Danny Meyer Brings Talent War to Restaurants with Parental Leave Policy

Danny Meyer Brings Talent War to Restaurants with Parental Leave Policy

Restaurateur Danny Meyer of Shake Shack fame is rolling out paid parental leave for restaurant staff at his company, Union Square Hospitality Group, which operates a number of popular restaurants around New York City. Eater broke the story earlier this week:

Starting in 2017, all full time employees in the front and back of the house with more than one year of employment will be offered 100 percent of their base wages for the first four weeks after their child is born or adopted. After that, all employees will be offered 60 percent of their base wages for the next four weeks. This leave plan applies to all new parents — mothers, fathers, and committed domestic partners with babies or newly adopted children. This plan will cover all Union Square Hospitality Group restaurants. (Shake Shack, Meyer’s hit burger chain, became its own company in 2015 and will not fall under this parental leave plan.) Union Square Hospitality Group piloted this parental leave within its corporate office, starting in 2015.

Meyer has long been a force for change in the restaurant industry and an advocate of pro-employee policies. Last year, he made headlines with his decision to get rid of tipping at his restaurants and shift to a “hospitality included” system, where the cost of service is built into the price of the meal and employees are paid a higher wage. That decision has made waves in the industry and also sparked a widespread conversation about the fairness and class dynamics of tipping. The Union Square Hospitality Group’s new parental leave policy is also likely to have an industrywide impact, Kathryn Vasel writes for CNNMoney, as it signals a focus on retaining talent in a traditionally high-turnover field:

“As workers continued to grow in their career, their life needs change, and we wanted to recognize that and honor that,” Erin Moran, chief culture officer at Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, told CNNMoney. She said most workers at Meyer’s restaurants are full-time, and are welcoming the new policy. It could also help attract and retain workers — tough to do in an industry plagued with high turnover.

“I think that other restaurants will have to take note of this, just like they have with the no tipping policy, and will have to decide how and if they will compete with him,” Robin DiPietro, director of the International Institute for Foodservice Research and Education at the University of South Carolina, said in an email. “There is a tough market out there with not as many great employees as there are jobs in the restaurant business (especially casual and upscale restaurants), so this is a great way to encourage employees to stay and to become invested in the business.”

Meyer is also getting ahead of New York’s plans to introduce a paid family leave mandate in the coming years, in conjunction with a higher minimum wage.