​Creating Top-Tier Benefits for Employees​

Early on Urban South was just a few people. Co-founder Jacob Landry explained that the New Orleans-based brewery began in 2016, like many breweries across the country, it was just his core group of founders and some expectations for the future.

One key that he did tell Brewer was they prioritized from the start providing health insurance.

“That was important to us,” he said, explaining it was subsidized health insurance.

“​We kind of look a little bit uniquely ​at the company,​“ explained HR manager Courtney Landry, Jacob’s wife. “We’re working together as husband and wife and also raising four children outside of work. ​

“As a company, we want there to be a family culture here​ and that idea of ​taking​ care of each other. I think that has formed as we’ve gotten larger, really wanting to make sure that we’re thinking about what employees need and that they’re well taken care of as family members.​“​

Now, with a facility in both New Orleans and Houston, Urban South has grown well past the small group of employees and continued to fine-tune what benefits are needed for the company.

“As a company grows, you constantly evolve,” Courtney said. “A company that was only five people is an entirely different organization than one that now has 60 people across two sites. One of our core values is ‘be better every day.’ I think we’ve had to be very willing to adapt.”

That has meant looking each year at changes and being proactive in creating what employees need and even want.

“You need to have people who are focused on the people working at the company just like you do at any type of institution,” Courtney said. “That’s one of the pieces of having grown is that you really got to have people taking care of the team as well. I’m enjoying doing that for the company.”

Jacob Landry explained that although it’s not a hard and fast rule, reaching that 10,000-barrel mark is an indication that a brewery needs to have some sort of HR department in place and be able to hand those responsibilities over to those that can handle it best. For Urban South, it’s Courtney and her team.

Up until recently, Urban South contributed 65% ​to the employee’s premiums​ for healthcare costs along with paid time off​.

“That​ was pretty much it​,” he said. “We offered pretty early on a 401k but we weren’t able to do any kind of matching or anything. So we kind of stayed in that up until pretty recently.​“​

​Around the start of 2021, the brewery was able to introduce some bonuses that were tied to overall company volume.

“This year, we decided to go ahead and go whole hog into the 401(k) match as well as a profit share for employees,” he said. Starting in January 2022 all employees after working there for one year, will be eligible for both of those.

“That’s a massive cost for our payroll, giving just some cost of living increases and checking some folks up,” he said. “With those additional benefits, our payroll jumped $20,000 in January, which, as you know in this industry right now, combined with all the raw materials insanity, it’s not necessarily the best financial decision for profitability.

“But in terms of just being a great place to work and retaining our employees, this was the time to do it. It’s the kind of thing, we just had to rip the Band-Aid off and do it.”

In Florida, 3 Daughters’ Brian Horne explained that they have really tried to do some different things on the benefit side,

“A lot of our employees don’t work 32 hours a week,” he said. “They don’t qualify for health care. And they don’t want to work more than 32 hours a week. So they’re not really trying to qualify, but we try to do some other things for benefits.”

Some interesting benefits the brewery has offered to pay for employees’ Netflix accounts, having a cell phone package along with gym memberships.

“One big thing that we did a push last year was virtual healthcare,” said Horne, the company’s VP of Marketing and Sales. “They could go online and talk to a doctor virtually for basic stuff because a lot of people might not have healthcare somewhere else.

“We’ve really tried to kind of think out of the box on some of that stuff.”

Being a beach area on the ocean, the next idea that was brought up was to purchase a community boat.

“We can take all of our employees out and go fishing, or just go out cruising,” Horne said. “We bought a kayak trailer with six kayaks on it that we keep at the brewery. So, anybody that likes to go outdoors and take their kids or friends kayaking, they can just bring a truck, hook up the trailer, and take it wherever they want to go.”

Bent Paddle offers a full benefits package for any full-time employees of 35 hours per week, explained co-owner Karen Tonnis. For the Duluth, Minnesota brewery this includes: medical, dental, Short Term Disability, $25k Life Insurance, a Simple IRA with a 3% match, paid personal time off along with beer and workwear, and a Wellness Program including free yoga on-site once per month, plus an annual reimbursement of either a Minnesota State Park Pass or BWCAW entry permit, use of recreational gear such as paddleboards, canoes, kayaks, and snowshoes and one off-site paid team building day per year.

The brewery pays 50% of the medical premium for employees and 25% for dependents along with 100% of the premium for employees for dental, disability, and life insurance.

Tonnis said that the brewery utilizes a local benefits consultant to select both medical and dental plans annually that best fit the company’s needs, and then manage enrollment and applications internally.

Mother Road administered a company-wide survey for the benefits they chose for 2022, which included PTO, group medical, 401K, holidays, and profit-sharing.

“It was always the plan to expand our benefits,” said VP of Operations, Oliver Adams. “We were able to invest to do this in part because of a substantial increase — 45% year-over-year paid for the opportunity to do this.

“You hit a certain production volume that leverages your fixed costs enough to have the cash to invest in these. We hit that mark in 2021, allowing us to do it in 2022. As we continue to grow and thrive we will continue to expand our benefits package. Our crew’s decisions literally make or break this organization. We need the best employees to be able to build the company for the future. They earn it. They are what makes Mother Road succeed.”

​From Day ​1 ​Adams said the Flagstaff, Arizona brand offered beer benefits and compensation. ​Sometime between 2011 and 2016, ​the brewery had had PTO, jury-duty leave, beer benefits, and bereavement leave​, Adams said.

“In 2018 we added group medical. In 2021 we expanded our PTO offerings and included bonding leave​,” he explained. “This year we blew open the lid, adding dental, vision, EAP, 401K, and profit-sharing.

​“​The real story here is that we’ve always increased benefits to what we could and as our barrelage grew, our benefits grew. Our ​crew is what makes this whole thing happen. Our ​crew is Mother Road and to attract and retain the best, we need to provide benefits that allow for that. Yet really, the ​crew earns the benefits themselves by the great work they do that funds them.”

Touching on that aspect, Horne said the last company he was with was a half-a-billion dollar hospitality company where he was vice president. In a mold like that, having outside-the-box ideas isn’t always welcomed.

“When you try to offer programs like that to a huge amount of people … but our turnover rate is still 150%. It doesn’t really work,” he said. “Our turnover rate [at 3 Daughters] is absolutely so low. All the brewers have been here since we opened the doors. Half of our tasting room managers have been here since we opened. Our bartenders, when they leave, they leave because they’re graduated school or they’re moving so our turnover rate is so absolutely low that we do it because we’re family.

“The owners are very involved, day-to-day operators and they treat everyone like family. I think that shows through.”

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