Tennessee restaurant owner helps employees get health insurance

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Healthcare can be expensive, especially if you can’t get insurance through your job. A restaurant in Knoxville has taken a special step to help employees get the health care they need.

Providing health care to service industry workers is almost unheard of, but that’s exactly what the owner of Craven Wings plans to do at the start of the new year.

“For the past year, my wife and I, Melissa, who is a nurse, have been trying to figure out a way to provide health benefits to our employees,” said the owner of Cress Family Restaurants.

Cress has been trying to find a way to cover his employees with current menu prices, but with inflation and other expenses, that hasn’t been possible.

“I just moved here and live on my own. So getting health care is huge for me,” said collaborator Kaylee Klauser.

It was while traveling out of state that Cress saw how another restaurant was able to provide healthcare to their employees.

“When I turned my ticket over I saw a three percent health surcharge and I didn’t know what that was and to be honest I was a little angry at first,” he said. “It was then explained at the bottom of the ticket that this was to provide health benefits to their employees and almost as a revelation, I thought that was excellent.”

He has decided to do the same in his restaurants from January 1, 2023.

“It gives us the opportunity to pay for half of their health benefits and give them something they can actually achieve.”

Cress said he knows some customers won’t be happy with the change. “It’s on the bill and if they choose to opt out, we’ll take it off.”

Cress and his wife believe this is the right thing for their employees.

“She knows how important this is from a health perspective and I know how important it is from these guys’ day-to-day perspective,” he said.

His employees said they want customers to understand how this small change will have a big impact on their lives.

“I really hope that customers respond well to this, because it gives us an advantage even at a small extra cost. I mean, it helps us to be here by being able to go to the doctor if necessary,” said Klauser.

This surcharge is also added from the beginning of the year.

Cress says they’re not entirely sure what that reimbursement rate will be, but it won’t be more than three percent and customers can ask for that to be deducted from their bill. He says he just wants to do good by his employees.

WATE asked Cress why he decided to put the extra charge on the bill rather than just increase their prices on the menu and he said he didn’t want customers to feel like they were trying to hide the change.

Cress wants customers to know that 100% of that extra compensation goes directly back into the care of its employees.

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