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On Tuesday there’ll be the first-ever employee appreciation day at Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen, and the occasion calls for a good bit more than mere pats on backs.


Speaking by phone with Food & Dining Magazine, owner Tony Palombino detailed his resolve to involve employees, customers and company leaders in an all-encompassing worker celebration.

“I was trying to think of something besides the typical Christmas bonus that we usually give out,” said Palombino. “What can be a great way of doing something fun and celebrating employees?”

It led Palombino to think about those places like his, where everyone knows your name.

“They have such a loyal following there (at Merle’s) in terms of customers, and certain employees have been there for so long so long. They have an incredible customer base. I’m thinking it would really be a cool thing for everyone who appreciates them to be involved, besides just management or the leadership side of the company. The guests themselves can celebrate the people that they go two or three times a week to see, to have a drink or food and whatnot.

“I’ve seen the interactions over the years with customers, guests and our employees and it’s a tight knit bond that you see has been developed.”

Employee appreciation day at Merle’s will take place during regular business hours tomorrow (Tuesday, December 17, 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.)

“It’s 100% of the profits going to the employees,” Palombino explained. “We will divide it up among them based on tenure. But everyone will participate in it that is employed there. We should have some fun with it.”

“You hear a lot of leaders say things, lots of clichés, but the employees are everything to me and my family, and the organization — they make the whole thing tick. It’s so true, and I wish I could show them more appreciation. And I thought this would be the best way.”

For Palombino, as for many of us, the restaurant business is about family. His coda is for all seasons, not Christmas alone.

“For me — and this is how I grew up — it was about family, and it truly is. Keeping that perspective for me, there’s no other word for it. It doesn’t matter how big your company is. It just doesn’t matter. But for me, family is the only word that I feel is appropriate and dead on in terms of the feelings I’m trying to convey.”