Organization spearheads program to benefit businesses, employees

From left, Strange Wines owner Diane Dryer, Malibu Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Kasey Earnest, Malibu Half Marathon organizer Erica Segel, President and Chairman of the Malibu Chamber of Commerce Chris Wizner and Natalie Camacho during a Women's Leadership Committee meeting at Strange Wines on June 1. Photo courtesy Chris Wizner.

While Malibu begins preparing for summer visitors, the question is, are businesses prepared? Like many communities, Malibu has been facing challenges with employee shortages post-pandemic. 

Due to inflation and the increase in gas prices, Malibu Chamber of Commerce President and Chairman Chris Wizner said the number-one concern for businesses in Malibu has been employee shortages and retention. 

“Easily over 90 percent of Malibu does not live in Malibu,” Wizner said. “I can say for Malibu Farm, 99 percent of their team is outside of Malibu.”

Restaurants such as Duke’s Malibu have 90 to 95 percent of its employees who live outside of Malibu and Wizner said that has increased post-pandemic. 

The Chamber is known for taking the lead to create a strong local economy, organizing mixers and networking opportunities to bring the Malibu community together. 

In efforts to help companies retain employees, the Chamber is introducing a program called M.E.I.P. (Malibu Employee Incentive Program). Participating businesses will set a discount or special offer for any M.E.I.P member that visits their business. All sales generated should be able to be tracked via point-of-sale systems.

“I’ve talked to some of the biggest employers out here, they all love the idea, they got what it was and it was simple,” Wizner said. “You don’t want your people driving out here, there’s no incentive to do it anymore. You lose people and you don’t retain them anymore.”

Businesses such as Duke’s Malibu, Malibu Farm, Lily’s Malibu, Caffe Luxxe, Boys & Girls Club of Malibu, Lucky’s Malibu, and Howdy’s Malibu have been positively supporting or have been interested in the program.

We absolutely love being part of the Malibu community. 

Co-founder and president of Cafe Luxx Mark Wain said they support the program because it helps make everyone feel like a part of the community. 

“Our caffe has always focused on being a social gathering place for our neighbors, friends, and family. We wholeheartedly support the Malibu Employee Incentive Program as it helps those of us that work in the (but don’t necessarily live in the) neighborhood be part of the community too,” Wain said. “Especially since our caffe is somewhat at the midpoint as you go to- and from- your workplace in Malibu, it’s our pleasure to be a nice welcoming point (and a place for you to relax, recharge, and disconnect for a few minutes) for those of us who work in Malibu to enjoy as a place they can call their own.”

“We’re working hard to bring this program live and we’re confident it’ll make a positive impact while helping parties on both the employer and employee side,” Wizner said. “The idea is really that simple. It’s kind of a globalized employee discount. I’m super passionate about this since I have no doubt it will instantly make a positive impact to both large employers and employees in Malibu and they both win by participating.” 

Wizner knows first-hand about restaurant service from experience. 

“My mom was a waitress here in Malibu — she’s been a waitress all my life and she’s worked at Carlos and Puppies back in the day, which is now Nobu. Many people know her so I know this industry really well,” Wizner said. “I was also a waiter, a busser and host myself when I was growing up. I worked and lived on Carbon Beach.”

Wizner said this program would help employees that work at fine dining restaurants such as Nobu, which had to shut down the bar a few times due to staff shortage. 

“Now just imagine the loss of revenue and I can tell you, it’s a lot,” Wizner said. “One of my friends is one of the guys in the bar and he got injured and we soon as he got injured, it triggered this domino effect and they had to close their most significant pieces of revenue because they don’t have enough employees.”

Wizner said each establishment sets its own discount and supervises the program as a third party.

“As a humble little Chamber of Commerce, we are trying to make a positive difference in the easiest, fasty, least resistant way you could ever do it,” Wizner said. “One global employee discount — if we could do that as a Chamber of Commerce, then I think we’re doing a good job. We’re creating commerce and we’re solving a big problem for big employers and I love the Chamber to get all the credit in the world for that.”

Chamber members and employers can participate for free. Non-Chamber-member employers can participate for 30 days for free, but after that membership is required to continue, which ranges for $375 to 550 per year depending on business type and size. For current membership pricing visit, Participants are recommended to join a Chamber committee such as the Restaurants Hospitality Committee, Retail Committee, Women’s Leadership Committee, Young Professionals Committee, Health & Wellness Committee, and more. 

The story was updated to provide a quote from the businesses in support of the M.E.I.P. Program.