There are a lot of things that make up a great workforce, whatever the business may be. But there are certain things needed to create that environment in the restaurant industry. We chatted with Britt Belquist, Owner and Director of Operations at Brew Restaurants, to get insight into how they operate their multiple locations with the business, employees and community in mind.
Everyone has heard the idea that happy employees lead to good business. The restaurant industry especially feels that pressure. From the part-time staff and full-time managers to the back-of-house staff and chefs, there are so many different types of employees that need to work together to allow the business to thrive. With all of that on top of the other restaurant’s needs, it’s vital to understand how to build a conducive environment to keep that restaurant going. Brew Restaurants, which is the parent company of four unique and valued restaurants in the area, has been striving to nail down some operational and cultural standards for their restaurants to aid in keeping the business, and the people who make it, happy.
Part of that begins with creating an environment that employees want to be in and can see themselves in for a long-term career, which oftentimes isn’t the case. Both servers and executive chefs alike don’t usually think of staying at the same place long-term as an option, but there’s no reason why they shouldn’t. Even if the current position is just a stepping stone in a longer career trail, employees should value their position and industry and enjoy their work. This is exactly what the crew at Brew Restaurants is working to create for their industry. Ultimately, Britt hopes to see more passion driven into the industry, from restaurants, employees and the community.
“We are trying to provide everything that most industries offer but so many times the restaurant industry doesn’t.”-Britt Belquist
“I’ve been in the service industry since I was 14; my first job was a pizza cook at Happy Joe’s. From there, I worked at small town bars and a few different establishments in Fargo, ND, Arizona, Oregon and Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN. At these places, I saw, and not at all the places but at some, a need for change in the industry. Like the work-life balance, having your team be more collaborative and have a say in decisions. I think that all builds a good ground for boosting this passion,” Britt said. “This is something that I’m actively working on.”
Besides working in the industry for many years, Britt is part-owner of Brew Restaurants. She, along with Shelby Terstriep, her husband Alex Belquist, and Chad Terstriep, owns Brew Bird (Fargo, ND), 701 Eateries (Fargo, ND), City Brew Hall (Wahpeton, ND) and Brew Ales + Eats (Perham, MN). The creations of these restaurants come from a love of food, celebration and community. If you want to know the entire story on how they brewed up these beloved places, make sure to check out Britt and Alex’s full story in our sister magazine, Fargo INC, here.
“I’ve been a server, a bartender, a hostess, I have helped in the kitchen, dishwashing, doing everything. And so, I can say that these are things that our team wants… This all started before COVID, but now that COVID was here and now seeing a staffing shortage, it became more of an urgent priority. Even before that, we were still working on building the best groundwork for a career for people.”-Britt Belquist,
Owner and Director of Operations at Brew Restaurants
To begin, Brew Restaurants offers a long list of benefits for their employees, ranging from health benefits to social and cultural benefits as well. They have also started offering various opportunities for training and other experiences that can bring passion into their careers.
1. Full-time employees have access to medical, vision, dental, life and supplemental insurances after their first 60 days of employment.
2. Full-time employees also have paid time off as they accrue it.
3. In addition to the insurance, Brew Restaurants gives their employees access to a multitude of free counseling for their household through Village Business Institute.
Britt said that benefits offered to the full-time employees correlate to that being their full-time career, but just as important are the benefits that all staff members are entitled to. “Offering our employee assistance program (EAP) to everyone is really important to us, because one unfortunate statistic of this industry is that it is found to be the most at risk for illicit drug use, substance and alcohol use along with having some of the highest levels of mental illness,” Britt explained. “Our EAP is available to all employees and their household members and provides free counseling services in a variety of areas including mental health, financial, marriage and relationship counseling, addiction and substance abuse, and more. We are proud to offer this to our team and encourage them to utilize their services.”
4. Working toward a balanced life for their employees, they offer an accommodating schedule and two consecutive days off, or two days of choice off. They also work to keep their employees at a 40-hour week.
