We sat down with Richard Hartman to discuss the best ways to maximize restaurant employee benefits and minimize risks. Richard is the Industry Leader for Food & Beverage/Hospitality for the Marsh & McLennan Agency. For the past decade, Richard has been able to deliver his passion and give back to the industry. Prior to MMA, Richard was at Blue Cross Blue Shield for 10 years, MetLife for 21 years, and along the way had his own agency.

Why do restaurants need to offer employee benefits?

I work with the mantra, ‘become the employer of choice’. One of the ways we do this is to differentiate clients from their competition. As a result of recent and current events recruiting has become more challenging than ever. In addition, once you recruit them, retaining them is just as difficult. It is now more than just benefits, it is the whole person we need to account for. The four areas we address are, mental, physical, financial, and social. So in building out programs, we need to include programs/support for them, with a mix of employer-paid and employee-paid plans for full-time and part-time. Years ago benefits were a ‘nice to have’ and now they have evolved to ‘expected.’ Avalere Health’s analysis, on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, estimates that Employer Sponsored Insurance provides a 47% ROI to employers in 2022, continuing to rise year over year to reach 52% in 2026. So to compete for talent, attract and retain employees, and be that employer of choice restaurants have to offer benefits.

What are the most unique employee benefits businesses with deskless teams are offering in the new era of work?

Over the past few years, there have been several unique product developments for ‘deskless’ employees; daycare has grown into elder care, career training above and beyond employees’ current roles, fertility coverages for all, spending accounts, food delivery services, matching philanthropy giving, financial, loan, tuition programs, discount employee purchasing programs, wellness/therapy/resilience programs. Below are some of the more common benefits offered.

What are the top 3 challenges the restaurants face when it comes to creating a benefits program?

I work to build better efficiencies with less risk across my client's benefits, insurance, and risk management as it relates to their programs, premiums, and processes. The biggest challenge is balancing the budget with needs. Restaurants know they need to offer benefits, and for the most part, they know what they want to offer, the first issue is the cost, then what portion do I have my employees contribute. To help in this area we benchmark our client's benefits and contributions to their peers. The next hurdle is finding the right mix of plans to meet the needs of a diverse workforce. The third challenge is adding all of this to an under-staffed overworked HR team. The F&B industry generally has 4-8 times more employees/hr team member.

What trends do you foresee in employee benefits in 2030?

I am going to break this down into 6 trends: workforce demands; satisfying the new workforce, maximizing gig economy, flexible workloads, schedules, and time off.

Mission Critical DE&I: Impact of healthcare inequities, the evolution of inclusive benefits, and diversity at all levels in a business are critical.

Enhanced Benefits: Benefits need to shift to non-traditional families, caregiving support, and addressing employees’ financial struggles.

Change Management: Communication must evolve, adapting management to change, and the need for empathy, trust, respect, and ESG awareness.

Creative Cost Savings: New cost containment strategies, shifting of care delivery systems, addressing big-ticket items, Rx, and gene therapy.

Mental Health: The impact of mental wellness, employer-delivered solutions, and training for managers/execs.

How can training technology support employee education around benefits?

There was a study done that an educated, engaged and empowered employee will spend 10-20% less on their health insurance. The environment we create for employees to become better consumers of insurance starts with education. We use technology to drive this education. If employees can get trained/educated on the right plans and resources for their needs, it leads to a better-engaged workforce. This is done through several different methods, apps on their phone for communication tools, texts, record keeping, videos, and links. In addition, the use of videos, webs, and print to further train employees helps with delivering the message.

When I first start to work with a client I am still surprised how many resources go unused due to a lack of awareness, technology, and education. Better training of employees results in overall savings in your insurance and risk management plans, it drives down claims. With ‘deskless’ employees it is a form of ‘training on the go’, which creates the need for improved technology built specifically for these industries. When we build out a benefits administration system for a client, and they can have their employees access it from anywhere, everyone wins. Then having this system ‘talk’ to all of their other systems builds the improved efficiencies we are always striving for.