European Foodservice Summit 2022

How to become a great big family

Christina Block at the 23rd European Foodservice Summit in Zurich.
Thomas Fedra
Christina Block at the 23rd European Foodservice Summit in Zurich.

“We employ 2,400 employees from 18 nations. How do we get them and how do we retain them?” At the 23rd European Foodservice Summit Christina Block, shareholder and member of the supervisory board of Hamburg-based Block Group gave insights into the family company’s Personnel strategy.

Block group is not only a company that is still the family’s hands, it is also has a long-standing tradition of living and sharing values. One of them is to think of all employees as family members. “My parents tried to keep up with all the needs and worries of our employees. It was not uncommon that the telephone rang on a Sunday and there was an employee wanting to talk to one of them”, remembers Christina Block.
 
More than five decades after founding the company that now employs 2,400 people, that might not be the case anymore, but communication and close exchange is still an important factor in dealing with the employees. Therefore, different formats and occasions like regular fireplace talks were introduced. To keep up with the concerns and interests of the staff, the company also has an elected employee representative.

This year, the Block Group launched a recruiting campaign. "Since the beginning of our campaign we were able to fill 80 Percent of our vacancies", reported Christina Block in Zurich.
Block Group
This year, the Block Group launched a recruiting campaign. "Since the beginning of our campaign we were able to fill 80 Percent of our vacancies", reported Christina Block in Zurich.

Appreciation is of course also reflected in the appropriate financial recognition of work. Block offers its staff not only fair payment, usually above the common agreement level, but also additional benefits such as special bonuses or holiday pay. A revenue participation for service staff was launched already a long time ago. Above that, staff at Block enjoys free meals and drinks. From the position of restaurant manager upwards, employees can chose to have a company car. “Currently, I am considering company bikes for the Gen Z”, says Christina Block.  

Apart from the financial security, there is also the emotional factor, knows businesswoman Christina Block. It is one thing to become a big company, but it is another thing to become a great big family. Just like in a real family, celebrations are also a fixed part of the company calendar. The Block group celebrates yearly jubilee parties, Christmas parties, a summer event as well as executive meetings and training sessions for the top 20 service employees.

What makes an employee want to stay?

“It is the family corporate culture that makes our people want to stay with us,” says Christina. “We are generously rewarding special achievements and we are strengthening a sense of belonging.” Part of this strategy is also to express employee appreciation and to involve employees in decision-making processes, but also leading employees to their performance limits, discovering and promoting talents.
 
“The main reason why people want to stay is, that they can move forward within the company,” believes the entrepreneur. “Therefore training and continuing education is a very important fact. We offer 29 different apprenticeships, we employ a total of 82 different job descriptions. These jobs are in an ongoing change process, continuously new jobs are created.”
 
 

Last but not least, the company’s values must be right. No one wants to work anymore for a company with a questionable image. Employer branding might not be the main driver for Block’s engagement in sustainability and animal welfare – but it is still an important factor in that context. “Our sustainable undertakings are important for the younger generation of employees”, concludes Christina Block.

THE BLOCK GROUP

With more than six million guests a year, the steak expert Block House is one of the front-runners in branded gastronomy. The Block House restaurant operations are part of the Block Group, which is headquartered in Hamburg. The company currently operates a total of 66 restaurants and could generate a turnover of 100.3 million euros in 2021.

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