Sterling Hospitality Hosts Annual Tenure Party to Present Rolex Watches for All 15-Year Employees

Atlanta-Based Hospitality Company Behind Marlow’s Tavern, Sterling Culinary Management, and the Woodall Builds a Culture of Recognition, Rewards Hourly and Salaried Staff for Their Loyalty, and Attracts Long-Term Workforce

Sterling Hospitality, the parent company behind Marlow’s Tavernthe Woodall and Sterling Culinary Management, hosted the company’s annual Tenure Party on Wednesday, May 1 at Marlow’s Tavern in Brookhaven. The Tenure Party is one of the many ways the restaurant group shows its appreciation for employees’ contributions and loyalty to the organization. Tenure recognition begins at five years of employment at Sterling Hospitality, and both hourly and salaried employees are rewarded with gifts ranging from the choice of items in an employee awards catalog to a Rolex watch to an all-expense paid trip as they reach 20 years with the company.

“We started giving the Rolex as a gift for those 15-year team members because I wanted it to be something meaningful to thank them for their commitment of time, and something that our employees would cherish forever,” says John C. Metz, executive chef, CEO and co-founder of Sterling Hospitality. “The continued success of Sterling depends on our loyal team members, and all of our employees are equal when it comes to tenure, regardless of their position.”

Recognition at Sterling Hospitality is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s a very emotional process for Metz, who selects each employee’s Rolex watch to ensure it perfectly suits the recipient. He has gifted 20 Rolex watches in the past few years, and this year’s 10 recipients include four executive-level employees, a general manager, a sous chef, two line cooks, a banquet server, and one of their cashiers.

Although most companies choose 20- or 25-year anniversaries for a large reward like this, Metz intentionally picked a different goal year to acknowledge due to the industry’s notoriously high turnover rate. Fifteen years is a significant tenure in the hospitality field. When people reach that level, it makes a difference in the business and is an opportunity to solidify that relationship long into the future.

This reward program is closely connected with the company’s overall ethos, clearly outlined in the Marlow’s Tavern employee handbook, also known as the “Marlow’s Magic Book.” The Magic Book outlines the restaurants’ values, guiding principles, employee attributes, and promises to all stakeholders, providing world-class hospitality to the many neighborhoods that Marlow’s Tavern serves. The Marlow’s Tavern brand turns 20 years old this November, and in an industry where the average employee tenure is less than four months, Sterling Hospitality can retain employees for so long, thanks to the company’s culture and the people behind it.

“It’s the way we do things,” says Kaffee Hopkins, vice president of marketing and administrative officer of Sterling Hospitality. “Our team members truly get to impact each guest’s dining experience. We care about good food and real hospitality. Sterling is a great place to have a career, not just a job,” she adds.

Providing a nurturing work environment where employees feel valued in such a volatile industry isn’t easy, but Sterling has managed to do so with rigorous hiring, screening, and development standards, extensive employee training, and an exemplary leadership team in addition to its recognition and rewards program. Some of these strategies include:

  • Career development and reward opportunities through Marlow’s University. Employees can further their knowledge in any area that interests them, from a catering master class to educational sessions on spirits, via the company’s online training site. Employees receive points for every class they take and can redeem them for gift cards.
  • Internal promotions: Sterling Hospitality promotes from within, providing avenues for career growth and motivating employees to stay for the long term. Over 61% of the 64 Marlow’s Tavern salaried managers have been internal promotions.

About Sterling Hospitality
Sterling Hospitality operates Marlow’s Tavern, which offers classic American tavern fare with an upscale twist, as well as Sterling Culinary Management, which specializes in creating on-site restaurant and café options for the corporate dining industry, and the Woodall, which serves a globally inspired take on contemporary favorites. In 2022, the Georgia Restaurant Association named Sterling Hospitality its Hospitality Hero of the Year during the annual Georgia Restaurant Association Crystal of Excellence (GRACE) Awards ceremony.