Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:21 pm
Greendale restaurant expands benefits package to include 401k, other perks
A restaurant is dependent on the quality of its staff, and the Taste of Home Restaurant in Greendale is taking a unique approach to bringing in and retaining competent, happy employees: an extensive benefits package.
“For many years, restaurants didn’t offer benefits,” said Valerie McDonald, one of Taste of Home’s general managers. “People would wait part-time and need full-time office jobs for the benefits. The restaurant industry needs to align itself with other industries as far as benefits go.”
The benefits offered to Taste of Home’s employees include a 401k retirement savings plan, health insurance, dental coverage, life insurance, paid vacations, locker room facilities complete with showers, work uniforms, and meals.
“Health care is one of the biggest concerns,” McDonald said. “Some people who work here are students and may still be covered under their parents, but for a lot of our employees, insurance is not available.”
The 401k program is the latest addition to the benefits package, having taken effect June 1. Taste of Home will match up to 25% of an employee’s income. Any employee who works at least 30 hours per week and is over 21 years of age can sign up. Of the 110 employees, about 75% are eligible.
“We wanted to make it attainable for as many people as possible,” McDonald said. “We could have increased (the requirement) to 35 or 40 hours (per week), but then it would not have been available to some of the students working through college. We set the parameters, and wanted to make them as open as possible.”
To date, about 35 people have signed up for the program. Taste of Home is holding meetings for some of the younger employees to explain to them what this aspect of the employee benefits can do for them, McDonald said.
According to the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, this kind of employee benefits package is almost unheard of in the industry, considering the number of part-time employees and the usually high turnover rate.
“It’s very innovative,” said Sara Stinski, a spokesperson for the WRA. “A number of our members are working on setting up programs that are similar, but not with a 401k program. A lot of restaurants would like to, but it’s not always practical.”
Benefits are something that the National Restaurant Association has been discussing in its publications as well. A problem in the industry is labor shortage and the NRA has been looking at ways not only to find quality employees, but to keep them, Stinksi said.
“I think we treat (our employees) well. They have reacted very well to the benefits,” McDonald said. “We have established a quality work environment.”
And that environment is what keeps Taste of Home’s staff enthusiastic.
“I enjoy the people I work with and the positive feedback I get from the customers,” said Diane Reinke, Taste of Home dining room manager. “They look forward to coming here.
“(The benefits) are phenomenal for the industry,” Reinke said. “Between paid vacation and health insurance, it’s just like everything else here – state-of-the-art.”
Ryan Rudersdorf, a bartender at the restaurant, is so happy with his job that he recommended a friend apply for a waitress job there.
“It’s a really nice environment, very well-designed,” said Rudersdorf, who used to bartend on Water Street in downtown Milwaukee. “I don’t go home at 4 a.m. with smoky eyes and stinky clothes. It’s the atmosphere I was looking for.”
Employees have been on the minds of those running the restaurant from the start. When the one-year-old restaurant was built, the plans included space in the lower level for the staff locker rooms and an employee dining room.
“It’s the people that determine success or failure,” said Donald Kennedy, president of Village Restaurant, LLC, the company that runs the restaurant. “There’s a lot of teamwork in the restaurant business. We look for the people who can do things, and what makes them accept the job.”
The benefits are an important part of helping the employees to have pride in their jobs and the place they work as well as being satisfied with themselves and their job, Kennedy said. Taste of Home wants to be competitive and draw in the best employees possible.
“To get the best, you have to give the best,” Kennedy said. “We want to make the employees feel so important they will give their best effort to help us be successful.”
Part of what makes Taste of Home different is not only the way the employees are treated, but also the reason behind it.
“As an employer, you decide if your employees look at their position as a job or as a career,” Kennedy said. “Too many restaurants treat their employees as though it is a job.”
Taste of Home Restaurant is located at 5601 Broad St. in downtown Greendale. It is themed after Reiman Publications’ magazines, such as Taste of Home and Country Living, and licensed by Reiman Publications to use the name Taste of Home. The restaurant itself is owned by Hexagon Investments, a company created by the children of Roy Reiman, and run by Village Restaurant, LLC. It is the only restaurant owned by the group.
The magazines draw visitors by the busload and from across the country to the restaurant. Many come because one of the magazines may have mentioned the restaurant or had an advertisement in it. Recently a couple made the trek to Greendale from Hollywood, Fla., McDonald said.
Aug. 17, 2001 Small Business Times, Milwaukee