Top service: Rick Olson, owner of Bermuda Bistro at the Beach, said his staff has a “professional attitude and approach”. *Photo by Nicola Muirhead
Top service: Rick Olson, owner of Bermuda Bistro at the Beach, said his staff has a “professional attitude and approach”. *Photo by Nicola Muirhead
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One restaurant has mastered the elusive art of Bermudianization. 

As of April 1, Bermuda Bistro at the Beach’s 40+ staff will all be Bermudians. Owner Rick Olson said he set out two years ago to make this reality, which has been fuelled by the current economic climate in Bermuda.

He said locals are more likely to take jobs that have unsociable hours now as they try to make ends meet.

“This is part of a process over the last two years to try to Bermudianize. The talent pool is so much better now than it was three, four or five years ago when it was virtually impossible to find decent people to work in a local bar. They would rather work in a hotel where there were more sociable hours. We’re open to three in the morning, seven days a week, and it’s tough to find people that want to work those hours.”

He said, generally, the hours tend to attract single people who don’t have family obligations to worry about.

“Now, with so many people unemployed, it’s not about what they want, it’s about what they can get. Beggars can’t be choosers at this point. This is just a reflection of the economy.”

Mr Olson added: “There is a much better work pool now. Five years ago I couldn’t find anyone I knew was going to be good — it was more of a coin flip. Now, when I hire someone, I’m pretty sure they are going to work out.

“Everyone has a more professional attitude and approach, and they really want to work.”

He said at his other restaurant, Red, there is just one server on a work permit.

Mr Olson said most of his staff at the Beach are young, but talented. Out of the 40 or so he has hired, which counts security and DJs, just over half are full-time. 

“Before, kids may not have been working because mom and dad were subsidizing their lifestyle. Maybe the kids can’t afford to go away to college and they have to work one or two years while going to Bermuda College. 

“There’s been a real change in the overall availability of people, especially young people. This is really a young person’s business when you’re talking about working late hours and you’re on your feet all day.”

Fortunate

Mr Olson said he feels fortunate to have a Bermudian head chef as well as the rest of the kitchen staff.

“This is a hard job as these guys work 50 to 60 hours a week, sometimes more when we’re short staffed.”

He added there is a “lot of public pressure to hire locals” but term limits helped with the shift as he lost staff. 

“And some people left on their own accord because of term limits because they knew they might be next in line when their permit expired in a year’s time so people started looking to leave before they were told to leave.”

Mr Olson said that forced him to stay ahead of the curve as he didn’t want to lose all of his permit holders in one go.

“As a business, you want to gradually deal with the issue.”

He added with the high unemployment in Bermuda, businesses have a responsibility “to do the right thing. There are a lot of decent people that should be working. They can’t find work whether they’ve been laid off by HSBC or some other company might have outsourced so they are willing to get back in hospitality.”

Bermuda Bistro at the Beach will have expanded offerings and will be starting an informal Sunday brunch that has a “cool chill vibe”. The Friday night entertainment will include DJ Felix from the Big Chill while Saturday will see DJ Ole mixing it up.