The post from Neighborhood Dining Group (NDG) President David Howard popped up on Minero’s Instagram on Thursday: “… given the negative incidents that continue to come to light in our industry, including sexual, verbal and physical abuse towards staff, I feel it necessary to make my stance on this matter very clear.”
In the letter, Howard, the president of McCrady’s Tavern, McCrady’s, Minero, and all of the Husks, laid out his feelings on workplace culture that fostering a safe and supportive environment for his employees is paramount.
The post comes on the heels of numerous allegations against high profile chefs and restaurateurs — from Mario Batali to John Besh — instances that Howard says make him furious.
“I’m very fortunate. Everything I have I owe to my staff. It’s the staff that makes all our businesses,” he says. “For people to then turn around and exploit the very people that bring you fame and success, that’s unacceptable. If an individual makes a poor decision about their personal conduct, that’s one thing. I’m not a prefect human being and I’ve made bad decisions in my life. But a culture that’s intent on taking advantage of people and exploiting them, a philosophy that goes on for a long period of time, I think that’s unacceptable.”
Of course, Howard’s restaurants have not been immune to the problems so often associated with misconduct. In a highly-publicized incident in 2011, a Husk assistant manager was involved in a fatal late-night wreck on the Ravenel Bridge which killed another F&B worker. In a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the victim’s family, NDG was accused of allowing the man to “drink to excess on company property before he attempted to drive home to Mt. Pleasant.” NDG paid $1.1 million to settle the suit in 2012, according to the Post and Courier.
“The truth of the matter, this was a manger that left our building and then returned to the building drunk,” says Howard about the incident. But he doesn’t try to spit shine his company’s history either adding that “I’ve fired so many people for their behavior.”
And that seems to be the overall message of Howard’s holiday epistle: actions have consequences.
The president says that in the midst of hiring 150-plus employees over the past two months for Husk Greenville and Savannah — incidentally just six months after NDG’s chef Sean Brock made his fight with addiction public — Howard felt compelled to fully reiterate what he says he’s been committed to since starting his company.
“I find myself wanting to communicate to my staff how I feel and what my position is. My intent is to protect them. I want them to know if something is happening or happens in the future, I encourage them to talk to me,” he says.
And he says he’s serious about that too. In each employee manual, Howard says is the direct contact number for his own personal cellphone.
“I’m not trying to be fashionable. I’m not trying to be hip. This is what I’ve always believed,” adds Howard. “I want to make sure that I’ve communicated to my staff that if there is something going on inappropriate, they have the HR manager contact, director of operations, or myself.”
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