There’s a labor crisis happening in the restaurant industry. But one place that hasn’t experienced it is Zalat Pizza.
Dallas-based Zalat takes care of its “Zealots” — or employees — as if they were family.
“For us, the culture is how well we take care of our Zealots,” said founder and CEO Khanh Nguyen in a recent CREATE session, “The Secrets of Building Highly Engaged Teams.”
That culture includes full benefits, a 401k and stock options to all frontline workers.
“We are trying to see if we can make frontline workers, cooks [and] cashiers potentially quite rich and potentially, hopefully, going public later,” he said.
But it’s not just about making them rich; it’s about making them feel good about working at Zalat.
“Our mission is threefold. One, we try to make the best pizzas in the universe,” said Nguyen. “Number two, we say that we try to make customers for life. And number three, it's our people mission.”
It’s not all serious at Zalat either, as Nguyen said. The employees get to pick out the music at the shops. And there are restaurant-funded tattoos based on the Zalat logo available to all employees.
And then there are the call signs.
Throughout the CREATE chat, Nguyen had the name Morpheus at the bottom of his screen. When asked about it, he explained that after 90 days of working at Zalat, employees are given the chance to pick a call sign, which is how internal communications are marked at the company.
“For us, when we go to work, we're putting our home virtual clothes away and putting on our superhero outfit to show up at work,” he said.
“We call it BYOB: be your original badass. So, all we care about is make a great pizza, take care of our drivers, take care of our customers,” he added. “And it really allows us to problem-solve together easily and smoothly.”
How is Zalat able to afford the additional investment in its employees? “We don't spend a lot of money on anything except the pizza quality,” Nguyen said.
The result is a more productive staff. By taking the time to invest in employees who are happier, more efficient and better trained, Zalat has team members who could, say, cut through a box of onions in 5 minutes instead of 45.
“And that level of difference in productivity while you're on the clock could make all the difference in the world,” Nguyen said.
Zalat restaurants are open until 4 a.m. There are 20 units open, but by the end of the year Nguyen hopes to have around 28 or 30.