Restaurants Cater to Employees

Ping pong, farm field trips and coffee lounges are among the employee perks restaurants are offering workers.

June 05, 2018

CHICAGO – With a tight labor market, some restaurants are going beyond traditional benefits in order to keep workers happy, QSR Magazine reports. For Michael Kornick, who co-owns DMK Restaurants, quick-service restaurants (QSRs) should be as mindful of how they treat their staffs as how they treat customers. “If we can show staff we care about them, they will translate that to guests. When guests feel taken care of, that leads to brand loyalty,” Kornick said.

From Ben & Jerry’s to DMK to Farm Burger, some companies are giving employees more perks. At Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shops, workers routinely go home with three pints of free ice cream, but the company wanted to offer more than delicious desserts.

Eighty percent of Ben & Jerry’s employees are first-time workers. Colette Hittinger, senior franchise operations and development manager, decided to focus on helping this young-adult workforce through innovative employee programs, such as the online Core Academy with free courses on social equity, activism and emotional intelligence. “In the end, we want these people to feel like they did more than scoop ice cream and to say that this job helped equip them for life,” Hittinger said.

At DMK, Kornick wanted to focus on employees’ personal situations when scheduling, working with a mom’s daycare schedule or giving an employee time off for vacation. “You have to be willing to address each issue with the same individual recognition as you would a guest at your restaurant,” he said.

Last year, DMK gave employees another perk: the Werewolf Coffee Bar, featuring snacks and coffee served out of a refurbished—and stationary—Wonder Bread truck. Employees can enjoy a free cup of coffee and hang out together. At DMK’s new headquarters, all staff can drop by for ping pong.

For Farm Burger employees, education tops the list of how the company gives back to workers. “The question is: What makes a difference and makes people want to work with us?” said Jason Mann, one of the founders. Each new hire goes to a local farm as part of orientation. “Whether someone’s bartending, cooking or whatever, they can talk to guests firsthand about our farm partners,” Mann said.

The company also pays for professional development courses. “You want to do a fermentation workshop to learn to make sauerkraut? Cool, I’m all about it,” Mann said. “If we’re happy and successful, the tide rises for everyone.”