Employer of Choice – Moorland Cottage Cafe

What is your name and who do you work for? My name is Christina Jones and I’m the Café Manager at Moorland Cottage Café, Moorland. We  are located 20 minutes north of Taree and just 300m off Pacific Highway in the original bakehouse built in 1922. 

Describe your core business: Café at Moorland. The café is a great place to stop for proper home cooked food and good coffee, and we’re popular with both locals and travellers. We have great all year round seating options, including the garden with a beautiful 100-year-old Jacaranda tree, or the 100 year-old tea room with fireplace and air conditioning.  Everything is made to order. We are a dog friendly business and we have free range chickens in the back yard, although we do ask if your dog isn’t familiar with chickens that you sit in the courtyard rather than the garden . We even have a dog menu! My partner and I took over 18 months over ago and when we started we only had four staff – now we have 20.

How would you define an excellent employer?

Being a good employer is less about the big things and more about treating your staff well and being flexible. 

In your organisation, what are some of the things you do that make you an employer of choice? Hospitality is new for me, although business has always been my thing, ranging from large corporate organisations to smaller independent businesses. I learned how to treat my staff from a really good boss who treated all his staff well. My staff are part-time, so they have flexibility to change shifts and plan leave. Everyone is treated equally and with respect – there is no hierarchy, and everyone just pitches in and does what needs doing. We don’t have any politics and in-fighting because people are treated with respect.  

Christina and her staff at Moorlands Cottage Café

Why is it important to you that you are an excellent employer?

Because I have never stayed in a job if I didn’t like it – why would anyone stay in a job if they weren’t treated well? I would hope my staff would never dread coming to my workplace. My staff often come early! It’s not only about staff retention – in customer service, people treat customers the way they are treated, so it’s good for business as well.

What have you learned along your journey to becoming an employer of choice? I’ve been on a massive learning curve over the past 18 months when it comes to the logistics of running a café, but the management of the staff has been pretty easy – we just treat them right.

Management needs to be on the floor, they need to be present and visible in case of difficult situations, and so they know how things are running, what’s working and what’s not. I always back my staff – I won’t tolerate my staff being insulted or disrespected. It’s important to be in the business rather than overseeing it.

Other staff incentives include free drink and food, flexibility around need for time off, plus we take them out every quarter to have fun – rollerblading, Christmas party and gifts, such as birthday presents.

Do you employ young people (under 25)? Do you consider you do that effectively? Why/Why not? I employ people as young as 13. I like employing young people – not only because of the cheaper wages, but we can also train them from scratch. We treat young people the same as every other new employee – everyone starts with the basics but we rotate them through different tasks. Training is important – when they’re learning I encourage them to check with me if something is ok to send out, and I ask them what they think – would you be happy if that came to you? If it’s not ok, I get them to redo it. When they leave, they leave with a great set of skills they can use for their next job. 

What is your advice to organisations that want to improve as an employer? Pay the award rate! It seems that some regional businesses think it’s ok to underpay staff. There is a real cash in hand culture in this area, and I don’t think it’s ok. If you pay right you get the staff. 

What key trends do you see impacting your business in the next 5-10 years? The main one for us is the increasing cost of food as well as the general cost of living. Not only do our costs go up, but we have to pass those costs on to our customers who have less to spend on things like eating out. 


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