say about Honest Burgers  

“Very inclusive and friendly work environment. Honest Burgers look after their employees and reap many benefits for working with them e.g. wearing what you please to express yourself, opportunities within the company to expand on your knowledge and skills and an amazing mental health support line anyone can use.” 

“You can be yourself, no dress code required. The company treats you as humans. Everyone has a voice.” 

“I felt part of a community, not just an employee disconnected from the company. With access to WorkPlace you remain up to date with company updates, targets, fun incentives, monthly news. There is great training also provided from the resources available. And free amazing burgers on shift! 😱” 

“The best reason to work with Honest Burgers is that you gain new skills and learnings about the kitchen, how to carry out everything and enhance your learnings as a Chef. I have found my manager polishing my skills and trusting me for doing something better. I really enjoy working here because the environment is very friendly and full of learning. It feels like a family, working with some of the most skilled people really feels great.” 

“Tommy Giraux is probably the best manager, life mentor ever (I will forever love you and be grateful for everything). He, Abdul, Carmelo, James, and Maja, were and still are some of the best life coaches I ever had, and by taking their advice my life has been improved in ways I can’t even express here in words. Honest has been the cradle of my best life choices thanks mainly to these above-mentioned individuals. But also, I’ve learned a lot about personal growth, development, management, and high-level management, coaching, career building, training, teamwork, working with and meeting people from all over the world. I’ve built long-lasting relationships, received fair payment for the service delivered, contributed to serving great quality products, backed by a team of highly professional executives. Not the last but definitely up there in the top best things – TRAILAPP – one of the best things I’ve ever had the chance to work with from a health and food safety point of view. Great place to be in and around for the last 6 and half years. 😊“ 

“Very relaxed atmosphere, you can be yourself and they value every single employee, it’s also a company that is not afraid to admit when they make a mistake which makes them very human and easy to trust. It’s all in the company name, simply HONEST – there are also great benefits 😊 The founders are so pleasant to deal with and they actually listen to what you have to say – which is rare in many companies these days.”