Staffing success at Lula Drake begins with openness
By April Blake
Some things that begin completely unintentionally turn out to be exactly what people are seeking. And such is the case at Lula Drake Wine Parlour, an intimate wine bar on Main Street in Columbia. The unintentional way that they’ve built up a nearly all-female staff brings exactly the right feel and tone to the restaurant.
The relaxed energy is palpable on a Friday as people begin trickling in looking to unwind before heading home. Each new customer is greeted with a genuine cheeriness that’s welcoming but not falsely enthusiastic. It’s easy to sit at the bar and watch each new person entering melt into the softly-lit atmosphere. From the staff behind the bar and the servers who attentively enjoy their conversations with the people whose wine orders they take, their gracious mannerisms put guests at ease in the well-appointed, lush space.
Currently, outside of owner and head sommelier Tim Gardner and one dishwasher, the other nine employees, from the servers to the executive chef, are women. “When we first opened there were several gentlemen here but once it became mostly female, it changed in terms of hospitality for us,” said general manager Jessica Williams.
Keeping track of one another’s well-being like they would their own family is crucial each evening of service at Lula Drake. “There’s a lot of lifting one another up, and asking each other what we can do to help, and a lot of back scratching,” said Williams.
“People think that women working together is competitive, but here, it’s not,” said Rosalind Graverson, executive chef. These women treat each other respectfully, which is important in the fast-paced restaurant world, and especially in one where the servers need to retain and understand a lot of information about the complex topic of wine.
Keeping the communication door wide open is another key to their staffing success. “Everyone has these ideas and we have a staff that gets along, is constantly learning together with no competition, and the female focus is just a part of it,” said Williams.
New potential hires get told right up front, too, how tight-knit the group at Lula Drake is. When they come in, Williams said, they are told that they need to be aware that they are joining a group of people who treat each other well, and they will be loved.
Williams believes the family dynamic starts at the top and trickles down. “Tim is so great because he is a feminist in every sense of the word,” said Williams. “He treats us like he’d treat his own daughter, with respect, leniency, and trust to run this business in his absence.”