Small business operators from around the country are gathering this week for National Small Business Week, which kicks off today in Seattle, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Dallas, and Washington, D.C.
The week-long event gives small business operators the chance to learn all about the biggest issues on the small business horizon, as well as take part in business coaching services and networking events.
Though everything from sustainability to social media is top of mind this year, two key issues for small business operators—including those in the quick-service industry—include health care and insurance costs and data and payment security.
Unsurprisingly, nearly half of restaurateurs nationwide say health care costs are an issue of major concern in 2013, according to the 2013 Aflac WorkForces Report (AWR), a research study designed to reveal employers’ and employees’ attitudes and perceptions about workplace benefits.
Unfortunately, employers don’t find education about health care costs and changes nearly as important, even though employees place a great emphasis on it, says Keith Pellerin, vice president of product management and innovation for Aflac.
In fact, 68 percent of small business employees expect their employer to educate them on health care reform, while only 3 percent of employers say this education is a priority, according to the 2013 AWR.
And because employers expect recruiting and retaining employees to be a greater challenge this year than ever before, Pellerin says the education component could be key to keeping employees around.
In addition, benefits will begin to play a more important role in the workplace—especially in the quick-service industry—as the cost burden of health care is increasingly shifting to employees, he adds.
“We know that almost two out of every three small business employees say that they would likely accept a job offer that has perhaps slightly lower compensation if it had better benefits,” Pellerin says. “Operators are very interested in how they can enrich benefits offerings to be able to attract employees in an increasingly competitive environment and/or to retain employees in that same regard.”
Because many employees in the quick-service industry are young workers, an emphasis on wellness benefits is growing, too.
“People are extremely cognizant of wellness opportunities,” Pellerin says. “They’re more savvy when it comes to understanding the correlation between wellness today and lower medical costs or better health going forward.”
He adds that wellness coverage and benefits can not only improve employees’ benefit options, but they can also keep employers’ costs down in the long run.
While small business and quick-serve operators are focused on strengthening the relationship with employees through health care education and benefits, they’re also focused on reaching and better serving customers.
One way to create a stronger relationship with customers is through top-notch, reliable payment and data security, says Jim Contardi, senior vice president of product solutions for payment solutions company First Data.
“For a merchant to be confident that their systems are secure can make their customers feel good about regularly doing business with that operator,” he says.
Contardi says small business operators are looking for payment solutions and data security that fade into the background as “something that happens and happens really quickly.”
“You don’t want to spend a whole lot of time thinking about security,” he says. “You just want to know that it’s in there and that you don’t have to worry about accidentally storing someone’s credit card information that might somehow get hacked.”
With the growing popularity of food trucks and mobile payments, Contardi says mobility is another hot topic for small business operators.
“Thinking about how is it that you can deploy mobile to better serve your customers but still maintain the speed and reliability of taking payments and the security of that payment information is something that’s top of mind for a lot of restaurateurs, particularly in quick service,” he says.
“As we go into Small Business Week 2013, the dialogue is very much changing away from some things that might have been operational, back-office thinking to things that really deal with, How do I benefit the relationship with my customers so that they come back more often and they recommend my restaurant to their friends?” Contardi adds.
By Mary Avant
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