California grocery chain offering $1,000 hiring bonus

In a sign of the times, businesses are pulling out the stops to recruit new employees.

In some cases, hiring managers boost salaries and benefits, and some companies even offer a cash incentive to come aboard.

"It's more than the money, it's really making an investment for more great people on our team," said Chaunte Chastang, store director at the Nugget Market in Novato.

The 16-store Nugget chain is offering $1,000 to new hires who successfully complete their 90-day probation period.

"It's actually a nice little add-on to make it a bit sweeter, when they find out they're going to get that," said Chastang.

Chronic short-staffing is a problem for many businesses, as the pandemic shrinks and stretches the labor force.

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"It's been a really heavy time, from 2020 into 2021," Chastang said. "And there are still many things people are dealing with so it's challenging."

Rue Chirairo, 20, is one of those eligible, hired two weeks ago as a deli clerk in Novato.

"I saw the signing bonus on the website when I was looking for jobs to apply for and I thought this was a major plus," said Chirairo.

As a college student, Chirairo plans to bank the bonus for her future needs.

The incentive, she said, made her feel valued from the very start of her employment.

"They reward people who want to work for the company," said Chirairo, "and by showing them love so they get love back and I think that's really great!"

Nugget Markets is a family-owned grocery chain founded in 1926 in Woodland.

It now has locations stretching from Sacramento, through Solano County, into Sonoma and Marin Counties.  

It consistently makes Fortune Magazine's list of top 100 companies to work for.

But in the current environment, competition for staff is fierce, especially for chefs and bakers.

"That's what we're hoping to attract with this thousand dollar bonus," said Chastang.

"We are competing with the restaurants for those specific roles but with time, we will see if this makes a difference."

The company hasn't said how much it will spend on the bonuses, but they do apply to most positions, even entry-level without experience.

"What we look for is attitude, if you have the right attitude and a love for people," said Chastang.

Another recent hire, Bronwyn Smith, swayed to the store sound system as she packaged fresh bread for sale.

"I love coming here, I love the music here, and a job where you're encouraged to dance," said Smith, whose love of baking brought her to Nugget.

Although she hasn't received her bonus yet, it's already earmarked.

"Baking stuff, some new pans, spatula, whisk, some chocolate," she smiled.

While the cash is appreciated, Smith said her career in desserts and dining has shown her what's important in a job.

"I feel so appreciated here, that means everything to me, makes me want to get up each day, put on my hat, and get here!"

The new program has enticed a handful of hires to each store so far.

And current employees are rewarded as well: $500 if they refer a successful candidate.