HONU Shares Its Secret to Overcoming Restaurant Workforce Challenges through Advanced Technology


When the pandemic hit and social restrictions were imposed, many restaurant employees struggled with massive layoffs, a severe decline in working hours, and salary reductions by employers to reduce business costs. While restaurants made a quick turn to pick-up and delivery service to survive, those unemployed individuals had no choice but to seek employment elsewhere or sign on for unemployment benefits.

INow, two and a half years into the pandemic, restaurants are opening up again, and diners are tucking in. Even Statistics Indonesia noted that accommodation and F&B, which includes restaurants, was one of the sectors with the highest GDP growth at 6.56% and employed 470,000 people from February 2021 to February 2022. As the COVID situation is improving and restaurants are back in business, many, such as HONU Poké & Matcha Bar, are adjusting their strategies to ensure productivity and retention of their workforces.

There are many talents out there, but if we hire the wrong person, we lose the productivity of the person we hire. If we hire the right one, they can produce a good quality of work. Thus, we need to reevaluate our HR strategy to hire the best talent and retain them long term.


- Stefani Hutabarat, HR Lead at HONU Group

Consequently, retaining current staff by keeping them motivated and engaged is now a crucial part of HONU’s efforts to strengthen its workforce. 

HONU Poké & Matcha Bar was first established in Kemang, Jakarta, in 2017 as the first Indonesian restaurant to offer Poke Bowl (Hawaiian dish), founded by Sashia Rosari, Jenda Badilangoe, and Kevin Rumantir. As local enthusiasm for the dish grew, the restaurant opened in other locations, including Thamrin, BSD, Bintaro, and Bellezza. The three founders went on to develop other business units under HONU Group, where Stefani led the workforce that has grown to 75 employees, with a range of roles spanning chef, cook helper, server, cashier, marketing, finance, and more. 

The way she sees it, technology is already being effectively used in restaurants, from fulfilling online orders from customers to managing staff schedules, assessing, and hiring. Yet those existing technologies have not addressed the main problem employees face, like those living paycheck-to-paycheck and the financial stress that comes from it. She is aware that stress plays a huge role in the productivity and focus of employees, especially in a restaurant business where everything is fast-paced and can be overwhelming.

She said that waiting a month for the employees to get their salary was challenging considering today’s rising cost of living and their struggle to manage personal cash flow. However, she doesn't encourage them to turn to illegal predatory lenders because of their high-interest rates, the possibility of getting stuck in a cycle of debt, and aggressive collection practices.

That’s why when Stefani knew there was an innovative platform that lets employees access a portion of their earned salary whenever needed, she looked at wagely as a way to improve employee financial wellness.

Originally, we had a kasbon initiative, but it wasn’t necessarily effective. Kasbon was unable to provide immediate access at a time when employees need financial support as quickly as possible, so wagely has helped our staff with that.


- Stefani Hutabarat, HR Lead at HONU Group

She added she was surprised after learning how many employees have used the earned wage access benefit and the positive feedback she had received. One of them is Abadi Musa Putra, who has been working at HONU as a store manager since 2018. His wife and kid recently got sick while he was running out of cash and not having enough savings at the same time.

I was quite relieved when HR introduced wagely to me because I could withdraw a portion of the salary that I’ve already earned even though payday hasn’t come yet.


- Abadi Musa Putra, Store Manager at HONU Group

Adding about the app has made him a lot more reassured and more comfortable working as he knows he has it just in case he needs it. 

Abadi is not the only one feeling benefited from having access to this type of financial wellness benefit. According to the Financial Health Survey conducted by wagely with more than 3,500 participants, 77.5% of employees surveyed are more loyal to staying with their company after using earned wage access. Moreover, 40% of employees stopped applying for kasbon/loan, while 25% said they apply for it a lot less now.

On top of that, Stefani said HONU embraced a casual atmosphere at work and paid attention to making the workplace more enjoyable and relaxed. HONU also throws fun activities like company outings for employees to get together and unwind in a non-work environment. “We believe when employees feel valued, they feel better about coming into work and getting their job done right. We’re always looking out for the satisfaction of our customers, so it is also equally important for us to look out for the wellbeing and satisfaction of our employees," concluded Stefani.



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