By LIZ BOWLING & SAGE SAUERBREY | Moonshine Ink
Empty tables or lines out the door — it’s feast or famine for many North Lake Tahoe businesses depending on the season. Managing staffing, hours, and inventory for this kind of shift could sound like a logistical nightmare to some, but local owners and managers are old hands at this kind of work. As we enter April, commonly one of the slowest months on the calendar for tourist visitation, we chat with a few of them about how they weather the peaks and troughs of Tahoe’s stormy tourism industry.
GENERAL MANAGER | Jake’s on the Lake
Your roots run deep in North Lake Tahoe. What motivated you to return to the area after college and build a life here?
Deep roots! I was born here 40 years ago and raised in Tahoe City. I left for college, traveled through many countries, and lived in Maui and southern California for many years, but Tahoe was still the standard, or the goal, for where I wanted to live and raise a family. I moved back 12 years ago and I am raising second-generation Tahoe kids (Hannah and Harper) with my wife, Beth.
Have you noticed a shift in seasonality over the years?
Well, we are a summer-driven restaurant and I can tell you that each summer of the past three or four years has gotten progressively busier and busier. The shoulder season is a challenge for everyone, but if those weekends in the shoulder season are holding warm, it seems to be busier than in the past there as well. Employment is a challenge but with summer break for kids as well as international visa programs, we are able to always get it done.
Where do you see opportunities for North Lake Tahoe in the future?
It is always the great question for North Lake Tahoe. How do we grow but maintain our mountain charm? If you don’t evolve, you die. So, staying the course — I would not consider that an option. We need people that are passionate about Tahoe City and North Lake Tahoe and want to see growth, but have the compass in their heart to know who we are not, and we are not meant for the biorhythm of a city.
Evolve and grow, but maintain our roots and our heritage.
Eric Pilcher, Josh Wallick
CO-OWNERS | Moe’s Original Bar B Que
Moe’s has been an instrumental fixture in Tahoe City since opening in 2013. You recently moved locations and expanded your offerings — have you had to staff up?
When we moved to a bigger location in May 2018, we did not need to hire anyone as we had employees that had worked for us through high school and came home from college in summers to work for Moe’s. By the time the summer was in full swing, we had plenty of staff that had returned for summer.
Many local students get their first job at Moe’s. What sort of flexible employment opportunities do you offer to your staff?
There are a number of long-term employees who return in summer and winter to work at Moe’s. Why do you think they continue to return? Most kids start out bussing and running food and washing dishes. As the employees progress, they are taught to cook the fresh daily sides and run the barbecue pit and learn cooking the meats. When the employees turn 21, there are opportunities to learn bartending and work the front counter for tips. We have written many recommendation letters for past employees to attend graduate school or receive college credit in their majors.
What are some of the seasonal employment challenges you have seen over the years? How do you overcome them?
Finding reliable staff is the biggest challenge, and ones that are committed to long-term employment at Moe’s. We will be hiring again for summer 2019 and looking for a new cycle of high school students to acquire this year. Most of our college students are in their senior year and looking to move on to their next careers.
GENERAL MANAGER | Granlibakken
There are a number of long-term employees within the company. Why do you think they stay?
Once you are here, you are part of the family — and we are one crazy family! We help each other and we are there for one another, and I think all of the long-term employees know that if they really need something, all they have to do is ask. Not many places will do that for you.
What are some of the tactics Granlibakken uses to help employees grow within their role?
I tell everyone to train the person below them to do their job, you should not fear someone taking your job, you should embrace the opportunity to move yourself forward and the person below you and so on. Everyone likes the opportunity to move forward. If an employee brings a learning opportunity to me for them to attend, I will always try to send them. We all have to keep learning and growing. That is why people keep coming to work.
What are some of the seasonal employment challenges you have seen over the years?
We are pretty lucky here as we have an employee housing complex. Since I started here in ’95, we have been utilizing the J1 and H2B students seasonally by offering them work, food, and lodging. We have some that have come back year after year.