Johnny’s Hideaway owner Chris D’Auria attributes the immense success of his iconic Atlanta nightclub to his staff, and he has an impressive reputation for retaining employees, four of which have been working at Johnny’s for more than 20 years. Among all the challenges that Johnny’s faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, the most pressing for D’Auria was taking care of his team. Now, he’s sharing how he maintains this low turnover rate during times of both success and struggle.
“People are looking for consistency when they go out, and our patrons know they’ll always receive the same high-quality service regardless of whether it’s a Monday afternoon or a Saturday night,” says D’Auria.
This consistency comes from the fact that Johnny’s policies and procedures—from the genres of music played to the types of drinks served—are set in stone. It is rare to find the level of structure that D’Auria has established in what he calls “this crazy setting of a bar business.” Bartenders, cocktail servers and disc jockeys that respond well to that structure have become fixtures at the popular nightclub. While management’s rules may seem strict at first, D’Auria says most of his longtime employees actually end up thanking him for running such a tight ship.
“It’s such controlled chaos; we always say we’re the Titanic right before the iceberg at all times,” he says.
The training that goes into preparing new hires for this chaos is another method that D’Auria uses to improve employee satisfaction. He puts cocktail servers through a progression of shifts that increase in intensity, often weeding out those who are unable to handle it by the third night.
“It takes about six weeks for new hires to really get their footing and form a connection with our regulars,” he explains. “Many of our longtime patrons text their favorite servers on Friday before coming in to find out what section they’re working.”
D’Auria pays special attention to staffing levels (never more than four bartenders and generally six cocktail servers) so that his employees have just as much of a chance to make money during a weekday shift as they do during a busy weekend night. This level playing field removes the often cutthroat elements of the business and instead breeds both job satisfaction and a sense of teamwork. His employees do not even have to ask each other for help when things get hectic; it’s second nature among the entire staff to anticipate one another’s needs. As a result, Johnny’s employees cite camaraderie as their favorite part of the job.
Little did the Johnny’s team know that camaraderie would be their life raft during the unimaginable challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though the nightclub has now returned to the same level of business it was doing in 2019, it was D’Auria’s commitment to securing support and financial assistance for his employees, coupled with the overall solidarity of the team, that kept Johnny’s ship afloat in 2020.
Johnny’s Hideaway is located at 3771 Roswell Road, NE in Atlanta. For updates on the restaurant and upcoming events, follow Johnny’s Hideaway on Instagram and Facebook. For additional information, call 404-233-8026 or visit johnnyshideaway.com.