Lady’s Slipper Café located at the Down East Mall in Montague is no ordinary food and beverage eatery.
The popular café is a community of friends and neighbours who care about each other. The aroma of Caribbean spices filters out of the kitchen to the seating area. Customers engage in conversations, and, laughter rings through the air.
Andrea Boyle and Cesar Muniz, a husband and wife team, purchased the popular café in 2014. They moved to PEI two years ago from a mining town near Las Vegas. “My biological family is from PEI,” says Andrea. “We wanted to remain on the Island. The café was for sale, so it all came together for us.”
Andrea greets customers as if welcoming long-time friends. “Cesar and I have often witnessed the kindness and the generosity customers have for each other. Some come regularly and we know them by name.
“Just the other day, a customer paid for his lunch and then paid for two elderly ladies sitting at one of the tables. He didn’t know the ladies and he didn’t want them to know he had paid for them.”
Cesar is a graduate of a two-year Culinary Arts degree program from Le Cordon Bleu, Los Vegas. He has culinary experience in his home country, the Dominican Republic, as well as in elite Las Vegas and other North American restaurants. At the café, home-style meals are created from scratch with a variety of seasonings from Cesar’s homeland. He guides the culinary team, while Andrea is the Manager and a Server.
Andrea and Cesar have embraced the slower pace of life PEI offers, compared to the hustle and bustle of living in large American cities. They feel welcomed and accepted by the rural Island community they now call home.
About the staff
There are seven year-round employees: four Servers, a Chef, two Prep Cooks, and two Dishwashers,” says Andrea.
“This winter, there were no lay-offs during the slower season. We try our best to employ staff year-round. Hiring long term staff is what we seek and strive for. We hire locally so people don’t have to commute outside their community for employment.”
“We will be hiring about five more Servers for the busier summer months,” says Andrea. “This tourism season is forecast to be busy, so will continue to hire as needed.
“For four months last summer, we ran Lady’s Slipper Café Express at the Plough the Waves Centre at Wood Islands. We had a seating area, and offered a full menu, including barbequed items.
“Last year, I employed four Servers and Kitchen staff at the express. This summer, I will need two more Cooks and another Prep Cook, which will bring my hiring needs to seven employees.
“I hired a junior high school student to greet and seat customers at the express. She was excellent and I hope to hire her again this year.”
Difficult jobs to fill
“The most difficult jobs to fill are the Cook positions,” says Andrea. “When hiring Cooks and Prep Cooks, we look for someone who is passionate, creative, and is willing to learn and be trained.
“I would rather hire a culinary arts student with little experience and train him or her, because we know they must have a passion about food to be enrolled in that program.”
“Servers need to be passionate about their job,” says Andrea. “When we hired a Server for the Montague location, she told us this was her first job in 18 years. She is doing a fantastic job and is now one of our best Servers. She is passionate about her job and demonstrates this in the workplace.
“Servers should be people oriented, quick thinking, and hard working. The café can be a very warm working environment. Servers are on their feet for extended periods of time while maintaining a cheery attitude.”
“The transferable skills useful at the café are being a quick learner, working in a fast-paced environment, and having excellent communication skills,” says Andrea.
“Most of our employees are mature workers, and we also have younger staff. We are willing to hire mature workers because of life skills that are transferable to the workplace.”
How are positions advertised?
Open positions are posted on Facebook. “I’ve also used Montague Career Development Services by informing staff about my hiring needs,” says Andrea.
“It’s a very relaxed interview process,” says Andrea. “It’s not just about the resumé or employment references. The interview is about being a friendly, caring person who is passionate about the job and fits into our café family.
“I don’t like to see people being nervous during an interview. We try to have a relaxed conversation and not a typical question-and-answer interview.”
Future business plans
“We are working on a plan to relocate to a larger location in the fall steps away from the current location,” says Andrea. “Because it will be a larger place, we will need to hire two more Servers and two more Prep Cooks.”
How to apply
“Drop by the café with an updated resumé. I review their employment history on to determine how long they stayed at previous jobs and their reason for leaving.”
Wages and benefits
Staff start at minimum wage with wage increases.
“We train the staff so they can do their job with minimum supervision, because I don’t want to babysit them. Cesar and I have been very blessed to have employees who enjoy their jobs, and they do it well.”
“Chefs must have graduated from a culinary arts program. Food safety programs, First Aid and CPR training are additional assets but not job requirements.”
Andrea and Cesar are willing to hire Front End staff, Servers, and Prep Cooks who do not have a high school education or a GED certificate.
Best way to get your foot in the door
“When someone drops by with a resumé, I always take a few minutes to talk with the person,” says Andrea. “It’s not an official interview but more like a mini interview which keeps their name fresh in my mind when I am hiring.
“Dress appropriately, use proper English instead of slang, and demonstrate a level of confidence and maturity. That will help get your foot in the door.
“Don’t exaggerate or claim to have skills that you don’t have. It’s okay to say you are not proficient. I am willing to hire someone who has basic knowledge.”
When working for the company, what are the keys to successful employment?
“Being a loyal and hard-working employee is appreciated. We reciprocate by giving staff an increase in wages when we can.
“Cesar and I host fun social events for our staff such as bowling, boating, and parties for staff and their families.”
The Rural Action Centre (RAC) partners with federal, provincial, and non-governmental organizations across PEI. It offers a client-focused service providing business loans and guidance for small and medium-sized entrepreneurs.
RAC offers government programs for community and business development, entrepreneur education, management business development to assist businesses with a start-up, support for expansion and diversification of existing businesses, and tourism product development and marketing.
“It’s wonderful and very convenient to have the RAC in the community where I can go for business and financial advice knowing they will advise me correctly,” says Andrea. “I have enrolled in several business programs offered at the RAC, and I have received financial support as well.
“If I had to travel to Charlottetown for the same services, I would not have been able to take advantage of its programs and services. There are untapped resources at the RAC that I plan to explore.”
For more information about Lady’s Slipper Café, contact Andrea Boyle or Cesar Muniz at 902-838-7088. Visit www.ladysslippercafe.ca or check Facebook.
For more information about the Rural Action Centre, visit www.ruralactioncentres.ca.