Planday caught up with Leo Castro, General Manager of the Rumba Cubana Restaurant Group in New Jersey, to find out more about bringing Cuban home cooking to the community. We also learned more about what better scheduling means for their family business and tightly-knit staff.
New Jersey City Meets Havana
Leo recounts that Allan, the founder of the restaurant group, always dreamed of bringing authentic Cuban cuisine to the New Jersey community, because there was simply nothing like it in the area. He and his family wanted to bring more unusual ingredients such as yucca and green plantains to the community.
Allan started learning how to make Caribbean recipes from his mum and eventually put enough money together to open the first cafe in Jersey City Heights. Fast forward to 2019 and the group is opening their fifth location, employs 250 staff, and still retains its focus on making their guests feel at home as their biggest priority.
Homely Reception, High Service Standards
What works for us is that our service is very humble and welcoming. We treat people like they’re guests at home. We like guests to come here and feel like they’re a part of the family, like they’ve come to grandma’s house for a meal.
I also like to add a touch of high class service standards, which I was used to in my previous role in hospitality — simple stuff like cleanliness, smile, and consistency. That is very important, because it means that whether you come here on Tuesday or a Friday, you’re always going to get the same level of service.
Scheduling Family Business
Although we’re a big family and treat all of our staff and guests as such, we still need to have order behind the scenes. We certainly did not have that when I first joined the business, as all the scheduling was done with pen and paper. This meant lost sheets of vacation approvals, signatures needed everywhere and a lack of certainty for the staff. There was no consistency and control in that. I knew immediately that we needed to get a scheduling system onboard, because I spent hours every week on those sheets of paper.
It was so important to me to get something figured out, because I understand my staff have commitments and sometimes changing schedules requires careful planning when other members of their family depend on them. For example, my hostess and front of house, Selina, has a five month old baby boy and it is crucial for her to know her schedule in advance, so she can arrange babysitting, or so she can easily swap shifts if her baby falls ill.
Tools For Success
Planday has assisted us in being able to do payroll accurately and has been tremendously helpful for staff when they want to swap shifts. They can just go into the system, swap with their colleagues, and as a manager all I have to do is simply approve it. Things happen in life – people get sick, they have weddings, events, and emergencies.
Planday makes it easier to plan around that with your iPad or phone from home or wherever you are. I have a template set up for certain weeks, and it’s super easy to duplicate for the future just by pasting them with one click.
‘Appsolutely’ Easy Communication
Planday has made such a massive difference to our business, I actually think I would be lost without it, believe it or not. As a manager, it gives me a peace of mind that we’re doing the right thing for the business as well as the employees. I’m really happy with the GPS-based Punch Clock feature, which only allows them to clock in when they’re physically at work. It also motivates the staff to get to work on time, because they know if they’re late, there will be repercussions as everything is accurately recorded.
As far as communication goes, Planday is a lifesaver, because it really improved my relationship with the staff due to the transparency and ease of use. They all have the app on their phone, so if they have any questions, they can ask them on there any time of day or night. That way, I know what their concerns are as soon as they arise, and we can either solve it right away or sit down and talk about it in person the next day.