Ruby Slipper Serves Up Creative Employee Benefits
On the Sunday before last, flooding in the city was so widespread that New Orleans' Regional Transit Authority suspended all bus and streetcar service. Many families canceled their Mother’s Day outings to instead meet with insurance adjusters or bail out their flooded cars.
Because of this, many local restaurants took a financial hit — according to the National Restaurant Association, Mother's Day is the most popular day of the year to eat in a restaurant, with about 87 million people dining and spending a total $4.6 billion nationwide.
Ruby Slipper Café had to close two of its restaurants due to the flooding and much of its staff couldn’t make it into work at its other restaurants.
“No one was penalized, we knew that many had flooded cars or they were unable to use public transit,” says Jennifer Weishaupt, co-owner of the Ruby Slipper Restaurant Group. “We redistributed staff, and everyone just pitched in. We had our managers working in our kitchens and even my son (13-year-old Aiden) helped wash dishes. We are a team here.”
Jennifer and Erich Weishaupt opened their first restaurant in 2008 in post-Katrina New Orleans. The business was an instant hit, serving all-day brunch and signature cocktails. Since then Ruby Slipper has become one of the fastest growing concepts in the Southern United States. The group owns and operates two brands, Ruby Slipper Café and Ruby Sunshine. Together, the 13 restaurants employ 550 people.
“We never thought it would grow into this,” Jennifer says. “It was an evolution, and then one day we just decided to go all in and embrace it.”
In 2015, Jennifer, who has a masters degree in chemical engineering, decided to quit working at Shell Oil Company, a job she loved.
“I fought it for a while and threw myself a bit of a pity party, but I realized that that wasn’t serving anyone. So, I committed to hiring experts in such things as human resources, marketing and training. We wanted people who could help us build a team that embraced our culture, and we knew we wanted to offer the kind of benefits that would help improve our staff’s quality of life and we wanted to do everything we could to support their needs.”
Besides offering benefits like medical and dental insurance and paid time off, Ruby Slipper has also partnered with Ed navigator, a nonprofit that works with businesses to help families find a path to success in school and beyond.
Navigators’ experts meet with employees during breaks or before and after work hours to help parents keep students on track in school and support adult learners as they pursue their own educational dreams.
“Here in New Orleans, they help parents decide on what schools to send their children to and, even more importantly, how to apply for them,” says Jennifer. “Ed Navigator helps take off some of parents’ stress.’ It’s hard to focus on work if you’re worried about what’s happening at home or school.”
Talaris Randolph started at the Canal Street location almost five years ago and is now a manager at the Broad Street location. Her 8-year-old son, Kingston, attends the International School of Louisiana and she says Ed Navigator has been a huge help.
Ruby Slipper also uses the Kazoo app, which recognizes and celebrates employees with points that they can spend on rewards.
“You get points for work anniversaries, filling out paperwork and we got points for coming in after the flood on Mother’s Day,” Talaris says.
Jennifer and Erich also celebrate workers’ anniversaries and encourage their managers to make meals for their staff on Saturdays or Sundays. They even set up a daycare at their offices after an ice storm last year shut down schools, providing employees with a place to bring their children.
“At Ruby Slipper, they treat everyone with respect,” says Talaris. “And they make it a point to know all of our names. They treat us all equally — from dishwasher to manager — and they invest in us and are always open to our ideas. There is so much room to grow in this company and it’s a great culture to be a part of.”