How to offer benefits employees actually want

benefits graph

To attract star recruits in this rigid labor market, some foodservice operations are sweetening job offers with innovative benefits such as pet insurance or discounts on wireless internet and hotels. However, some operators are finding that their workforce doesn’t always take advantage of their benefits.

At Banner - University Medical Center Phoenix, many team members qualify for state or federal programs, and don’t opt for the employer’s health benefits. “We’re trying to get a pulse on what’s really important generationally,” says Joshua Fels, director of culinary and nutrition services for the medical facility. “We have everything from millennials, who don’t understand anything about the benefits offered, [to] boomers who are fully invested in those benefits.” Finding out what exactly matters to these staff members at different stages of life requires some effort, he says. Here’s how Fels works to select the right perks for his team.

Ask for input

benefits package

During open enrollment, Fels and his team spend a portion of their weekly meetings asking team members for feedback on their benefits package. Managers also set up one-on-one conversations with workers who have suggestions and questions. During those discussions, employees often share attractive benefits they are seeing at competitors, he says.

Fels also recommends being available in the operation, especially during open enrollment. “It’s about being present in their space where they’re working to continue to build that credibility and trust,” he says.



When it comes to complicated benefits, it’s important to take on an educator role, Fels says. His team takes every opportunity to advertise the operation’s benefits and help team members make sense of them. During department meetings, Fels carves out time to drill in the importance of getting invested in a 401(k) right now for younger team members, and how different people could benefit from their tiered healthcare plans.

Stay relevant

college textbooks

Full-time Banner - University Medical Center Phoenix employees can apply to receive $5,000 a year toward their school tuition. And those who are not selected can take advantage of discounts at several colleges, universities and trade schools that the hospital has partnered with. But the department is looking for more opportunities to satisfy the growing number of team members who want to continue to finish their education. To start, Fels is investigating how to give employees access to GED courses on campus. “Travel and transportation can be a challenge,” he says. “If we can offer [the classes] while they’re here at work, there’s a bigger chance it will be taken advantage of.” 

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

In a bid to beef up its presence in sports arenas and a variety of other large venues, Sodexo will acquire foodservice vendor Centerplate for $675 million.

Sodexo says the deal, which is expected to be finalized by the end of this year, will more than double its global footprint.

Centerplate, which serves as the foodservice operator for a number for stadiums, convention halls and other event spaces, brought in revenues of $998 million for the year ending June 2017, according to Sodexo. Centerplate was purchased five years ago by Olympus Partners, a private-equity company...

Menu Development

Loyola University Maryland took a new approach to all-day breakfast with an egg-focused concept.

Breakfast options were top of mind for students when asked what they would like to see on the menu at the university’s revamped Boulder Garden Cafe. Instead of creating an all-day breakfast station, however, the Baltimore-based dining team went beyond traditional options and created a concept that services all mealparts with eggs.

“It can be somewhat mundane,” says Executive Chef Don Crowther on why the team strayed away from the trendy all-day breakfast. At the eatery’s Sunny...

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Kansas has added a retail pass that allows students to purchase one to-go combo meal per day at cafes and markets on campus, the University Daily Kansan reports.

The pass is available on two different meal plans and is geared toward on-the-go students who don’t have the time to sit down and eat at a residence hall.

“It has increased the participation rate,” Jamie Reed, a service assistant for the school’s dining services, told the University Daily Kansan.

Over 1,800 students have used the pass since its debut at the beginning of the semester....

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Minnesota dining team has created a vegan student group in an effort to improve the school’s vegan offerings, Minnesota Daily reports.

The group was created by the school’s foodservice vendor, Aramark, and its campus sustainability coordinator, who is vegan, after receiving numerous complaints from students about the lack of vegan options on campus.

The group will this week host its first meeting, during which members will be able to share feedback and provide solutions to help enhance the school’s vegan offerings. Members will also keep a photo journal...

FSD Resources