Black Sheep Restaurant's co-founders felt the employees deserved to head home after a stressful year of the pandemic.
At a time when workers are quitting their jobs over poor pay and toxic work conditions, one restaurant is showing the way to care for its employees. Black Sheep Restaurants group, from Hong Kong, is shelling out more than $650,000 so their employees can head home and spend time with their families. This comes on the back of a year that has been punishing for the food industry and workers of the service industry. Many workers endured great personal risk to keep businesses running during the pandemic and this restaurant wants to thank them for their service. The staff at Black Sheep Restaurants come from all over the world including India, Argentina, Nigeria, France, South Africa, and Australia but the founders say, "It felt like the right thing to do," reported CNN.
The program was the brainchild of Black Sheep Restaurant's co-founders, Syed Asim Hussain and Christopher Mark. Hussain said they came up with the idea after downing a few bottles of wine but the idea stuck long after the buzz wore off. "It was a silly idea," he said. As crazy as the idea seemed, Hussain and Mark decided to run it by their advisors. "The next day we spoke with our business people — they were totally against it. They're there to help us not make stupid decisions," said Hussain. They still went ahead with it, because it just felt like the right thing to do.
"Our business people are amazing and help us understand the liability and risk, but it's going to get in the way of doing the right thing," says Hussain. "This always is a business in which margins are razor-thin, but especially now. I understand it was kind of brazen — but it felt like the right thing to do." Not only is business covering the costs of flights, and the necessary Coronavirus tests, but is also giving workers extra weeks of unpaid leave that will help them undergo Hong Kong's notorious hotel quarantine. Hong Kong has very strict rules that demand returning residents to spend either two or three weeks, at their own expense, quarantining in designated hotels. Black Sheep Restaurants will also be providing the employees nightly meals from one of their 32 restaurants. The only caveat of the program is that they complete one year of service upon returning.
Some of the staff couldn't be happier at the decision and they say that it couldn't have come at a better time considering the pandemic forced many to stay away from their loved ones. Amy Stott hails from Manchester and hasn't seen her parents in over two years. "Simply not being able to physically hug your mum and be there when they need support has been mentally challenging," said Stott. "Since Covid, I have had to become more conservative with spending, as you simply don't know what is around the corner. The cost of quarantine plus flights is money I simply do not have to spare." Stott can't wait to have fish and chips back home. "My dad said that he knew already that I work with amazing people, but this is by far the most generous gesture he had come across. My mum just sobbed," she said.
Sandeep Arora, a restaurant manager with Black Sheep, hails from Jalandhar, India, and is eager to see his family, having seen them last in March 2020. "I haven't been home since the pandemic started, which has been really difficult for me and my family," he said says. "My son is only eight so he is at an age where they seem to grow up so much, even in a month." Gurung, who hails from Nepal, can't wait to get back and see his parents and his beloved dog. Gurung said he is worried about his elderly parents during the pandemic and can't wait to see them.
When asked if someone would take advantage of the program, Hussain reasoned that they probably needed it. "Let's get people home. We don't want to be draconian about implementation, because then it loses its weight and value," he said.