Trouble in Paradise: Via Tribunali’s High Staff Turnover Could Cost Them Big

Posted on: July 16th, 2014 at 6:00 am by

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Via Tribunali on Ludlow, Photo: Danielle Guercio

Pizza is, to me, one of the most perfect foods. My heart swelled with joy and Italian pride when neighborhood il forno Via Tribunali hit the scene, but now the tides have changed.

In a few short years, staff in this establishment has turned over so many times that it was nearly impossible to become a regular. Sure, the food is consistently phenomenal, but when you yourself are a veteran hospitality worker, seeing a new face every few weeks gets old fast, especially when you become fond of a particular server or bartender. It also raises alarm bells.

Recently, we heard a tip from more than one employee who was let go that the causation for their jettison was the restaurant’s impending doom. After abruptly cancelling lunch hours and happy hour pricing, the verdict was now the chopping block? We were collectively very upset at this thought, and I was already missing the San Marzano sauce and the freshest arugula I’ve ever had.

Imagine the utter dismay when those employees, who became friends, told me of the demise of my favorite pizza Napoletana, my favorite date spot, Via Tribunali. They were closed for a grand total of 36 hours.

How soon emotions can swing backward upon learning of the gross truth of the matter; that either A. a lie to clean house took place or B. an unexpected occurrence that was never set right: A whole new staff was in place a mere two days after firing at least 3 employees under the premise of cessation of the business as a whole.

A brief chat with an employment lawyer unearthed this info: If Via Tribunali has more than 50 employees nationally, they are required to provide 60 days notice of termination or severance to any employees who work 20 or more hours per week. If 60 days notice cannot be given, pay is required to be distributed to eligible employees. If they didn’t violate that law, there is a long list of other reasons why this type of firing is a legal murky area, such as retaliation, defamation, and/or discrimination. There is also a chance that no laws were broken, but that doesn’t change the optics, which point to unethical at least.

Via Tribunali may be small in New York City, but does well on the west coast. Operational drama aside, there is a chance they acted illegally here, and at very least tainted my view of their establishment. If someone goes to your business weekly for over 104 weeks and there is NEVER a round of hirees lasting longer than a few months, they might not think anything of it. If they happen to value businesses that treat their employees with respect, they might take notice. If you dismiss employees under false pretenses, not only are you acting unfairly, but you are disrespecting the neighborhood from which you hope to draw revenue.

Becoming a regular at a bar or restaurant is not a right, but a privilege, and should not be held back by staff turnover. Despite delicious food, subpar operational practices have led myself and my date to seek business elsewhere, and the potentially illegal but definitely unethical handling of this most recent power shift solidified our decision.

You can plant a seed and it will grow something, but if you want your business to truly flourish to the point of propagation (i.e. franchising), you need a team that you can count on to cultivate it into such a specimen. Via was a great attempt, but whatever cross-country miscommunication it keeps suffering has stunted its growth and now it’s reputation as well. Perhaps if I didn’t see all of the lovely people who worked there leave over the years, this most recent string of firings wouldn’t matter at all to me, but I think I am done being the most consistent face in the joint.

-Written by Danielle Guercio

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