Case Study: Employee Training Opportunities Cook Up Positive Customer Experience

Richard Jaffray, President and Founder of Cactus Club Cafe

One could forgive Cactus Club President and Founder, Richard Jaffray if he were riding the wave of accolades recently accorded to his vastly popular restaurant collection.

Recently Cactus Club has been awarded the “Gold” position for Best Casual Restaurant by Vancouver Magazine, was acknowledged among the province’s Top 25 Companies to Work For by BC Business Magazine for the fourth year in a row, has garnered praise as one of the country’s 50 Best Managed Companies in Canada by the National Post and most recently was named one of Canada’s Top 50 BC Companies for 2009 by Maclean’s Magazine.

But despite this phenomenal success, Richard has kept his feet firmly planted on solid ground. “People are the most important part of our business,” he explains. “Our teams [of employees] drive the customer experience, so we rely on passionate, dedicated employees.”

And while the labour market is tight, Cactus Club uses a variety of means to ensure a competent, happy and diverse workforce. Principally, employee referrals and an excellent reputation provide a ready pool of candidates.

This positive reputation has been cemented by a solid commitment to environmental sustainability – through programs like Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program and the Green Table Network – and is matched by an internal focus on continuous learning, employee development and a positive working environment.

“People like working for a company with a responsible public profile. We provide our employees with the means to give back to the communities in which they live and work, while simultaneously advancing their career paths,” explains Richard.

In addition to being the largest employer of Red Seal Chef apprentices in Western Canada, Cactus Club is committed to promoting from within by offering employee members extensive training opportunities. And these aren’t limited to the kitchen.

Service partners are invited to obtain certification in order to improve upon their skills, and all employees are encouraged to participate in a multi-faceted service and culinary training programs, which enable them to try their hand at various roles and stations.

According to Richard, by offering team members the advantage of executing a range of responsibilities, they gain an instinctive understanding of how the restaurant functions as a whole.

This focus on training from within has also benefited the organization when it comes time to seek out new senior managers. Richard expects that despite major plans for expansion – with restaurants opening in Edmonton next year and expanding eastward thereafter – Cactus Club will still succeed in growing 50 per cent of senior management in-house.

Flexible schedules, industry-leading compensation packages and mentorship programs round out the employee experience. As a result, Cactus Club staff are more content, and better able to create a pleasant and welcoming environment for customers.

“Our teams drive our customer experience,” concludes Richard. “By creating a positive work environment where employees feel appreciated and understand the opportunities for growth, we hope that they will share that enthusiasm with others.”