Friday, March 6, marks Employee Appreciation Day. This is one in a two-part series of how restaurants are rewarding and encouraging their employees. Click here for part two.

It’s not every restaurant that would make $100 investments in each of its employees’ health and wellness goals, but The Signature Room, a fine-dining restaurant in Chicago, will do just that when it offers Fitbits to its 250 employees in May.

The Fitbit program stems from executives’ desire to build a health and wellness program that better benefitted the ambitions of its employees. It’s a new iteration of employee appreciation in the industry, and provides an example many restaurants may soon mimic.

“When we were talking to various managers about their health and wellness goals, a lot of them told us they have fitness-related goals: ‘I want to get into yoga class’ or ‘I want to run the marathon next year,’” says Angela Roman Aspito, director of operations at The Signature Room. “In our research for how we could do that together and encourage them, we found Fitbits, and the best feature for me is that it enables you to befriend all of the people that you work with.”

This spring, when The Signature Room rolls out its wellness program to all of its employees, the program will split employees into teams so they can compete on various health-related challenges and share a fitness calendar complete with pop-up contests, such as encouragement to eat blueberries on a certain day or a dare to go meatless for 24 hours. 

The Signature Room developed these aspects of the program after observing what worked best with the 34 managers, who’ve been beta-testing the Fitbits and team challenges since September.

The managers love the camaraderie that comes with the sense of team, and we built cross-departmental team to encourage the most interaction, and that’s what they really liked the best,” Roman Aspito says.

Examples of rewards for employees who perform well in the health and wellness program include an extra Saturday off or a gift card for a massage or some other fun event. The Signature Room staff eats a family-style meal together every day, and the employee of the quarter will also get to select what that meal is for one day, further building camaraderie within the group.

This is an about-face from the employee appreciation program The Signature Room began to transition out of two years ago after a decade in use. The old program offered the employee of the quarter $200 in recognition of his hard work as well as a luncheon.

“We got away from that and I think the value systems of the people who work in our industry is changing,” Roman Aspito says. “It’s becoming different kinds of motivation. We have quite a few Millennials working for us at this point, and for them, money’s great, but it’s not everything. They like experiences and opportunities to feel connected and influence. Sometimes it’s just motivating for somebody to get an extra vacation day or create a cocktail featured on our bar menu.”

Other aspects of the health and wellness program include encouragements and incentives for employees to get key physical check-ups such as the annual visit to the doctor and flu shots and vaccinations. The Signature Room will continue to recognize employees for their birthdays, anniversaries, and particularly the milestone anniversaries that occur every five years with gifts.

Roman Aspito suggests any restaurant considering a program like this run it by its employees first to gauge their interest; she estimates that out of the 250 employees, about 150 will sign up.

“In our industry, we spend more time together sometimes than we do with our families at home; we really view ourselves as being a big family,” Roman Aspito says. “This program brought a lot of people closer and ignited the team spirit, so if you are an employer and you are looking for an opportunity to engage your employees on a level other than just accomplishing your day-to-day work task, this is a great way to do it.”

By Sonya Chudgar

Industry News, Labor & Employees