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A stable restaurant career? It’s right here.

NM Johnceisemier B 8048 900X675

How our NM restaurant pivoted during the pandemic 

For Wisconsin-based employees, Northwestern Mutual’s onsite restaurant offers free lunch to employees or “customers” every day. But, in 2020 as the pandemic spread, the majority of employees shifted to working from home. According to Reuters, during the pandemic, restaurant workers accounted for more than a quarter of the 22 million layoffs. Yet, at NM we wanted to defy this statistic by using our restaurant space and retaining our people safely. 

While employees have largely returned to campus and our onsite restaurant operations have resumed, the resiliency of our restaurant teams during that time left a lasting impression. Learn how we created new opportunities for our restaurant employees during the pandemic. 

From Serving Employees to Serving the Community 

In the early days of the pandemic, our restaurant had a unique opportunity to give back and support our local Milwaukee community by providing meals to those in need. We provided more than 6,500 meals between October 2020 and July 2021 to the COA Goldin Center in Milwaukee’s Amani neighborhood. Not only did this initiative help those in need, but it also allowed us to keep our people working and kitchen running. 

A Chance for Recipe Creativity 

With restrictions in place and employees still working from home, our talented chefs didn't stop chef-ing. Instead, those not needed in the restaurant onsite saw an opportunity to get creative in the kitchen – at home. They spent their time experimenting with new recipes, exploring different cuisines, and perfecting dishes that would be incorporated into Northwestern Mutual’s menu once employees safely returned to campus.  

Normally, in non-pandemic times, Northwestern Mutual chefs are so busy ensuring smooth service that crafting new recipes can, quite literally, fall on the back burner. But in this case, our chefs were able to take a less than ideal situation and create positive and delicious outcomes.  

Testing Out New Roles in New Departments 

Knowing keeping our restaurant team was a priority, we had to think outside the box. Northwestern Mutual identified departments where there was a surge in demand and offered restaurant employees the opportunity to transfer their skills into a new role, client services, records management, paint shop, and more. By embracing this flexibility, we empowered our employees with new skills and experiences. The idea even proved to be a source of internal mobility with some employees electing to stay in their new roles rather than return to the restaurant once employees returned to campus. 

Getting Social Media Savvy Through Cooking Tutorials 

As our people began working from home, employees suddenly found themselves cooking more. Understanding this trend, our chefs decided to share their expertise and passion for food by filming cooking tutorials. Our talented chefs took to Slack channels and shared step-by-step guides on how to recreate a few of our signature dishes at home. This not only kept our restaurant experience in the minds of our people, but also allowed our chefs to stay connected with the customers who they were used to seeing every day.  

Every day, our restaurant looks to provide an exceptional dining experience. While the pandemic shifted our perception of what an exceptional dining experience can look like, we’re proud of our team's willingness to adapt to make a meaningful difference for our business and our community.  

Interested in a restaurant career at Northwestern Mutual? Check out our open positions or join our Talent Community. Search “restaurant” as an area of interest to find a role that matches your career aspirations.