A competitive labor climate can be a scorcher for restaurants. With employees fleeing to greener pastures in higher-wage cities or a job with better hours, any little perk can help. Foodservice workers still are some of the least satisfied employees when it comes to nonwage compensation, according to a 2016 study from Glassdoor. Some of the fastest-growing restaurants advertise their workplace vibes and benefits as a key selling point not only to workers but also to customers. To gain a foothold in the increasingly rocky labor market, restaurants are stealing a page out of Silicon Valley’s book filled with unheard-of benefits and annotating it to fit the industry framework.
1. Fitness incentives
Besides covering 100% of its employees’ health insurance costs, Tupelo Honey Cafe issues incentives for health metrics. Once a year, the the Asheville, N.C.-based chain pays for a 5K race, and those with the best times win wearable activity trackers. Tupelo runs other wellness contests during the year, chosen with employee input.
2. Parental flexibility
Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop touts a no-questions-asked policy for salaried staff to leave work for family obligations. Ashley Morris, CEO of the Las Vegas-based chain, says the policy—monitored only anecdotally—helps employees feel more connected to the company, and he believes it increases productivity by reducing stress at home.
3. For-you perks
Besides offering educational trips to wine country, Hi Neighbor Hospitality Group in San Francisco has customizable benefits. Options include add-ons such as Netflix subscriptions, gift cards, cooking classes and dining credits. The happiness is spreading; the group was able to fully staff one restaurant from referrals, according to Eater.
4. Local culinary classes
At locations near culinary schools, Tupelo managers encourage workers to partake in its culinary reimbursement program. As an added perk, Tupelo has created relationships with Johnson and Wales University in Providence, R.I., and local community colleges who refer students to the chain.
5. Sponsored stages
Bar Marco, a wine bar in Pittsburgh, takes its education benefit a step further: Management organizes and pays lodging and travel expenses for brief group stages. Last year, the bar team traveled to Chicago’s The Violet Hour to learn about its James Beard-winning program, and its pastry chef shadowed Blackbird and Baker Miller’s teams.