CLEVELAND — Crystal Idom started as a dishwasher at the Happy Dog six years ago and her dedication has paid off, as she’s now the kitchen manager. 

What You Need To Know

  • The Ohio Restaurant Association did a study that found 90% of restaurants saw a decrease in customer demand over the past few weeks

  • The owner of Happy Dog wants to change the culture of his industry to avoid turnover

  • He’s hoping to put together a working group to study turnover and retention in his industry

“It’s so laid back, everybody [is] cool with one another,” Idom said. 

Owner Sean Watterson says that’s one reason he keeps staff, while other restaurants are dealing with constant turnover. 

“That’s why this place works because we have really excellent people, just really good people at their core,” Watterson said. 

Watterson helped guide a task force to ensure that local venues received federal COVID-19 relief funds. Now, he’s working with the Fund For Our Economic Future organization, aimed at advancing job growth, and improving workforce systems. 

Watterson says one way the Happy Dog retains its staff is by letting them wear several hats. On a Wednesday, someone may tend bar, and on a Thursday, they may perform on stage.

“If they are able to go out on tour, a two-week Midwest tour, they’ll have a job when they come back,” Watterson said. 

Watterson believes the environment must change in order to attract and retain talent. So he’s creating a working group to dissect the causes of that issue. 

“These are typically low-wage sector jobs, and that’s why the culture of these workspaces is so important,” Watterson said. 

Watterson also has to attract customers. A study by the Ohio Restaurant Association found that 90% of restaurants saw customer demand drop over the last few weeks. But Watterson is optimistic that the customers are coming back. 

“Right around the NBA All-Star game, that’s when people started feeling comfortable coming back. Now all we have to worry about is inflation,” Watterson said.