Buona Beef adding locations, hiring 500 workers

Italian beef chain ramps up for more indoor dining and to meet continued demand for deliveries and pickups.

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The exterior of Buona Beef, 613 N. McClurg Court,  in the Gold Coast neighborhood.

Buona Beef is hiring staff for service and cleaning within the restaurants and to handle pickup and delivery orders.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Buona Beef said Wednesday it will hire 500 people, many of them part time, for an expansion and to reorganize operations as in-person dining makes headway in the pandemic.

The Italian beef chain said more staff is needed for service and cleaning within the restaurants. The family-owned company also wants workers to handle pickup and delivery orders, a business segment it expects will remain strong.

Joe Buonavolanto Jr., director of people and a third-generation owner, said 200 of the new hires are needed for restaurants opening this year in Countryside and Lakemoor. The other 300 are being hired across the existing 24 locations, including outlets in Skokie and Mount Prospect that opened during or just before the pandemic, he said.

“We are doing this with a focus on hospitality and on making our guests feel safe,” Buonavolanto said. The restaurants enforce a mask requirement and temperature checks for visitors, while employees must follow a stepped-up protocol for hand-washing and sanitizing surfaces, he said. All operate under capacity limits in effect locally.

Buona Beef employs about 1,000 people and did not resort to layoffs as COVID-19 spread, Buonavolanto said. Applicants can visit buona.com/careers for information.

The new hires will include some management employees and full-timers, jobs that include benefits, he said. The part-time positions will offer up to $16 per hour with the lowest pay rates higher than mandated minimum wages. In Illinois, the minimum wage is $11 per hour with higher rates applying in Chicago and Cook County.

Buonavolanto said the restaurants’ management salaries are in the upper tier of the quick-casual dining business and that hourly workers have the option of getting paid each day.

Buona Beef lost business early in the pandemic but “we’re clawing our way back,” he said. “As a family-owned and operated business, our people are the lifeline next to our Italian beef sandwiches.”

Asked for his advice to other restaurateurs, Buonavolanto said, “Stay positive and remember why you are in the business — to serve your guests.”

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