Business Smart: A Place at the Table

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Choosing to have a career in the restaurant industry shouldn’t mean choosing to not have benefits. That’s the mindset of Maggie Kane, founder and executive director of the café A Place at the Table.

“If we don’t start adding benefits in our industry,” she says, “we won’t be caring for our staff, let alone have employees.” 

A Place at the Table is the Triangle’s first pay-what-you-can community café. As a part of the One World Everybody Eats network, Table’s mission is to combat food insecurity by providing community and food to all, regardless of means.

Caring for individuals is at the heart of this café, so when Alyson Fuller, baker at A Place at the Table, announced she was going to have a baby, Kane knew she wanted to provide her with paid parental leave. As she sees it, “Just because Alyson chose to bake doesn’t mean she should be ineligible for leave to spend time with her child.”

The team at A Place at the Table began refining their benefit offerings to include, among other things, six weeks of paid parental leave and six weeks of paid short-term disability leave. Those 12 weeks were invaluable to new mom and baby Jules. “I was naïve about how difficult it would be to leave my baby in those newborn months. Six weeks felt like no time to adjust and without paid leave, I would’ve struggled to make it,” says Fuller.

“I’m a dedicated, hard worker, and in return I have the trust of my supervisors. I wouldn’t be able to continue work if they didn’t let me make my own schedule or allow me to pump during my shifts. I’m grateful to have a supportive,
flexible working environment.”

Alyson fuller, baker, a place at the table

Family-friendly benefits like these have been nearly absent in the restaurant industry. In 2019, only 6 percent of restaurant and hospitality workers had access to paid parental leave, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only shined a brighter light on the problem.

“The pandemic has illuminated how important restaurants are to our livelihood,” says Fuller, “They are the modern watering holes—the culture of a locale.” With over 11 million Americans working in food services, Fuller notes, “Fair wages and benefits would improve the lives of a main segment of workers.”

As Fuller has been welcomed back to A Place at the Table, she says the environment has made a huge impact on her transition into working motherhood.

“I’m a dedicated, hard worker and in return I have the trust of my supervisors. I wouldn’t be able to continue work if they didn’t let me make my own schedule or allow me to pump during my shifts. I’m grateful to have a supportive, flexible working environment,” she says.

As the team at A Place at the Table looks to the future, Kane stays focused on what is best for her small staff. “Each year we work on adding different benefits and listening to what our staff needs.”

Fuller’s vision for the future, however, hopes for more change on a larger scale: “I hope that as we heal from the pandemic, we heal one of our most vital institutions—the American restaurant industry.”

Sample Benefits:

  • Paid time off
  • Health insurance
  • Parental Leave
  • Short-term disability