Health Benefits in Hospitality Are Broken, We're Changing That

Few workers have had a more tumultuous two years than those in the restaurant industry. According to BlackBox Intelligence, dine-in sales are still far from recovering to pre-pandemic levels. Restaurants are continuing to close at an alarming rate and there is great uncertainty as to when there will be any relief. Amid this uncertainty, one of the industry’s greatest challenges has been employee retention. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that job openings reached a record high of 9.3 million in April 2021, and the food services sector accounted for the largest increase. In addition, restaurant employee turnover is occurring much more rapidly than before the pandemic (169.9 percent at the non-management level, per Black Box Intelligence). Additionally, as of 2021, only 32% of hospitality workers have healthcare coverage, compared to 77% of private industry workers, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics

Meet Oyster Sunday

Knowing that even well-intentioned operators may struggle to financially support traditional health benefits for all employees, we set out to create an alternative, affordable system of benefits that would be accessible to all operators across the country. It’s our hope that this tool will not only provide hospitality and foodservice employees with access to preventative care, mental health, physical wellness and career development services—we also see it as a meaningful tool for employee recruitment and retention in a challenging market.

In order to make the OS Benefits Program as accessible as possible, we have provided tiered pricing based on the number of employees at a business—at prices as low as $36 per employee, per year. For employers, this nets out to 2.4 hours of a $15 minimum wage in California for an employee to access the program for the entire year. Pricing for the program operates on a monthly subscription model, helping to subsidize the cost of ongoing program management and vendor fees, as well as the time our team invests into recruiting, vetting, and onboarding new vendor partners. This allows us to pass all of the savings––anywhere from 15% to 50% on goods and services––directly to the employee.

Vendor Partners

Oyster Sunday carefully selects benefit vendors based on our clients’ needs. Each partner is required to offer 15% to 50% off goods and services, ensuring your team has perks at a pre-negotiated, reduced rate. A sampling of our partners are Sesame (medical care), Kleer (dental care), Spot (emergency insurance), ClassPass, UrbanSitter (childcare),  General Assembly (online classes), Tilit (chef workware), GIR (kitchen supplies), and many more. 

Employer Benefits 

  •  It’s a recruiting tool. Many restaurants do not offer their employees health insurance, leaving many underinsured or uninsured. With many establishments struggling to remain fully staffed, opting into the Oyster Sunday Benefits Program can help bring in more potential employees.

  • It’s vetted and convenient. Your team can schedule a wide range of healthcare appointments directly through Oyster Sunday’s dashboard. Instead of spending time searching for credible providers that meet their unique needs, employees can trust that we have carefully vetted vendors they can trust.

  • It can encourage attendance. Healthy employees are more likely to be present and productive. The best way to maintain health is for employees to have regular access to preventative care—and other complimentary services—rather than to rely on urgent, emergency care as a last resort. 

  • It can increase retention. Studies have shown that when employers offer paid healthcare benefits to employees, their teams are far more likely to stay in those jobs. Since such benefits are relatively rare within the restaurant and hospitality industries, the most talented employees are even more likely to stay with employers who offer such services.

  • It can save money in the long run. Oyster Sunday’s program begins at $45 a month for a team of up to 15 members—as little as $3 per employee each month. By proactively investing in your team’s access to affordable wellness services, you increase their likelihood of long-term health, which benefits your business. 

Why We Built It

The Oyster Sunday Benefits Program isn’t the first time we’ve provided meaningful resources to operators throughout the industry. In March 2020, we began offering free consultations to independent operators around the U.S. to help address the issues and challenges they were facing in navigating this unprecedented time. Throughout the pandemic, we continued to publish free resources addressing key questions and concerns voiced by these operators. Their gratitude and feedback helped us realize our ability to positively impact how operators address systemic issues in the industry. For us, the lack of holistic care for employees of independent restaurants and food businesses is a hurdle we wanted to help the industry overcome.

OS Benefits vs. Traditional Healthcare

The OS Benefits Program provides access to a network of benefits, goods and services at a pre-negotiated, reduced rate. Any independent operator in the U.S. is invited to join for a monthly membership, with pricing based on the number of workers on your team. Following enrollment, employees have access to Oyster Sunday’s Benefits dashboard, where they’ll find discounted access to all of our vendors’ goods and services.

