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Chain LeaderEditorial Archives2005April 15 — Best Places To Work

Giving Thanks at Lawry’s Restaurants

By Margaret Littman

When Lauren Magnesio applied for a job as a server at Lawry’s The Prime Rib’s Beverly Hills location, she thought it was going to be a short-term gig. A schoolteacher with 10 years of classroom experience, she was simply looking for income to tide her over while she waited for her California teaching credentials to be approved.

That was 19 years ago. Magnesio felt so appreciated that she never left. And at the Beverly Hills Lawry’s, she is not the server with the longest tenure: One waitress has been bringing steaks and chops to diners’ tables for 41 years.

Companywide, average tenure of its 575 employees is 6.5 years and overall turnover is 50 percent, a number that has remained stable for the last four years. Bryan Monfort, vice president of operations for Lawry’s The Prime Rib, one of the four concepts operated by Escondido, Calif.-based Lawry’s Restaurants Inc., and a 25-year veteran of the $44 million company himself, says the formula for keeping servers on staff is to say “thanks.”

Lawry’s has what it calls a “sophisticated rewards program,” which includes recognizing milestones for those who have stuck with the 83-year-old brand. Servers wear diamond- and ruby-encrusted pins after five, 10 or more years of employment at the restaurant. Other gifts every five years include a Tiffany watch, which Magnesio wears daily, and the decanter that sits on her home dining-room table. Balanced preshift meals and snacks and a Thanksgiving dinner, on top of full benefits and competitive compensation, are other perks.

But a greater incentive than jewels, Monfort says, is the annual recognition lunch where Lawry’s honors both current and former employees for long service.

“The Heritage Lunch has been part of our culture for a long, long time,” Monfort says. “It is a homecoming, and what we hear over and over is that working here was one of the best experiences [former employees] ever had.”

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