Stay Competitive

Stay Competitive

Benefits & Retirement Plans Pay Off

Long before Ryan McCaskey’s Acadia restaurant garnered two Michelin stars and made its cooking debut at the esteemed James Beard House, he was excelling in selfless fashion. He was determined—before he had even opened his progressive American concept in Chicago’s South Loop—to offer employee benefits.


040 4 stay competitive 1Ryan McCaskey


McCaskey searched high and low, bidding to find the best possible deals. Of course, it was no easy task, particularly for a first-time small business owner, but as the saying goes, patience is a virtue. A comprehensive benefits package was something he wanted in place before the restaurant was set to open in December 2011—several months before the Affordable Care Act was upheld in the Supreme Court in June 2012.

What McCaskey offers his employees at Acadia is rarely found at small restaurants, and his hard work has paid off with a loyal staff, many who have been there since day one. Health insurance is less than $200 a month for each employee, and the restaurant pays 50 percent of management’s costs. There are also 401K plans and three weeks of paid vacations: two weeks during summer and one week in the winter. McCaskey says he took these measures to stay competitive.

“I've found that to compete with hotels, restaurant groups, unions, etc., we have to offer these benefits,” he explains. “Cooks especially never think about the long term, or their future. We want to make them aware, and help them understand that one day they can cash in on that when it matters most.”

His determination to offer employees benefits stemmed from many years of working for restaurants where he had no coverage. He vowed that he’d never be “that type of owner.”

“I vowed to be a fair, transparent and good owner,” he says. “Two Michelin stars, a place that keeps pushing, striving. At the same time a great environment, five-day work weeks, trips, dinners, education. All in all, we've built something special at Acadia. It's not just the product or experience, but it's the work culture too. It’s a small family!”

Speaking of families, that’s how Armando Villalobos felt the first day he started at Morton’s The Steakhouse in Chicagoland. That was 27 years ago when he worked as a busboy. Today he’s a general manager at a Schaumburg outpost of the steakhouse chain.

“(Morton’s) gives the employee confidence that it was a good decision to work here,” says Villalobos. “In addition to a good benefits plan, employees are given great flexibility with their schedules.” Sixty-five percent of the staff at his location has worked there since it first opened in 1999, and his current executive chef has been with the company for 29 of its 38-year history.

“Anytime I wanted to take a new position at the company, I was given the proper tools to do so at Morton’s. That’s a big part of why I’ve stayed,” says Villalobos.

In need of a great benefits plan, but don’t know where to start? Here are a few tips from Matt Lowell, a financial advisor for Lincoln Investment, who’s been in the financial services industry for 25 years:

  • “If employees feel that the ownership has a vested interest in their well-being, whether it’s the healthcare benefits or retirement benefits, it generates loyalty from the employees. That’s especially true if it’s a new business and there are growing pains. Maybe they’re not going to make as much in compensation the first few years as the business grows, but if they know they’ve got a match with their retirement plan and health care benefits, they’re working toward a common goal.”
  • “Not everything has to be a 401K plan. Other types of plans may be less expensive and better suited to small businesses.”
  • “Google retirement plans or sit down with a financial advisor. That person could be an independent financial advisor such as myself or someone from your bank or an insurance agent. It should be someone who’s had experience in putting together retirement plans and working with individuals and businesses.”

Share