The OS Benefits Program is designed to help restaurant operators and their employees access more affordably priced fringe benefits including  preventative care and relevant amenities that support their overall wellness. The program is not a substitute for small-group health insurance, PEOs, Medicaid, Medicare or the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but does serve as a complement in cases when teams are under or uninsured — let along other great amenities such as gym access and culinary tools.. We know many operators and employees are unable to participate intraditional healthcare program due to financial constraints, which is why we built the  OS Benefits program to bridge a huge gap..

When it comes to navigating small-group health insurance plans—let alone finding one that is affordable for small business owners—we understand it can be a challenging process. For operators who are able to provide insurance, above and beyond access to the OS Benefits Program, we offer a list of avenues recommended by healthcare brokers, CPAs, and legal counsel. This information is free and public for anyone researching the OS Benefits Program, regardless of whether they commit to our program:

  • Healthcare Broker | There are individuals across the country that help find plans for small businesses depending on scale and location. We are actively connecting employers with brokers. 

  • PEOs | In addition to small-group health insurance plans, Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs) is an organization that enters into a joint-employment relationship with an employer. In this relationship, the employer leases their employees to the PEO, thereby allowing the PEO to share and manage many employee-related responsibilities such as healthcare plans. A few examples of PEOs include Gusto, JustWorks, and ADP.

  • QESHRA | Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangements (QESHRA) allows employers who don’t offer group health coverage to help employees pay for medical expenses. This can be used to help pay a household's health care costs such as monthly premiums for qualifying health coverage. Additional information here.

If you are interested in pursuing these avenues, we recommend beginning with the following steps:

  • Survey Your Team | Send out a survey to better understand who is interested in coverage and / or who already receives coverage outside of your small-business plan. Participation plays a key part when it comes to group plans and premiums.

  • Run the Numbers | Based on participation, forecast what is possible for your business to contribute based on your cash position, revenue forecast, and future team growth (if applicable). Remember that the higher the company’s contribution, the lower the barrier of entry for your team, resulting in higher participation. However, this needs to be balanced with what makes sense for sustainable growth for your company.

  • Receive Quotes | Reach out to healthcare brokers and PEOs to find out what is best for your company. In order to receive quotes, prepare your team that you may need to request specific information from each of them to enable you to properly bid for a plan. Make sure to have a good grasp on your company’s contribution and your team’s participation. Tip: healthcare brokers and PEOs do not get paid per quote – only if you convert with them and purchase a plan. We encourage you to reach out to multiple brokers to ensure you are working with one that understands your company and who finds plans that meet your exact needs.

  • Run the Numbers (Again) | Once you receive quotes, run the numbers again to determine the best financial path forward for your company. If a small business health plan or PEO is not the right fit, QESHRA is a great option to ensure you are contributing to your employees healthcare while giving them the option to enroll in the open market with programs such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

Restaurant employees too often slip through the cracks of the traditional healthcare system. At Oyster Sunday, we are making it easier for restaurant operators to access a broad range of benefits to keep your employees happy and healthy. Our low-cost, convenient program offers a significant breakthrough for those seeking to offer their employees some form of wellness benefits, regardless of whether they can afford traditional health insurance for their team. 

To sign up for updates on the Oyster Sunday Benefits Program or to inquire about partnership opportunities, please visit us at To reduce the barrier of entry and help operators around the U.S. roll out the program to their teams, we are currently offering new members their first month free upon enrollment.

Elizabeth Tilton launched Oyster Sunday in 2019. Her hospitality career started with several years of back of house experience in New Orleans and eventually moved to NYC to join Momofuku. On the branding team, Elizabeth managed the public relations and marketing for Momofuku’s New York restaurants, market research for Momofuku’s expansion in the US, and major partnerships with companies such as The World Bank, Sweetgreen, Patagonia, Lucky Peach + MAD in Copenhagen. Prior to launching Oyster Sunday, Elizabeth was part of the original leadership team and the Head of Brand at W&P, a vertically-integrated design and manufacturing company developing culinary products. She managed a department to strategize and execute the launch of 300 + products including products in partnerships with Williams-Sonoma, West Elm, Lucas Films + Food52. 

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