What can I make for you?
This is the attitude with which Ali Bauer greets each guest at Cherry Street Cellar. She has brought her own style to the Columbia restaurant, embracing a mantra of leadership through service. Having worked in restaurants that operated under a culture of fear, she chose to break away from that and focus on what she can do to help her employees and customers.
“I think that when your employees feel like their needs are met, whether those include emotional or physical support, it creates a culture of teamwork,” Bauer said. “As a leader, I am not going to be the one that is yelling at people, or belittling or berating them.”
Bauer’s employees remained at the forefront of her plans as the pandemic unfolded and created uncertainty for many in the industry. With a quick pivot at the onset of COVID-19, Bauer was able to temporarily transition her fledgling restaurant into a subscription meal service called Chef Share.
“I felt an obligation to our staff to continue having employment for them,” Bauer said. “We were utilizing our staff fully in the kitchen. We were utilizing the front of the house staff as well, in packaging all of those things.”
With the return of dine-in service, Cherry Street Cellar discontinued Chef Share. But service to clients and employees remains of the utmost importance at the restaurant, Bauer said, recognizing the link between employees and customers in the hospitality industry.
“Hospitality is not just witnessed, but it is experienced,” Bauer said. “When our staff feels supported and happy, I feel like that is going to be transmitted through their extension of hospitality to the guests.”
Cherry Street Cellar is being honored as one of the winners of this year’s Kindness in Business Awards in the Kindness to Employees category. The awards recognize Boone County businesses and organizations that have exhibited and promoted kindness during the past year.
Missouri Business Alert spoke with Bauer about Cherry Street Cellar and its efforts to show kindness. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Missouri Business Alert: How would you say your business embodies kindness?
Ali Bauer: I think that the restaurant industry has kind of been tainted by this kind of leadership by fear. I believe in service-based leadership where I, as a leader, am actively working with my team and finding ways to serve them.
MBA: What have been some of your favorite moments at the restaurant?
AB: Being in the kitchen, we oftentimes don’t have the chance to really connect with our customers on the same level that our servers do. What was actually really special about our pivot business during COVID was that we became very intimately connected with and aware of our clients, just on a more personal level. We felt like we got to really know the clients, which is unique for the kitchen. Even now, we’ll get a client from the Chef Share days. We’ll see their name on the reservation book and get really excited.
MBA: How do you measure success in your business?
AB: I would say that overall success for a business is making connections with clients and customers. We understand that the overall dining experience is not just a singular thing. It’s not just about good food, or just about good service. It’s about an overwhelming atmosphere of welcoming hospitality. It’s all these little details that kind of come together to make a warm and memorable experience for a guest.