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What Are the Benefits of an Employee Meal Policy

Posted On: 06/24/2024 / Payroll Services
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What Differences Employee Meal Policies Can Make

Every job has its perks. If you run a restaurant, for example, it may be expected that you provide some sort of employee meal policy. There are several benefits to these plans, but there are also costs associated with the plans. If you want to ensure that you have access to the best employees in your area and that you are able to keep your top talent, you’ll want to make sure you’ve considered the ramifications of having one of these plans in place. Doing so might give you a competitive edge over the other businesses in your area when it comes to finding and retaining employees.

What you need to know about your employee meal policy

As you might expect, picking out a meal policy isn’t always easy. In fact, picking out the right policy can have a huge impact on your business and must be considered carefully. Below is some of the basic information you’ll need to know in order to make an informed decision – as well as some of the guidelines you’ll be able to follow to make a decision that really makes sense for your restaurant.

Types of policies

There are a few different types of the employee meal policy in use today, each of which carries its own benefits and drawbacks. The plan that makes the most sense will generally have a great deal to do with the type of food your business makes, the preferences of your employees, and the size of the business. Knowing the difference between the types of plans can help you to better make that decision.

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Perhaps the most common type of meal plan is to allow employees a single free or discounted meal during or directly after a shift. These meals may be chosen from the menu or from a specific discount menu, but how the perk is used is ultimately up to the discretion of the employee. Some businesses, though, might choose to simplify things by providing a single, unified meal during a specific part of the day. These family-style meals are offered to all relevant employees and are offered during a break or at the end of a specific shift. There are costs and benefits to any of these plans, but they all still provide employees with a chance to get a meal.

Related: PayTech's Resaurant Payroll Guide

The Benefits

No matter what employee meal policy you choose, there will be tangible benefits. One of the most tangible benefits is keeping your employees nearby when they are on breaks. This will reduce the potential of an employee taking an extended break and help to eliminate frequent tardiness. Offering employees a meal also has the very real benefit of exposing your employees to the menu of your restaurant, making them more knowledgeable about the food that you serve and giving them the ability to make suggestions to paying customers.

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There are other benefits, of course, and they do tend to be a bit less immediate. Employees who are offered free or discounted meals are less likely to steal food from the kitchen, reducing your overhead. Employees who receive free meals are also more likely to stay with the restaurant longer since they’re given the benefit of a perk that is not always found in other restaurants. Feeding your employees can make them more loyal to your restaurant and less likely to move on to another job. Employees who grow to enjoy the free meals are also more likely to bring in their paying friends and family members when they are not working.

Tax issues

The good news is that employee meals are absolutely tax deductible on your part. The bad news is that properly deducting these meals requires keeping careful track of what your employees are fed. If you are using a POS system in your restaurant, it’s often a good idea to make sure that you have the ability to track which meals are counted as employee meals. If not, you should make sure to manually note that certain meals were given out to employees so that you write off those meals when you file your taxes.

How to choose

Choosing the employee meal policy for your restaurant really is a matter of knowing your own business. The reason that there are so many different types of meal policies is that every business is a little different and what works for one may not work as well for others. Before you decide on a meal policy, you’ll want to stop and consider several factors.

First and foremost, you should consider what you can afford. If your profit margins can’t support giving out free meals then you simply shouldn’t offer the perk. If your margins support discounts or family-style miles instead of free meals, use those as perks instead. While this is a very valuable perk that does seem standard across the restaurant industry, you can’t risk your business going into the red because you want to offer a specific type of meal plan.

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Once you consider what you can afford, start to think about the kind of food you serve. If your business is a high-end steakhouse, for example, it may not make sense to offer your employees a full-price meal for free during or after every shift. Food that is less expensive but easier to prepare, though, might be more reasonable. If your business tends to deal in large portions or family-style meals, on the other hand, it may just make sense to continue that trend with your employees.

You should also consider the people who work for you. If your specific area or type of restaurant tends to offer a specific type of meal perk, you may not want to be the person who bucks that trend. If you find that you are having difficulty attracting good talent because of your benefits, you may want to figure out if your free meals are part of the problem.

It’s always important for you to pay attention to perks like an employee meal policy. While you may not be able to offer the biggest compensation package in the area, you can offer perks that allow your employees to feel valued and appreciated. Whether you are looking at free meals or other employee policies, though, you’ll want to make sure that you have your plans written down and firmly established. To understand how to better onboard your new employees and to enact policies, make sure to take a look at the PayTech New Employee Welcome Packet.