Like most business owners, Dave Tomlinson of St. Dave’s Diner, was not a fan of the hefty minimum wage increase from $11.60 to $14 an hour – at least not that rapidly.
By his calculations, and taking into account the other changes brought forward by the Province like more holiday pay for his 20 employees, two sick days with pay, and more expensive employee contributions because of the higher wages, it was going to cost him about $100,000 a year.
But with the Lindsay restaurant forced to consider all options before it, from removing menu items, to letting staff go, to cutting down on shifts, it did none of these things.
Tomlinson and his wife, Mariska, instead decided to hire more staff and actually expanded what they were offering
“My father always told me in times of recession or economic challenge it’s time to expand,” says Tomlinson.
And expand they did.
St. Dave’s launched a three-night-per-week buffet about a month ago that was “born out of necessity,” he says, but has been so well-received he knows they made the right choice.
“For us, rather than cut back, we said let’s change up,” Tomlinson tells The Lindsay Advocate.
Most of Tomlinson’s staff were already working full-time, 40 hours a week. He had always provided full-time work because “I would rather guarantee people their livelihoods.”
“It’s better for them, and it’s better for me so I don’t have to work around someone else’s schedule,” he says.
So with most staff already full-time, he couldn’t ask them to do all the extra work a buffet would create. That’s when he hired five entry-level, part-time staff — a dishwasher, front-end staff, and kitchen staff for buffet nights on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
He anchored these shifts with a few senior staff members to ensure things would run smoothly.
“We have exceeded all our expectations every single night,” he says of the attendance.
The food is home style, as customers expect from St. Dave’s, from mashed, roasted, and sometimes scalloped potatoes, to chicken, roast beef, pork chops and more. There’s plenty of vegetables and of course, desserts. They also change up their main items each night of the week.
After launching the buffet successfully, the Tomlinson’s now plan on semi-retiring…again. (Opening St. Dave’s Diner in 2008 was their idea of semi-retiring before.)
This latest semi-retirement will happen in the spring and will involve moving to the Cameron area on Highway 35, then converting Diamond Auto Refinishing into an ice cream parlour, pizza parlour (offering other foods, too), and a food truck.
And if that doesn’t sound relaxing enough, Tomlinson will also still be on hand as a consultant and adviser to Jason Hore, who will be taking over St. Dave’s and pretty much leaving everything to work as well as it is.
Hore has worked for Tomlinson as a server at St. Dave’s but has been learning the ins and outs of this million dollar-plus business along the way.
“We’re thankful the buffet has been so well-received,” says Tomlinson, so they can feel good about their next phase of life, knowing the St. Dave’s name will continue to thrive.