In September of 2017 we began adding a 5% charge to all sales at Ruddick/Wood to allow us to offer 100% healthcare coverage for eligible employees. Since that time we have received a lot of feedback, both positive and negative, on this policy.
The most common question or suggestion we get is why we don't just increase our menu prices. In one word: "transparency." We looked into what it would cost us to be able to offer insurance and the answer was somewhere between 3-8% of our sales. Similar policies have been implemented by other restaurants, but it is still an outlying thing and costs vary for many reasons, so it is hard to know exactly what works. What we did know is that doing an across the board menu price increase would more than likely provide *more* money than we actually needed to offer insurance. By utilizing a line-item on our checks, we can show exactly what we believe it takes for insurance, and it allows us to adjust this number after enough time has elapsed to give an accurate snapshot of the true cost.
This is our original statement on the Health & Wellness Policy:
"Since before we opened R/W, the topic of being able to offer our employees benefits outside of discounted meals and shift drinks has been a discussion that we have had. We believe that our employees should be able to go about their days outside of work without having to worry about being injured while enjoying their hobbies, or commuting to work, or just crossing the street. At first it seemed like an unreachable goal and we always came up with a reason not to make the jump to what is still a rarity in the restaurant world: our margins were too tight, the pressures of opening the business were too high, and the potential backlash from a menu price hike or additional guest fee was too intimidating, among other things. However, we have always felt that offering employee benefits was the right thing to do and, for many reasons, now is the right time to go for it.
As owners that have each spent over half our lives in the hospitality industry we appreciate that people working in restaurants are often making a short stopover on their way to another career, but many of our employees have chosen restaurant work as their career, whether server, cook, bartender or dishwasher. Regardless of the overall duration of work, for those that choose to spend their time in this industry, a life with employer supported healthcare, 401(k) and other benefits is generally given up. Any insurance coverage or retirement plan comes from the pocket of a person that is generally working very hard for a wage that many people wouldn’t consider and that fluctuates with seasons and trends, making it nearly impossible for the employee to afford benefits on their own. While we feel that we pay a competitive industry wage, we also believe that healthcare is something that our employees deserve.
After a lot of thought, number crunching and tossing around ideas, we have decided that the best and most sustainable way to be able to offer our employees health insurance is to begin adding a 5%, “Health & Wellness,” charge to each check at Ruddick/Wood. As of September 1, this will appear as a separate line-item on each bill, similar to a tax line. The proceeds from this charge will go into an account that is only used to pay for 100% of eligible employee’s healthcare. (we are also looking to add additional benefits soon, if possible.) We feel this is the most transparent means for us to show where and how our guests’ dollars are being spent.
We appreciate the continued support of Ruddick/Wood and hope that you see the value in this new system. Feel free to reach out or comment here with any feedback you may have."