The owner of eight Uno Pizzeria & Grill restaurants in Maryland and Virginia has noticed the pandemic-pressure stress building among his 225 employees, so he’s closing the units and giving the teams a day off this coming Wednesday to refresh and recharge.
Amir Yazdi, owner of MVP Pizza and its Uno Pizzeria & Grill restaurants, said in an interview Friday that “It's as hard a time as it's ever been to be a restaurant operator.” Operations are more difficult now than even in the depth of the pandemic last summer, he said.
“Our staff is overworked,” Yazdi said, “and just to give them a day off to recharge and get their bearings — that's the goal for all of it.”
Yazdi, who is building his ninth Uno unit that is to open in Baltimore in July, said the day off with pay “is an attempt to give back to our staff and reward them for all the hard work they put in over these last few months.”
The temporary closures on Wednesday, May 26, will “give them a day to reset and recharge and recover,” he said.
For customers who may be startled by the closures, the Uno locations will offer them a free buy-one-get-one-free pizza on Tuesday, Yazdi said, so they’ll have a pizza on hand to get them through Wednesday.
Amid the nationwide labor shortage, Yazdi said he’s seen his employees face growing stress.
“My people are working harder than they ever have,” he said, “and I see it I see it in my restaurants. I see it on their faces. And it occurs to me one day these guys need a break and so we came up with Wellness Wednesday.”
The day off is for front-of-house and back-of-house workers as well as hosts and managers.
“They're very excited,” Yazdi said of employee reaction. “We're giving the staff an opportunity to team-build, and it's voluntary. If they want to on that day, our senior management team has organized outings for their teams completely voluntary. ... It's an opportunity for the staff to get together outside the four walls of the restaurant and just be together not in a work setting.”
One manager, for example, will be taking his team to pick strawberries in Maryland, Yazdi said.
“I'm a real big believer in culture,” Yazdi said. “It's one of our core ideologies — having fun at work — and we try and make the experience as good as we can.”
Yazdi said he will be joining some of the teams that are gathering on Wednesday.
“As the owner of the company and our senior leadership team,” he said, “we you know we care about our guys and just let them know that and let them feel that.”
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