Care benefits for restaurant employees
Q&A: Elizabeth Tilton on a program that helps independent restaurants help their people
Four years ago, Elizabeth Tilton, founder and CEO of Oyster Sunday, was researching health insurance for her small business. She was planning to launch a restaurant consultancy, and was hopeful the company’s independent restaurant clients might be able to join in on a small business plan. “It became very quickly apparent that the American healthcare system does not allow such things,” she said.
It was from this frustration that she identified a true restaurant industry need. According to a 2021 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than a third of hospitality workers have employer-sponsored healthcare plans, compared to three-quarters (77 percent) of private industry workers.
After spending years building a consulting practice that acts as a back office of sorts for independent restaurants, Tilton — who was once med-school bound — and her company recently introduced something of a pet project, a benefits program targeted to independent restaurants.
On Tuesday, Oyster Sunday launched OS Benefits. For a flat, per-employee cost each month ($35 to $95, depending on services), restaurants give employees access to many of the benefits and services that other full-time employees in other industries enjoy: preventative care via telemedicine, family planning and women’s health support (like Plan B that can be mailed nationwide with no restriction); crisis services, childcare support, dog walking, gym memberships, meditation app access, discounts on industry merchandise and supplies, and a lot more. Later this fall, they’ll add optional catastrophic insurance for an additional fee to help cover serious and unexpected issues — pneumonia, major injuries, even cancer.
Thanks to parameters of the American health care system, this isn’t traditional health insurance (though Tilton says the company is happy to help pair restaurants with a good insurance broker). It’s instead a thoughtful collection of partners and vendors offering both free and discounted wellness services. The company plans to launch a self-pay individual option targeting gig workers next year.
Here’s Elizabeth on the how and why behind the program.
Our conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.