What are Key Benefits to Offer to Employees?

Over time, Wes Keegan has learned what people care about and what they don’t when it comes to what a brewery should offer in terms of benefits for employees. But, the owner of Nashville’s TailGate Brewery also has had to ignore some of that feedback.

“It’s kind of a strange answer,” he told Brewer. “We would offer people healthcare and over the years, some people would rather make 50 cents more an hour.

“Well, what happens when you have to go to the doctor? They say that’s a ‘future new problem’ and they would leave over that.”

Finding that balance of attracting and keeping talented employees in all aspects of a brewery — be it front of house, back of house, or production and management — means finding that balance of what should be standard and what should be additional benefits.

TailGate announced earlier this year that they would offer healthcare to employees along with PTO and a 401(k) they just launched with a 4% match.

“These types of things, I would think that any person would want,” Keegan said. “We learned that sometimes that didn’t matter. We initially didn’t do the benefits thing, and we just started really raising wages.”

Keegan said, though, the research they’ve done that they have some of the best wages in the country for both brewery production and sales

“We got to the point where we’re really comfortable that we’re not getting into an arms race in terms of wages,” he said. “Somebody could always announce, ‘Hey, we’re gonna beat you by a penny,’ or something like that.

“But what else is gonna resonate? We now have people that have been around for eight years. Of the people that were around pre-COVID, we still have more than half of them. We’ve had really good retention. So we’ve listened to what people want. We know we’re paying them better. Now, what’s the next step? And the other piece that it came down to is, we’re growing and if they’re going to watch us grow we’re going to ask more of everybody, so we have to give more. Let’s make sure that we’re paying for your vision. We’re growing because you’re (the employees are) doing all this work, and you’re doing this great job. You should enjoy the benefits too.”

You can open a brewery “at a pretty low threshold,” Keegan noted.

“Doing it right is something different,” he pointed out. “If you look at stuff like benefits as just a cost metric, yeah, you just kind of freeze. The cost to me isn’t really the issue as much as the logistics of that cost. There’s so much admin, and there’s so much paperwork. Everything about people and payroll and training, it’s expensive. But if you can build a team that shares the same values, and is there for the same reason that you’re building your compensation package, then it’s more likely that you’re not going to have things like turnover, you’re not going to have to retrain … you’re going to have people that give a shit.

“Somebody’s going to come in and do a good job, whether the boss is there or not. Those are the types of things that just aren’t measurable.”

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