Quentin Gillis recognized a business opportunity after a successful season of operating Wicked Fries in the heart of Morell village.
Wicked Fries is a mobile take-out food and beverage service that operated from May to November in 2015 with nine staff. People and cars were constantly lined up in front of the take-out food truck.
The popularity and demand for the take-out service motivated Quentin to open a year-round restaurant in Morell while continuing with the seasonal mobile food truck.
They opened Holy Cow Burgers & Wings in 2015, a couple of months after closing Wicked Fries for the season. The Holy Cow parking lot is usually packed with vehicles, which is testimony to the popularity of the business.
Quentin has been employed in food and beverage service for 16 years. He started as a server at a high-end resort, and was later promoted to a supervisory role. Tanya worked her way through school serving at the very same location, which was the former Jonsey’s.
Products and services
Holy Cow is a licensed full service, year round restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week. As well, it offers off-site catering services. There is room for 100 diners inside, and about 30 on the outdoor patio in the summer time.
“About 70 percent of our menu items are locally sourced,” says Quentin. “We specialize in using PEI beef burgers and PEI cut fries. During the summer months, we offer food tourists are looking for, such as lobster rolls and other seafood dishes.”
About the staff
Holy Cow offers employment opportunities for residents in a rural area. There are 26 staff members, and 97 percent are local hires. About 35 percent of the staff work full-time during the slow season.
- Kitchen Manager
- Food & Beverage Service Manager
- Food & Beverage Servers
- Line Cooks
- Counter Attendants
- Line Cooks
Most difficult job to fill
“We have 10 kitchen staff,” says Quentin. “Cooks and line cooks are the most challenging positions to fill.
“Cooks and line cooks should be comfortable with high stress levels, and have previous experience and time management skills.
“Kitchen staff are responsible for producing high quality food in a reasonable time frame of 20 minutes when it gets super busy.”
Future hiring needs
“We have many students who work for us in the summer and return to school in the fall,” says Quentin. “The remaining Wicked Fries staff work at Holy Cow after the take-out food and beverage operation closes for the season.
“In March, we start the hiring procedure for cooks, line cooks, and dishwashers. If our Burger Love campaign is as successful as it was last year, we will start hiring extra staff in April.
“We didn’t win the Island-wide Burger Love contest last year, but we consider ourselves a winner. For a restaurant in a small, rural community 25 minutes outside of Charlottetown, we managed to get our name out there as a new establishment with a popular burger.”
What jobs need to be filled throughout the year?
“We always accept resumés and look for the right people for the job,” says Quentin. “Our hiring needs are not as great during the off season as it is during the rest of the year.”
What is the hiring procedure?
Quentin does the interviewing and hiring. He says it always nice to meet someone to put a face to the name on the resumé.
Servers receive on-the-job training. Cooks and line cooks need to have previous experience.
Transferable skills from previous employment that would suit working for this employer.
“Servers can use skills learned from other employment, such as having high energy, being personable, problem solving on their feet, and having a welcoming attitude.
“The transferable skills kitchen staff can apply to jobs with us include time management, working under stressful situations at times, standing for long periods, and creativity in developing menu items.”
Wages and benefits
“The standard wage for front of the house staff is minimum wage with generous earnings from tips,” says Quentin.
“We are very generous with what we pay cooks and line cooks, because they have the necessary skill sets and work in what can be a very challenging environment.”
Is there a need for bilingual staff?
“We have two or three French speaking employees,” says Quentin. “We had many French speaking tourists this season, so it would be good to have more bilingual staff on every shift.”
It’s a fast-paced work environment, where staff are on their feet for long periods of time and problem solve while offering fast, friendly service.
Best way to get your foot in the door
“I prefer if people drop by the restaurant with their resumé and talk with me in person,” says Quentin.
“I always like meeting people face-to-face. From working in the industry for so many years, I can tell more about the person if we meet.”
Three typical interview questions
- How many hours a week are you willing to work?
- Are you willing to work weekends and evenings?
- Are there any scheduling issues we would have to work around?
- What wage are you expecting?
How to stand out during the hiring process
“When hiring servers, we look for people who have high energy and are personable,” says Quentin.
“When hiring kitchen staff, we look for dedicated people who don’t get too overwhelmed or stressed when it gets super busy.”
Education / training required
“Education requirements depend on the position,” says Quentin. “We have junior high, high school, and university students working with us.” Servers must have (or be willing to get) their Responsible Servers License, and it is beneficial for any staff to have food safety training.”
When working for the company, what are the keys to successful employment?
“It’s understanding and executing the job requirements that are the keys to successful employment,” says Quentin. “The staff needs to know the expectations of the manager or owner and be able to work up to that level.”
Future business plan
“It’s a successful business,” says Quentin. “We need to continue to provide a good level of service, great food, and create new ideas that will attract customers, both local and from away.”
“There is opportunity for a wage increase based on the work ethics of the employee,” says Quentin.
For more information about Holy Cow Burgers & Wings and Wicked Fries, contact Quentin Gillis at 902-739-3797 or visit www.facebook.com/holycowpei.