I’ve long admired restauranteur Danny Meyer’s approach to hospitality — he literally wrote the book on it, “Setting the Table.” One of the lessons I most often refer back to is what he calls Enlightened Hospitality, in which the first priority is taking care of the team around you. “We start with caring for each other, then caring for our guests, then caring for the community in which we’re doing business, then caring for our suppliers and investors.” It starts with “caring for each other,” Meyer argues, and that is one of the reasons Summit’s 9 Company Values includes, “To be a fair and good employer.”
Caring for your team means providing them a safe work environment, a place where they can flourish, where they can be themselves, and where they may continue to grow. And also a place that offers them the means to live. The service industry, most especially the barista life, isn’t recognized for being a place you can have a career. But we’ve set out to change that, constantly thinking of newer and better ways to enrich what it means to work for Summit and hopefully inspire some other small businesses along the way.
This week, we announced to staff that we’re going to start offering healthcare to all full-time employees.
Since Tim and I sketched out the visions for Summit nearly 10 years ago, and as Andrew and I have spent hours over the last few years talking about what Summit can be, we’ve aspired — no, we’ve dreamed — to provide health insurance to our team. It’s always been cost prohibitive, a scary consideration. We run a small business, and people count on us to spend Summit’s money wisely. But the bottom line is: we just can’t think of a better way to spend our money.
There’s an unfortunate divide in the world between jobs where healthcare is a given, and jobs where it’s just assumed it’s not available. Forever, we’ve been in the latter class, a place that’s committed to paying our employees as well as possible, but not able to provide the other benefits that bigger companies, and other industries, commonly offer. We started in 2017 with retirement accounts, and then introduced profit sharing. But this, offering health coverage, is different.
We see this as an ongoing vow to care about the well-being of our employees. We don’t want someone’s desire to have health insurance interfere with their desire to work at Summit. Having both is possible, and we’re betting on it.
One of my dearest friends asked last night, “How are you going to afford this?” It’s a great question.
When we announced our plans last month to franchise, we mentioned creating new and better opportunities for our employees. Since day one, Summit has been committed to reinvesting the money we earn into the people who make it possible. Offering healthcare is a pledge to our team even before our franchise business ever brings in a dollar (hopefully it’s not too long before).
Transparently, we also are undergoing a price adjustment across the board. Some things will be more expensive, some things will be cheaper. It’s a reflection of our increased cost of goods — better milk, better coffee, better cups — and also our increased cost of “caring for each other.” Our first responsibility is to take care of the Summit family.
As a father, one whose daughter turns 6 today, it’s a humbling moment to build a company that can provide my family with health coverage. For Andrew, too, who has a 2-year-old daughter of his own. To date, we’ve all paid for health coverage out of our own pockets. But now, the business that we’ve been building, that we’ve loved so immensely, has grown to a point where we can afford to provide better health coverage for our own families.
We’ve still got miles to go in terms of “caring for each other.” Perhaps we should have done this sooner. We also aspire to increase wages, and continue to invest in development and education and resources. But this is a big step forward for Summit, and hopefully one that will inspire our peers in the coffee industry to join us. Hopefully now when buying your coffee, you recognize that you, too, are supporting better lives for the smiling faces that serve you every day. Thanks for being part of something special.