Union Square Hospitality Group – Hiring criteria and changing incentives after the pandemic

Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG)  has been known for having a corporate culture where employees are allowed to grow and have diverse experiences not only on the operational side but also on the restaurant business creation side. We asked Patti Simpson, Chief Administrative Officer of Union Square Hospitality Group, what USHG evaluates when hiring and what changes have been made to adapt to the new environment in the restaurant industry after the onset of the pandemic.

Q1: What type of unique or specific criteria do you have when hiring people? 

When hiring new team members at any level, we are looking for 100%-ers. Those who have a combination of 51% HQ – hospitality quotient, and 49% technical skills. We hire those who have a heart and passion for service and excellence combined. 

Q2: Compared to other restaurant corporations, is there anything unique about your corporate philosophy that encourages employees to suggest new business ideas or helps employees grow? 

Our business is unique in that we place our employees as the number one stakeholder, then guests, the community, our vendors, and our investors. We call this our virtuous cycle of enlightened hospitality. 

Q3: What type of specific changes has USHG made to adapt to new challenges in hiring? 

The hiring shortage is affecting all businesses, made more difficult as we are looking for a very specific type of employee. Yet, we have an amazing talent team who have hired nearly 3000 team members in 2022. The challenge is to keep onboarding them well, train them thoroughly, and ensure that they have the tools that they need to reach their full potential and grow at USHG. We will always work on that as it is the key to our success and is never finished. Growth never stops. In addition, we worked hard during the pandemic to become the best employer to return to. Some of the steps that we took were to raise management’s starting salary from $58,500 to $65,000, raise back of the house (BOH) hourly wages by 26% and add a 1% share of sales split across BOH employees, and reinstated tipping in the front of the house (FOH). Compensation is driving turnover in many businesses and staying ahead of the curve where you can is critical. We also raised our employee discount from 20% to 51% and are happy to see our teams enjoying our businesses with their friends and families when they are off. Last, family meal is served daily in every business and is free for everyone on the shift.


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