“A lot of times in the service industry, you don’t get a very good work-life balance, as you’re working really long shifts. We’re really striving to change that and give people a more healthy, balanced work schedule… If you’re working 70 hours a week and just grinding the whole time, you are just going to sink into a little dark place, I’d say. I think that’s what you see in the service industry—people burning out,” Britt said.
To help encourage and maintain that healthy balance the restaurants strive for, they have also shortened their hours across locations. Britt said the latest any spot is open, besides weekend weddings at City Brew Hall (Wahpeton), is midnight; and most locations close at 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. on weeknights. Britt added that there haven’t been complaints about hours, but that they also haven’t locked anything down. In an effort to work collaboratively with the team, they will adjust hours if an employee has an interest in working them to see how the extended hours work for the restaurant.
“That’s something that we really want to our team to be on board with. We try not to dictate that ‘this is when we’re closed’ and then people be unhappy about it and not want to do it. We like to keep the dialog open and hear everyone’s thoughts and ideas and make a decision from there,” Britt said.
5. Brew Restaurants are closed for holidays, including the 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and Easter Sunday and a half day on Christmas Eve.
6. Employees always get a minimum discount of 30% off food and beverage at Brew Restaurants.
7. In addition, every kitchen shift comes with a free meal and all shifts, both front and back of house, get a “shifty,” as they call their post-shift thank-you drink!
An important step in connecting with the team is hearing from them. Whether it be about the restaurants’ hours or specials or whatever else, Britt says that they often utilize surveys, meetings and get-togethers to hear what the staff members are thinking.
In another attempt to collaborate and ignite passion in the crew, Brew Restaurants has started arranging field trips for the team.
As a fun bonus, staff get Detroit Mountain lift passes and other exclusive Detroit Mountain discounts!
“The first one we just went on was to Linda Tharaldson’s farm, LNT Ranch. She owns this amazing 200-acre farm near Lake Park and Pelican Lake, and on it she raises wagyu cattle,” Britt said.
Her staff was able to sit down with Linda and hear about her experience in raising the cattle and learn about the meat. From there, they planned for the chef team to then create a menu to serve the wagyu at a dinner.
“We thought this would be an awesome way for our staff to get in there, see where this is coming from, learn about it firsthand and get excited about it. We had a fun day off too; we went to Zorbaz on the lake after that,” Britt said.
This is an example of bringing passion into the team, and hopefully translating that over to their work at the restaurants and to the guests who come for their meals. These events are for any staff who want to attend, and Britt says they have more local farmers and growers who they are working with to offer these experiences.
Another part of these outings is, of course, to create some bonds within the staff. Across each location, as well as with the entire Brew Restaurants team, staff outings are held. They also have their annual staff party.
Join the team at 701 Eateries on September 26 for this special wagyu and wine pairing dinner! Keep an eye out for more information at 701eateries.com/upcoming-events
Just this summer the annual staff appreciation party was held at Camp Cormorant for a camping sleepover with the team. From games to wine tasting to karaoke and campfires, everybody was there to enjoy time off as well as some team building. Britt says she thinks the staff enjoy interacting with team members across all of the restaurants and outside of their direct team.
Monthly or bi-monthly, each location’s Happiness Curator is in charge of planning an activity for everyone who can make it. This position is held by someone who is in-house and is interested in taking it on. They also work on staff birthdays and welcoming new staff, all as ways to keep morale up and drive some culture into the work.
Finally, Britt said they are beginning to offer opportunities for staff to gain extra training or certifications in order to build their career, and she hopes to bring more to the table. In the past, the managers completed a six-week leadership training program that went very well. Currently, provide their managers with “ServSafe” training and testing to obtain their food handler certification.
Britt’s own experience in the food service industry has been a huge influence on how Brew Restaurants operates, but it also comes from a goal to bring passion and desire to the community in and surrounding it. With good food comes good conversation, good company and, hopefully, good memories. And the pleasure of enjoying a good meal in your community is something we can all get behind.
Visit one (or all) of the Brew Restaurants to experience some of that good food and good company!
701 N University Dr, Fargo
City Brew Hall
120 4th St N Suite A, Wahpeton