Manitoba

Stella's controversy a wake-up call, says Winnipeg restaurant owner

Pizzeria Gusto using opportunity to revisit HR policies; Tallest Poppy adds 'shop steward' to hear employees' concerns.

Pizzeria Gusto reviewing HR policies; Tallest Poppy adds 'shop steward'

As heartbreaking as it is to hear about Stella's, it's an opportunity for other restaurants to look at their own policies and make those changes, says Pizzeria Gusto owner Bobby Mottola. (CBC)

Winnipeg restaurateurs are taking the opportunity to revisit or augment their HR policies after more than 275 disclosures of workplace incidents blew up on social media under the tag "Not My Stella's." 

More than 11,000 people have followed the Instagram account, with former and current Stella's employees coming forward with their stories — and saying they were discouraged from coming forward before. 

Pizzeria Gusto owner Bobby Mottola decided to take a look at his own human resources policies in the wake of the allegations. 

"Unfortunately with what's going on at Stella's, which is heartbreaking and hard to read and understand that it was that systemic, at the same time it is an opportunity for ourselves — and I think the restaurant industry as a whole — to continue to look at their policies and to make a commitment that it's not OK and if there's things that you have to do to change, you have to change them," said Mottola, who also owns Merchant Kitchen.

Pizzeria Gusto owner Bobby Mottola decided to take a look at his own human resources policies in the wake of the allegations. (Pizzeria Gusto/Twitter)

Following the allegations from Stella's employees, Mottola held a staff meeting to make sure that all employees completely understand all HR policies and to ensure that they are continuing to communicate properly with the staff. 

Nobody's an island, nobody should have to take on these types of behaviour alone.- Bobby Mottola

Mottola regularly holds two staff meetings a week and hopes that the constant communication and an open-door policy will make sure the employees feel comfortable going to management if they have a complaint. 

​Mottola says every new employee receives a human resources policy package, so they know the policies of the restaurants and what kind of behaviour is unacceptable.

Over the last 10 years, he added a second restaurant and grew his staff to 100. As they grew, policies needed to be more "black and white," he said. But relationships are important too. 

"I think what we do, over and above that, is we make sure that we instruct our management staff and we continue to have conversations with the restaurant team about the importance and value that we place on them as part of a greater whole and that their voice and their situation both inside and outside the restaurant are of great importance to all of us," said Mottola.

Tallest Poppy chef Talia Syrie is hiring a shop steward to hear staff concerns. (CBC)

Tallest Poppy owner Talia Syrie is making changes as well. 

The main thing that she was concerned about was having enough ways for her staff to let her know that something was going wrong in the restaurant.

"I'm really surprised, but I'm the last person to know that there's been a situation ... and so I just wanted to ... sort of make sure that there were more opportunities for people to kind of be heard," she said. 

To help with this situation and making sure staff feel comfortable making work-related complaints, Syrie is creating a new position within the restaurant.

The Tallest Poppy will have a "shop steward" available for all employees for any work-related reasons. 

"We've set up a person on staff who is kind of connected as a liaison ... so they can feel comfortable talking to that person," said Syrie. 

She's also having a staff meeting to see if any employees have ideas about what could make their HR policies better.

Mottola says every person should have someone to talk to about any situation that makes them feel uncomfortable in the workplace.

"Nobody's an island, nobody should have to take on these types of behaviour alone," he said.

Restaurants reviewing policies around harassment in the workplace

4 years ago
Duration 2:23
Winnipeg restaurateurs are taking the opportunity to revisit or augment their HR policies after more than 275 disclosures of workplace incidents blew up on social media under the tag "Not My Stella's."

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