Some might say that 5-year-old Aline Mae Gachassin, daughter of Warren and Katley Gachassin Jr., and granddaughter of Warren Sr. and Sandy Gachassin, owner of The New Pelicans on The Bayou, has a ready-made future. Her mother is a top notch server who manages the front of the house while the grandparents do what they do best. Sr. “Pop” boils, she does anything and everything to serve customers.
This little girl at 5 wants to be a cop. Still, service is in her blood. At the end of the school year at St. Edward School, principal Karen F. Bonin presented little Aline the Eleanor Murphy Parks Citizenship Award as a PK4 student. One student from each grade level who shows great citizenship in school and around the community is recognized. For Aline, the honors represented the following.
ATTITUDE — enthusiastic and respectful of school policies
ACADEMICS — strives to do her best.
CHARACTER — Friendly, a role model and has good relationship with others.
SHOWS SPIRIT — Participates in school and community activities, exhibits pride in being a St. Edward’s Panda.
SERVICE — is helpful.
The rewards accompanying the recognition were a $40 gift card plus a $150 scholarship toward tuition for the next school year.
Financial rewards are not always the necessary return — accomplishment for a job well done carries its own rewards.
Perhaps Robert Fulghum, author of “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” was a child like Aline. Somehow along the way, the joy of simple things and pride of one’s work, ethics in business and loyalty to one’s employer has at times been described by some in the New Iberia food industry as “recyclable staff.” Workers at several local restaurants may not have found the joy of working in the hospitality industry. Today’s Q&A explores that topic and why it is important to the owners.
Who built your lemonade stand? — Aline Gachassin
My “Pop,” my mom’s dad in Abbeville. I have a grocery store, too, it’s not real. I got it for Christmas. I had to learn how to sell lemonade. My dad gets everything ready. The inside (of the lemonade stand) has a place underneath to store the lemonade. We’re making a lot. We’ll have chairs and tables so they can sit or they can drive by. I’m going to have so much fun. Kennedy’s coming to help me, I need help.
How have you kept so many employees so long? — Catherine Huckaby, Victor’s Cafeteria
I don’t know. I think they like working here. The people who have been working here a long time are people-people. They like meeting people. I think it is a personality thing. You have to enjoy meeting people and enjoy dealing with people. The ones who serve people are on the front line. Victor and I are in the back in the kitchen or the office. But they have to enjoy what they do. And we pay the employees that have been here a while, well.
What about the new generation of employees? — Catherine Huckaby
They always want their phones and have to constantly stay on top of them. The new generation is “please me” before they please you. They are lazy. Most have an attitude of just skimming the surface of what they have to do because they think, “I am so worth more than minimum wage.” They have that because society tells them they are worth so much more. The issue is dealing with employees. It is also an environment where no matter how many times you tell an employee how you want something done, invariably, they do it the way they do things. Everyone wants respect, they’ll throw that out at you, but I will give respect when given respect. This is my home, not theirs. While at my home, it has to be done my way.
How hard is it to find good help? — Menson LeBlanc, Seafood Connection
My family has been in business for over 50 years. I have 25 percent of the employees who have been here a long time. The huge problem is youth that lack knowledge or common sense. It’s horrible, they can’t be taught. You can say it over and over, but they just want to argue. It’s too easy to go get a handout. They don’t realize the cost goes up for everyone because of that. It’s not a fix, I don’t know it. I wonder every day.
What are the qualities you look for in an employee? — Menson LeBlanc, Seafood Connection
I have three words, four. You have to care. That’s all you need. If you care a little bit, your effort is based on the business and making it better. I can spot a good employee immediately.
How hard is running a restaurant? — Mark Boudreaux, Shashlik Grill
If I could find good help. There is no draw in New Iberia to hire good personnel. I had to lay off three already, no work ethic. They say, “We have to wash dishes?” Yeah, I wash dishes, my wife washes dishes, we all wash dishes to get out of here. Then they piddle around, don’t show up. One called at 4 p.m. (restaurant closes at 2 p.m.) and said, “I overslept my alarm” to be here at 8 a.m. No one wants to start at minimum wage to begin. We had one gal that came to apply for a job and cased the joint a week before we opened. She knew what she wanted and where to find it. Stole all the meat and other things. We really did good when we found Jacoby Williams. He’s in his second semester at SLCC Culinary School student and cooks.
What can patrons do to help? — Collectively
Understand that without consistent business, few customers one day, a crowd the next, we can’t anticipate how many are needed and if a worker doesn’t show up, we are doing the best we can. • Have patience with us. Don’t give up on a new restaurant just because it takes longer to get your food than you expect. • Anticipate a learning curve but if the problem persists, address it with the owner. • People get so mad when we sell out, but it just happens. We got swamped today, tomorrow we won’t sell any. • If I had a crystal ball and could anticipate how many people were coming in, I’d cook for that number. • Support local businesses, don’t drive to Lafayette, eat local. New places are popping up all over.
New Iberia and most of south Louisiana have become known for great hospitality. Travelers from around the world explore the Cajun heritage and cultural nuances unique to the people, places and history of the community. In order to continue to grow tourism, each town and city must identify its strengths and weaknesses in order to address the problems and prosper in their strengths.
There could be some residents in the Teche Area who really enjoy people and yet don’t think they would be employable. Regardless of the industry, when any employee is doing the thing they love, they will not only excel, they will find joy and fulfillment. Where hospitality is a fundamental part of growth, addressing the needs of the food service industry is essential.