Keeping good talent behind the bar - Puffin Wine Bar

Puffin co-owner and manager Hannah Wells talks about working with experts to find ways to support her specialist staff to think of coming to work as more than just a job

Puffin people behind bar credit Johnny Hendricks

Puffin Wine Bar opened in Wellington’s CBD in August 2019, with a focus on highlighting natural, organic and minimalist intervention wines.

With such a specialist offering, co-owner Hannah Wells set about building an expert team to turn Puffin into a must-see Wellington wine destination. However, with hospitality businesses heavily impacted by Covid-19, Hannah sought out the opportunity to make sure Puffin was able to keep staff supported and passionate through the work they were doing. 

Focusing on learning and growth

Hannah was referred to WellingtonNZ through a friend, who suggested she reach out to see what support was available to businesses post-Covid. Instead of sitting down and asking for a specific solution, Hannah was able to talk through how Puffin was doing and opportunities to work out better processes for the bar, which included looking at how to support and retain her specialist staff.

Through Wellington's Covid-19 support, which connects businesses with free expert advice, Hannah was referred to Wellington people and culture experts Humankind to look at improving training and induction processes.

“I think it’s also really important to have a good relationship with your employees and understand what you can, and can’t, do for them as an employer.”

“Hospitality has quite a high turnover of staff just because there’s a lot of part-time roles, but I wanted to build a team where people are coming into work to be part of something bigger. It’s not just a job but a career.”

Puffin owner tasting wine bar
Puffin glass wine table image credit Johnny Hendricks
Puffin people talking at table image credit Johnny Hendricks

I want it to be not just a job for them but they’re coming to work to contribute to something bigger.

Training and retaining expert talent

Because of Puffin’s focus on natural and organic wines, every member of their seven-person team holds specialist knowledge and a passion for the product that is difficult to replace.

So, Hannah says the goal is to make sure the team feels supported to grow and learn.

“In building our team, I wanted people who not only know about natural wine but are passionate about continuing their learning of it.”

"And the staff we have now, they're all really integral pieces of that team.”

Looking to the future

Coming out of lockdown, despite the uncertainty of level changes and restriction, Hannah says they're as full as they can be. Not only were they in the position to pay staff over the lockdown period, but customers were excited to see them back open and have been eager to come back in and support the bar.

But being able to have access to free advice from experts to help build and grow your business is an opportunity you don’t turn down, she says.

“There’s always more to learn – it's very easy to rest on what you already know about the industry but what this year’s shown us is you need to be flexible and ready to evolve depending on what’s happening around you.”

Puffin bar seating interior image credit johnny hendricks

Hannah says the goal is to eventually expand to other bars in the city and by putting in the groundwork now to formalise processes, will make it easier to train and attract good staff in the future.

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