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  • Writer's pictureEmily Barahona

Keeping Up with the Challenges: Two successful audits and a recent remodel.

The aftermath of a pandemic is bound to leave a hot mess behind. The casual dining industry, just as so many others, took a hard blow that required a lot of time, effort and quick adapting to overcome. As vaccination rates increase, things are slowly getting back to normal, but one of the hardest struggles remains - staff shortage. The loss of so many of our people, especially our more dependable and experienced long-term employees, has been the hardest trial to conquer.

Dire situations call for clever solutions, and we’ve managed to focus our efforts to get through this. Last month was one of reinventing and overcoming as we remodeled a Sugarland location – one of our oldest and hardest to staff - and performed a much needed overhaul to the interior design to make it more inviting for guests emerging from lockdown.

On June 2nd, this Sugarland location got its first audit after COVID-19. It was a surprise corporate audit but one which scored 87.68. Our Pearland location was next, achieving an 85.15 score on June 4th under a new manager that did an excellent job despite not having that much time or experience in the new role. These corporate audits demanded more from our team because they were performed by a new auditor - Mr. Roger. In the previous four years, we had been audited by Mr. Tom Dickson in which we excelled in our performance. This time was nerve wracking as we weren’t sure how we would perform with a new team, but the team pulled through.

Just like our Sugarland location, we remodeled two of our other stores - Hedwig and Pasadena. More units are on their way to be refreshed, and Webster is the first on the list. As the whole restaurant industry remains in this transition mode, we see this as a good opportunity to invest time and resources in projects that prepare us so that we’re ready for when the demand really rises.

More applicants knock on our doors every day and we’re steadily overcoming the current situation, but hiring new people entails challenges of its own. Hiring and training a new team from scratch demands time, experienced personnel and resources in order to keep the store running. Approaching a corporate inspection is always more challenging with people who are newly trained. Nonetheless, Spark maintains its track record of great scores with inspections and we’re proud of our consistent results.

When it comes to staffing, Buffalo Wild Wings has an advantage. A lot of applicants want to be part of our team because the work environment is fun and different. The work environment becomes especially fulfilling when a playoff game is on, team members are supporting their teams by wearing their favorite Astros jersey, and the excitement and camaraderie fills the space.

Our greatest lesson during this pandemic was that supporting our people is the greatest investment, and it fills us with pride to know that during these difficult times, while many companies laid their people off, cut their pay or closed down entirely, Spark never did. We took care of our people. There were no cuts to anybody's pay from employees all the way up to directors, and our bonus policies were up the whole time. That is the culture that we're trying to create and the way we believe people should be taken care of. Our success is a testament to our people-focused operations and culture.

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