Fri, Mar 24, 2023 4:00 PM GMT
Like a fine wine, this idea has aged beautifully.
Martin Ruiz Salvador and his wife Sylvie, the owners of five Lunenburg restaurants, are putting the finishing touches on a comprehensive benefits plan for their almost 50 employees.
“We thought about doing it about seven years ago, for our full-time, year-round employees,” Salvador said Tuesday. “We kind of put it to the staff, what would they prefer to have, a raise or medical, and it was unanimous for the raise. So, we gave everybody a raise.”
Salvador said the value of a benefits plan can seem esoteric to young people, at least judging by himself at that age. Now, with a number of their employees having been with them for 10 to 15 years, “loyal and happy to be working here,” it was time to revisit the issue.
“We had a rough two years with COVID, so it was a decision we wanted to make at the end of that,” he said. “Luckily, we fared OK during those two years, so we wanted to do something for our staff for working so hard. We didn’t put it to a vote this time, we just offered it to every full-time employee at the Fish Shack, Bar Salvador, the Oyster Bar, Salt Shaker and Beach Pea, even the ones that are seasonal. We decided to do it for them as well. They work hard for six to eight months.”
The Blue Cross benefits plan will include dental care, medical treatments such as massage and chiropractic, prescriptions and life insurance, with contributions to an RSP also being considered.
“There is a matching system that some people use, but that could work out to a bit per month for each person, so we decided that we’d just cover the whole thing ourselves. We didn’t do the matching, we see it as an opportunity to thank people,” said Salvador, declining to reveal how much the plan will cost the company. “It’s all relative, I guess. If it keeps your staff employed and healthy, I’m sure it saves money in the long run. Selfishly, it’s nice to offer as well, because a lot of places don’t offer it to all staff members.”
The benefits plan is being offered to everyone, from dishwashers on up the ladder. Restaurants need to hire new staff every year, and Salvador is well aware that people will be attracted by the perk.
“I’m not going to say that was the deciding factor as to why we did it, but it definitely is going to help when (you’re interviewing) and tell them they get free medical and dental, and a life insurance policy,” he said. “It took a few weeks to get 46 people to fill out the forms. Some people were on plans with their spouse, this plan also covers a spouse and kids, too.”
Stephen Findlay, a server at the Salt Shaker and the Half Shell, has worked for the Salvadors since moving to Lunenburg from Toronto, often seasonally said, “one thing I’ve noticed is how good they are at retaining their employees.”
“Speaking as somebody who’s rarely ever had benefits, it’s great for me. It’s new, so I’m not 100 per cent sure of everything the package entails,” said Findlay, 58. “I’m always getting dental work, I’m kind of at that age, so any of those things are always a bonus. I’ve had extensive dental work and for the most part, I’ve always had to pay out of pocket. It’s great, in that respect. Now, I’m not on any medications, so I don’t have to worry about that, but it’s nice knowing that it’s available for you, just in case.”
Salvador said he doesn’t know how unusual it is for someone in a junior position in a restaurant to have a benefits plan. He does know he never had one working for other people.
“I don’t want to say no one else is doing it. I know a lot of management people, maybe a general manager or an executive chef get benefits. But we wanted everyone on the same playing field,” he said, adding that he didn’t have a big meeting to tell staff about what is being given to them, but everybody was really happy to get the news.
“I said to Sylvie that in the almost 20 years that we’ve been here, this is the thing we’re probably most proud of, being able to offer this to our staff. Except for (his restaurant Fleur de Sel) being number eight new restaurant in Canada.”
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Reference: Salt Wire