Empress by Boon


Michelin-starred Chef Ho Chee Boon opened Empress by Boon in 2021. The restaurant is housed in the former location of the historic Empress of China, offering guests with breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay while enjoying delectable Cantonese cuisine. According to a San Francisco Chronicle article in August, 2011, table reservations were nearly impossible to get. Running a restaurant of this caliber requires a staff that functions at peak performance.

Chef Ho hired Stephanie and Team Smart HR to run human resources for the restaurant. He had worked with Sephanie previously at Hakkasan and knows the importance of HR in managing employee relations for his staff members who come from diverse backgrounds and cultures.


Within several months of the restaurant opening, it was clear that one of the employees was not performing to expectations and the role was not a good fit for that person. Team Smart HR advised management on the disciplinary procedures and proper record keeping of communications between management and the employee. As one of our core principles is to be an advocate for the employee, we look into every effort to improve employee performance and retention.

While numerous efforts were made to improve the employee’s behavior, the employee was still not able to perform to expectations. Management ultimately decided to move forward with a termination. Team Smart HR was involved in the entire process and made sure that all efforts were made to support the employee while at the same time, ensuring that proper documentation was recorded. Even though California is an “at will” employment state, wrongful termination lawsuits are common when employers handle these cases improperly.

Post termination, we managed all communications with the former employee. This included guidance on benefits and payments, answering questions and providing them with any documentation to help them with their new endeavors.


This case is a prime example that illustrates how Team Smart HR’s core principles were applied to an employee discipline and ultimate termination scenario. We made sure these actions were prioritized:

First, being employee focused means we try our best to make sure employees are happy and productive in the workplace. We always ask, “Has the company done everything possible to help employees when they are not performing to expectations?” This involves first making sure that performance reviews and training programs are in place and communicated to the employees. When disciplinary action is necessary, we can provide a course correction plan that involves working with the employer to customize the plan and overseeing the entire process from end to end. The process includes managing the communication with the employee, documenting issues and concerns from both sides and coaching the employer on the issuing of verbal warnings and write-ups. The results of the plan can then be assessed by management and actions taken. This is what we provided to Empress by Boon.

Second, if the employee is more comfortable conversing in a language we support, we will do our best to offer communication in that language. In this particular case, we were able to use English to communicate with the employee. However, the restaurant has many employees who prefer to communicate in Chinese. For those employees, we can provide written documentation in both Chinese and English and are able to converse with the employee(s) in Chinese as needed.

Finally, we want to ensure that processes and procedures are compliant with the latest laws. In the case of the termination example, we needed to make sure all proper documentation was recorded and procedures followed. This conveys fairness for the employee as well as protection for the employer from potential lawsuits.

Team Smart HR made the employee feel they were treated fairly, without bias, while keeping the employer compliant with the law. This case illustrates just one of the examples we were able to help Chef Ho keep his staff happy and performing at the highest levels

Blossom Hotel


Blossom Hotel Houston is a newly opened luxury hotel in the city of Houston. The 16 story, 267 room hotel offers world-class amenities such as fine dining led by Michelin starred chefs, a rooftop pool and lounge, and more than 9,000 square feet of meeting and event spaces.

However, the road to opening was not all smooth. The hotel encountered several staffing changes during the pre-opening phase that resulted in management needing to find a new head of Human Resources. Blossom Hotel Houston hired Stephanie and Team Smart HR to manage the Human Resources division for the hotel.


One of the first and most important challenges was to design a new performance review system for Blossom Hotel. These systems often fail when company strategic goals are not aligned with employee behavior or there’s not enough buy-in from employees and managers to provide the proper data for the system. We started first by understanding the goals of upper management.

We determined that the goal of the system was to make administrative decisions such as deciding pay raises, promotions, additional training needs and possible disciplinary and termination actions. The next step was to determine what were the metrics that would help make these decisions and how they connect employee behavior to the hotel’s strategic goals.

Our team started with an analysis and audit of Blossom Hotel’s policies, procedures and the employee handbook. Then we moved on to interviews with various levels of management to determine how performance was measured for each division. Our goal at this stage was not just to understand the performance levers but to rule out metrics that are not compliant with state and federal laws.

Additionally, we also looked at best practices within the hospitality industry in terms of metrics and cadence for performance reviews. Afterwards, we worked with managers and employees to select the metrics and align them to the hotel’s strategic goals.

Ultimately, we helped Blossom Hotel create a performance management rubric that captured the values that exemplify a successful employee of the hotel. A rating system that aligned with each of these values provided the metrics for management to make the administrative decisions. We also aligned the cadence of reviews both to the onboarding duration for new employees and semi-annual performance reviews. This allowed employees to obtain the rewards of their performance at the completion of the review.

But we weren’t finished there. We also coached managers on how to conduct the performance reviews, what questions to ask and what to be careful of to stay compliant with the law.


Performance management systems are difficult to create and maintain. Many companies have done away with them altogether. However, that does not answer the question of how do you align employee behavior to the organization’s strategic goals?

When we helped Blossom Hotel design their performance review system, we started with understanding upper management’s strategic goals, pulling in knowledge and data from best practices, and involving managers and employees early in the process.

In deciding the core values of employees that aligned with upper management’s goals, we involved mid-level managers and employees to get cultural alignment to the values. Some organizations use a political process where upper management makes the calls but we urge organizations to always combine that with a participatory process so employees feel “ownership”, “empowered”, and are more willing to support the system.

While we delivered the performance review rubric and coached their managers on how to conduct the reviews, we are not done. Performance management is an ongoing process that requires monitoring and gathering feedback so the process can continuously improve. There are many great performance management software out there and expert consultants who know this subject well. However, every organization is different and is ever changing in it’s people, processes and strategy. It’s being able to constantly adapt, update, and improve that makes us valuable to Blossom Hotel.

What Our Clients Say

Team Smart HR helped us stay compliant with labor laws and has offered above and beyond service to keep our employees happy. Highly recommended.

Owner, Z & Y Restaurant

Team Smart HR has taken care of everything HR for us including building an HR team in-house at our Hotel. Hire them! They deliver.

CEO, Blossom Hotel Houston

Stephanie and her team have been an invaluable resource for us. We can't thank her enough for all the help she has given to our organization. We highly recommend Team Smart HR.

CEO, ChiHuo