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Chain LeaderEditorial Archives2005April 15 — Best Places To Work

The Whole Package
Strong manager benefits allow Rock Bottom Restaurants to compete for talent with the big dogs.

Rock Bottom counts on its managers to help communicate human-resources information to their employees.

As soon as they join the company, new managers at Rock Bottom Restaurants are eligible for a whole package of benefits including medical and dental insurance, 401(k), flexible-spending accounts, an employee-assistance program, disability, life insurance and even pet insurance.

“When we offer benefits immediately, the first of the month after the hire date, it’s a huge incentive for recruiting new managers,” says Jennifer Saperstein, benefits manager for Rock Bottom Restaurants, which operates 29 Rock Bottom Restaurant and Breweries, one Walnut Brewery and 55 Old Chicago units, and franchises 17 Old Chicagos.

She admits that it’s sometimes difficult to get new hires into the system so they can, say, pick up a prescription just a few days after they start. “But the ability to recruit outweighs the logistics that go into it,” she says. “When potentials hear about [the benefits], they’re like, ‘sign me up.’”

The Benefits of Perks
According to People Report’s 2004 Survey of Unit Level Employment Practices, the average management turnover at restaurant chains was 33 percent in 2003. At Rock Bottom and Old Chicago restaurants, turnover was 30.4 percent in 2004.

Rock Bottom Restaurants
Louisville, Colo.
29 Rock Bottom Breweries, 1 Walnut Brewery, 72 Old Chicagos
2004 Systemwide Sales
$258 million
Average Check
$13.50 Rock Bottom, $8.00 Old Chicago
Expansion Plans

4 or 5 Rock Bottoms in 2005

“A big piece of that is these world-class benefits,” Saperstein says. “We not only take care of our employees but also their whole family.” The Louisville, Colo.-based company’s four-tiered health plan offers options to add spouses and dependents. Domestic-partner benefits include same-sex and opposite-sex partners.

For managers, the company pays about 70 percent and employees pay about 30 percent of their benefits. Saperstein says Rock Bottom wants to keep the costs low enough that employees will think about it when they are considering leaving.

This year, to keep health-insurance costs down, the company implemented a $500 deductible for hospital and surgical costs. But there is no deductible on regular doctor visits. “We don’t want to penalize preventive visits,” Saperstein says, adding that Rock Bottom’s young, active population helps keep premiums down.

The company also has a monthly bonus plan for managers and above. In addition, they are eligible for a bonus that accumulates over time and is paid out after three years of employment.

Spread the News
Communication about benefits is ongoing. When new managers first go through recruiting and training, the company explains the benefits package. Headquarters sends out literature on a quarterly basis, and there is annual enrollment.

The frequent communication is meant to keep unit-level management informed of their perks. But Rock Bottom also depends on the managers to cascade the information to their staff. “We feel we need to get the information out there to unit managers, because they become an extension of us,” Saperstein says. “We have to get it in front of them so they can communicate to their employees.”

All employees receive a benefits statement each year to show the benefits of what they are getting. “People focus on base pay. We try to get them to look at the whole package,” she says.

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