Foodservice Operators Promote Healthy Living and Wellness

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The foodservice industry has, by and large, deftly embraced the consumer trend towards health and wellness. But how are foodservice operators performing when it comes to employee health and wellness?

“They’ve come a long way over the last five years,” says George Marshall, CEO of Regina-based Service & Hospitality Safety Association (SHSA). “When you look at the larger chains, there’s certainly a great deal more [health-and-wellness programming] in place than a few years ago. However, the mom-and-pop shops haven’t gone anywhere in this direction, so there’s a lot more to be done there.”

KFC Canada is one large chain that places huge importance on employee well-being. Its health-and-wellness program for head-office staff encompasses physical, nutritional, financial and mental well-being. “That ties in nicely with our employee value proposition,” says Brian Henry, Chief People Officer at KFC Canada. “We tell them ‘when you work for KFC, you can be your best self, you can make a difference and have fun,’” says Henry. “Our overall wellness program allows all our employees to be the best version of themselves.”

Some elements of KFC’s program include lunch-and-learn sessions on mindfulness, a naturopathic doctor who regularly comes in to talk with employees about their personal health goals, a “sports week” featuring various activities and a fitness reimbursement. “Even our flex hours and how we manage work flow at the office is mindful to give people more time to focus on other things in their lives and hopefully reduce an element of anxiety and stress,” adds Henry.

While the program is focused on corporate staff, KFC is taking steps to bring its health-and-wellness message to the restaurant level. “Our restaurant teams are 100-per-cent franchisee operated, so it’s a bit more difficult to get those messages through,” says Henry. “But we have a plan of how to do that and it starts with educating franchisees on the importance of [wellness progarms].”

For example, at KFC’s restaurant general-manager conference in April, one of the topics was mental health. “We know that when you have a mentally fit organization, it helps turnover and productivity and increases morale and engagement,” says Henry. “This is an opportunity to educate [employees] on how they can take care of themselves and their families. If they do all those things, then they’re going to be running great restaurants as well.”

While there may be the perception that it’s more difficult — and costly — for smaller businesses to implement health-and-wellness programs, SHSA’s Marshall says “Being a smaller company actually makes it easier. Large organizations have to implement often complex formal systems to support [a program]. But, as the owner of a small company, you could have an immediate and direct impact on employees at a very quick rate.”

Small and large companies can certainly reap the benefits of workplace-wellness programs. However, a 2017 study by The Conference Board of Canada found only one-third of Canadian employers have a formal wellness strategy in place, while nearly half have informal strategies in place.

“The challenge is people don’t know where to start, they don’t know how to measure and they’re concerned they’re spending money,” says Bill Howatt, chief of Research, Workforce Productivity for The Conference Board of Canada. “It requires a mind shift — moving from thinking you’re spending to investing.”

Henry offers this advice: “Just start. Do something and improve on it every year and make it bigger.”

Secondly, he says, get leadership commitment. “Not just saying they’re committed to it, but actually participating in these initiatives.”

Finally, look for opportunities to partner with experts. “Our naturopathic doctor has an ongoing relationship with our employees,” says Henry. “It doesn’t feel like a boom-splat. It’s part of who we are and how we operate. You walk in the door of the office every day and expect the lights to be on. And, when you walk into the office, you also expect someone is thinking about your overall wellness and health.”

Written by Rebecca Harris

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