When we surveyed our members recently on the challenges they face as employers and business owners, the biggest challenge by far was finding and retaining employees.  Offering benefits is a great strategy for employee retention, and helps set you apart from other restaurants when it comes to recruitment.  It does not have to be an all or nothing proposition. Explore a few of these possibilities when considering employee benefits:

Health Insurance

This is the biggie.  There are plans out there that can help large and small employers, but exploring all of your options can be daunting.  Best to consult with a professional, independent broker who can explore options and bid out your needs.  Also, don’t forget that if you are a member of NMRA, you are also a member of the National Restaurant Association, and eligible for the small employers trust plan with United Health Care, and all the products that go with it.  Check out more on NRA’s plan here.

Emergency Assistance

You want to be there for your employees when they have a crisis.  We get that.  So, through our foundation, the Hospitality Industry Education Fund, you can offer access to our Serving New Mexico fund, which can provide small emergency grants to your employees for things like medical or financial emergencies.  We know your goal is to keep people at work if they want to work.  The Serving New Mexico Fund helps you do just that.

Supplemental Insurance

You can contribute just partially to this, or some employees are willing to pay for 100% of a benefit— they just need access to it.  Check into supplemental insurance like short term disability, vision, dental, or other programs provided through AFLAC or similar providers.  Your broker can help you, or contact NMRA endorsed provider Linton and Associates.

Cafeteria Plans

Offering a Flexible Spending Account can help employees with medical expenses, day care expenses, and even transportation.  And, it results in about a 10% savings in your payroll taxes for all elections.  Check with your broker for a local provider, or explore an online-based option like Alice.

Tuition Reimbursement

Many restaurants offer tuition reimbursement as an incentive for employee loyalty.  See how this is working out for national chains like Starbucks or Chipotle in this article from CNBC.  It’s a great way to combat turnover. Locally-owned New Mexico restaurants like Taco Box are also having success with this program.


From free meals to team building activities, there are some creative options you can offer your employees that are a good fit for your restaurant’s culture.  Toast offers some creative low cost ideas in their blog. Also, don’t forget about other extras like pre-paid legal services and employee assistance programs that can offer crisis and financial counseling for your employees.

Sometimes, your operations protocol act as benefits themselves.  It’s all about making the employee experience easier.  If your benefits budget is already full, check on how your operations budget can do double duty as a benefit.


Do you have staff coming in on their off hours to check your printed schedule or calling you to check on the schedule? Offering interactive scheduling can be a huge draw for employees.  It allows them to see the schedule on the go, and many plans also allow them to find someone to cover their shift if something comes up.  This results in less no-shows for you, and less stress from employees.  This helps make sure shifts are covered, improving both employee morale and restaurant operations.  See how NMRA member Sadie’s of New Mexico utilized scheduling with HotSchedules.to streamline their operations.

Automated Payroll

Providers like Heartland can streamline your payroll process and get your employees paid faster.  Just knowing direct deposit is available can be a big perk for employees, and they look at these conveniences as benefits.  Plus, they really streamline your payroll procedures by keeping up to date on wages, local tax rates, and labor postings.

Online On-boarding

Making the hiring process easy goes a long way to decreasing turnover in those first few months.  Plus, the automation means that all your “paperwork” is online, and that your I-9 forms and other information are compliant. Decrease your time spent with paperwork, and streamline the process for employees through an on-boarding program like NMRA Endorsed Provider Fastrack Onboard.

Employee Manual

Communication is key when it comes to employee retention.  You really don’t have the time to deal with back and forth conflict regarding employee policy.  Also, you want to make sure you are following all of the latest regulations to protect your employees and your business.  NMRA Members get a FREE employee handbook, customized by a New Mexico based employment attorney.  To arrange to this yourself would cot at least $600, which exceeds the dues amount for many of our members.  Request your copy here.