May 24, 2017

CloverHSC (Harvard Science Center)

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A new Clover. Technically this is number 11. And it’s exhilarating. I stepped back after ordering the first coffee (I was the first customer).

Lynn (who has been the General Manager of our restaurant in Harvard Square for a few years now) is running the show and her team is amazing.

Harvard is renovating the Science Center. The first stage is done and includes the library, the outdoor area, and the cafeteria. Clover replaced the cafeteria that was here. We’re operating a coffee bar as well as a restaurant over here. It’s beautiful. It’s going to be really busy.

We’re using the opportunity to test some ideas. The coffee program is an evolved version of what we’ve been doing at the restaurants. We’re introducing Cafe Au Lait. I’ll write more about that. I’ve been thinking for a while that Cafe Au Lait and Con Leche are sort of overlooked in our Latte-dominated coffee culture. It’s really fun. And we’re doing house-made syrups that we’re pairing with the coffees. It’s a new direction for us. We’re still focused on the delicate black cup of coffee, but we’re hoping some of these innovations will help bring more people to that black cup.

Another big test: employee pay. We’re required here, by Harvard, to pay at rates matching the internal Harvard pay rates. Our financial agreement with Harvard allows for this. So we’ll be paying hourly employees working at this location really high rates. We’ve been working hard to get to the $20/ hr average pay rate company-wide, but we’re a ways off from that. Meanwhile, this location will have starting pay higher than that rate.

We’re all concerned this will make Clover employees feel frustrated. I hope that’s not what happens. We can’t afford to pay these rates company-wide, as much as I’d love to. We just wouldn’t make any money. Unless our other landlords make very different agreements with us. I’m not psyched about the tension this could create. On the other hand, it allows us a live test to see how high pay rates impact performance, retention, employee happiness, etc.

I asked my managers the other day if the 30% increase in pay (vs. a year ago) has had any positive impact on performance. I asked whether hustle was better, or whether employees were happier or more engaged, or fewer call outs, etc. They all answered the same way: no impact. I need a bit more time before I can judge turnover. But anecdotally at least we haven’t seen the return from this investment that we’d like to be seeing.

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