(Blogger’s Note: Each Monday readers write for advice. If you would like a question answered email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Dear Restaurant Advice Blog,
I work for a small group of restaurants in Up-State New York. I recently discovered that my dental plan had lapsed. I took my son, Randy, to the dentist with a toothache and had to pay for the visit and the procedure. When I went to work the next day the owner told me he had been having some cash problems. What should I do?
Amanda in Cayuga.
The difficulties fulfilling employee benefits are one of the high hurdles facing restaurant owners all across the country. One of the first steps needed to take is to make sure that the owner is contributing all of the monies he deducts from your paycheck to the correct agencies, i.e.: health benefits, dental plans, 401K. If he isn´t contributing deducted funds, there is a chance that prosecutable situations could arise. But that is the extreme. In most cases, restaurant owners just miss a payment or send it in late and the problem is easy to resolve. The grace period with medical coverage is a bit more flexible, than say, the phone company, but it is still very strict. You should however, ask your employer to take responsibility for the dentist´s bill. That is the least he can do.
This brings us to another problem for owners… …the decision on what to do about benefits. With the influx of major corporations having access to mega buck backing and benefit packages that include everything from health plans to trips to Hawaii and impressive travel expense packages, small, struggling owners must analyze what they can offer to attract good people. Trust is one thing. But trust erodes quickly when employee benefit commitments are not fulfilled.
There fore the question to offer benefits or not to offer benefits is one that has haunted those in the industry for decades. Nothing is worse for an owner than to have to face the problem of not being able to meet financial obligations because the restaurant is not meeting the numbers it needs to meet.
I am sure that most owners feel that the benefit package they offer will attract a higher caliber of employee and help alleviate staff turn over. This of course will also assist in building a more professional organization, which will attract more customers, which will bring in more dollars, which will lead to bigger profits. This looks great on paper.
And, that is where most benefit packages begin. Of course, the numbers that we all run on paper seldom jump from the projection sheet to the bottom line without tremendous struggle.
I know more restaurant owner´s who have made the employee benefit package mistake than I care to discuss. There isn´t a restaurant owner or potential owner in the country who doesn´t believe his restaurant is going to be an overwhelming success. And, in the height of enthusiasm, the employee benefit package seems like a wonderfully generous idea. It´s only when bills are mounting, and business is slow that the plan seems like the gravest business mistake an owner can make. And in many instances it is.
There is no doubt that those who work in the industry deserve a fair and respectable benefits plan. But if an owner commits to a plan and cannot fulfill that commitment other problems arise that are less friendly than just paying a dentist´s bill.
Before you make the commitment to offer employee benefits make sure you have the financial where with all to fulfill that commitment. The consequences can be devastating to your business, your staff, and your future. And Amanda thanks for writing and good luck in Cayuga.