KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Healthcare can be expensive, especially if you can’t get insurance through your job. A Knoxville restaurant took a particular step to help workers get the healthcare they need.

Providing healthcare for employees in the service industry is almost unheard of but that’s exactly what the owner of Craven Wings plans to do at the beginning of the new year.

“For the last year, my wife and I, Melissa, she’s a nurse, have been trying to come up with a way that we could offer health benefits for our employees,” the Owner of Cress Family Restaurants said.

Cress has been trying to find a way to provide coverage for his employees with current menu prices but with inflation and other expenses, it hasn’t been possible.

“I just moved down here, living on my own. So getting health care is huge for me,” employee Kaylee Klauser said.

It was during a trip out of state that Cress saw how another restaurant was able to provide healthcare for their employees.

“When I turned over my ticket I saw a three percent health fee and I didn’t know what that was and to be honest I was a little angry at first,” he said. “Then it explained down at the bottom of the ticket that this was to provide health benefits for their employees and almost like an epiphany I thought that’s outstanding.”

He’s decided to do the same at his restaurants starting on Jan. 1, 2023.

“It will offer us the opportunity to be able to pay for half of their health benefits and give them something that they can actually attain.”

Cress said he knows some customers won’t be happy with the change. “It is going to be on the check and if they choose to opt out we will take it off.”

Cress and his wife believe this is the right thing to do for their employees.

“She knows from a health perspective how important this is and I know from a working with these guys’ everyday perspective how important it is,” he said.

His employees said they want customers to understand how this small change will make a big impact on their lives.

“I definitely hope customers respond well to this because it is benefiting us even at a little extra cost, I mean it is helping us be able to be here by being able to get into the doctor if needed,” Klauser said.

Again this fee will be added starting at the beginning of the year. 

Cress says they’re not quite sure what that fee percentage will be, but it won’t be more than three percent and customers can ask to take that off of their bill. He says he just wants to do right by his employees. 

WATE asked Cress why he decided to put the extra fee on the bill instead of just raising their prices on the menu and he said he didn’t want customers to feel like they were trying to hide the change.

Cress wants customers to know 100% of that extra fee will be going right back into the care of his employees.