Acclaimed Auckland contemporary Indian restaurant Cassia is shaking up its operations and opening seven days a week in order to meet customer demand and also provide a better work-life balance for staff.

The news comes as restaurateurs Sid and Chand Sahrawat’s Fort Lane establishment celebrates its eighth year in operation tomorrow (July 15) and takes effect from August 15.

Cassia will open seven days for dinner and Wednesday to Sunday for lunch. (It currently operates Tuesday to Saturday for dinner and Thursday and Friday for lunch.)

The Sahrawats are expanding their team from 20 to 35 to meet the extra days of operation, which will enable kitchen teams to work a four-day week, but still earn the same salary. The move will also allow staff to swap shifts to attend family-related events, something the couple recognise as vital to attracting and retaining staff long-term. Front of house teams, meanwhile, will be able to work extra shifts if they choose to, as these are paid on an hourly basis, as opposed to a salary.

While Cassia has managed to secure most of the 35-strong team it requires for this move, the Sahrawats are still looking for a few more staff.

The couple, who also own fine dining restaurant Sid at The French Café), say they view the increased average percentage in wage costs as necessary cost of doing business. However, they are quick to recognise that few operators in the industry are currently in the position to take the same measures they have, due to a continued lack of available or willing staff and the risks associated with increased operating costs and reduced margins.

Chef Sid says Cassia’s move comes amid an extremely difficult time for the restaurant industry.

“We all need to look inwards and see what we can do,” he says. “The last couple of years we have learned we have to work with what we’ve got, and we have long recognised we need to make the industry more attractive in order to attract and retain staff.”

Sid & Chand Sahrawat. Photo credit Josh Griggs

Chand adds the decision to extend the restaurant’s operations will benefit both staff and customers.

“Cassia has always had demand from customers to open on Sundays and Mondays, as there are very few places open on these days that are family friendly and fun. Also, our other colleagues in hospitality tend to miss out as we are closed the same days,” she says.

“We used to close two days to give everyone the same days off, but we know work life balance is important to our staff and we want to make this happen for them with a four-day working week, for those who want it.

“We feel like the way to achieve this is to open seven days to give both the team and our customers what they are asking for.”

Restaurant Association of New Zealand CEO Marisa Bidois says initiatives like this one are a great way for businesses to think outside of the box when it comes to attracting and retaining employees.

“The four-day week is a concept that is being trialled in workplaces globally as a way of increasing employee satisfaction, reducing stress levels and increasing productivity.

“With the current worker shortage, many businesses have had to reduce opening hours to ensure staff are well rested.”  

Cassia’s new operating hours come into effect on Monday, August 15 with the restaurant open from 5:30 pm seven nights a week, and lunch Wednesday to Sunday. À la carte, Business Lunch and set Journey Through India menus are all available. Bookings for the restaurant and private dining rooms can be made via cassiarestaurant.co.nz.

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