Texas Farmers Market Leaderboard January 2021

Food Service Just Got Healthier

If standing at your job is the magical health cure some say it is, then restaurant employees should be set for life. At least, they might be if it weren’t for all the hustle and bustle that comes with the work. “It’s not always the good kind of standing,” says Jessica Maher, co-owner of Lenoir and Métier Cooks Supply. “You’ve got to have balance.”

You’ve also got to have health coverage—a benefit conspicuously lacking in many parts of the restaurant industry, and often attributed to high staff turnover, thin profits and “That’s just the way it is in our business.” Maher and husband/co-owner Todd Duplechan didn’t buy into that mentality when they set out to provide primary health coverage for their 17 employees. That’s not to say they didn’t balk at the $600 they would have had to pay per employee, per month. “Even a hundred dollars for each person would have been steep for us,” says Maher.

Then they heard from a physician friend about another solution: Direct primary care from Austin Osteopathic Family Medicine. The practice, run by Dr. Chris Larson, gives patients access to his primary care expertise for a flat monthly fee. Larson says the approach spares users the agony of deductibles, the inflated costs of treatments and other ills of the insurance industry. Direct primary care may even encourage patients to visit the doctor for checkups a little more often than never. “This way, they’ll be more willing to see a doctor for preventative health without worrying about the cost,” says Maher. Though she’s thrilled to offer the plan to employees, Maher stresses that it’s not a replacement for basic catastrophic insurance, the kind that covers major hospital bills for serious injuries. Speaking as someone who deals everyday with the constant pressure to perform quickly and efficiently in an environment of sharp implements and piping hot equipment, she’s wise to suggest that “Everyone should hang on to their catastrophic insurance.”