Freshly Picked: Amy’s Kitchen Makes San Francisco Business Times’ Best Places to Work List
Amy’s Kitchen is known for its organic approach to convenient vegan and vegetarian cuisine. But the brand’s good work extends beyond bringing healthy food options to the masses. The company has a new accolade to celebrate: a spot on San Francisco Business Times’ Best Places to Work in the Bay Area list.
“We are honored to be distinguished as one of the Bay Area’s best places to work,” Amy’s Kitchen President Paul Schiefer says. “It is our top priority to actively listen to our employees to foster an inclusive company that stands by our values. This award reflects our culture and the efforts made to create a collaborative environment.”
“It’s our top priority to actively listen to #employees and foster an inclusive environment. In the survey conducted by SF Business Times, we learned that nearly 90% of our company feels valued for their efforts — here’s to getting even closer to 100% this coming year,” the company posted on LinkedIn.
When Amy’s Kitchen launched in 1987, co-founders Rachel and Andy Berliner aimed to create a brand centered around food and family. The couple says they’ve maintained that goal and when it comes to its employees, they see them as part of the family, too.
“Andy, when he started Amy’s, he had this business goal in mind that ‘I just want to earn enough money to put my daughter through college,’” Schiefer says. “And he pretty quickly was able to do that. And from there he decided that ‘I’d like to give that gift to employees as well.’
“So today we’ve given 1,400 scholarships away to the children of our employees, many of whom were the first generation ever to go to college, some of which who, after college, came back and worked for us in a professional capacity.”
Since Amy’s Kitchen began awarding scholarships in 2000, the community-minded enterprise has given out around $1.5 million to students.
“In a lot of ways, Amy’s Kitchen has supported my college journey. It has given me financial stability in general,” said Jamie Castrellon, a four-time scholarship recipient and student at the University of California, Davis. “It’s great to have the scholarship to rely on to release anxiety. I use it mostly to buy textbooks and case files for my economics classes.”
Amy’s Kitchen’s Paul Schiefer: ‘We’ve Invested in an Incredible Health Equity Strategy’
Giving scholarships to the children of its employees isn’t the only way Amy’s is giving back to its team. Schiefer says Amy’s Kitchen offers its employees unique health care benefits.
“We also really are trying to take care of the people within our business as well as the people that surround our business,” Schiefer shares. “So we’ve invested in an incredible health equity strategy, bringing these amazing health care clinics to life. They’re fully bilingual, no cost to our employees and their family.”
Unlike most conventional health care facilities, Schiefer says patients get to meet with their provider for 30 minutes and discuss an integrated strategy that touches on medical conditions but also examines wellness and lifestyle elements as part of the solution.
“We help people get from primary care through the specialist they need and really help coach and enable that so that we’re really seeing an improvement in some of the chronic health conditions that some of our employees are faced with,” Schiefer explains.”
Amy’s employee Ramiro Dominguez says he started out as a kitchen prep and is now proud to have been promoted to research and development.
Noe Mojica, the plant manager of Amy’s Kitchen in Santa Rosa, California, says he has spent the past two decades working for the food entity, starting as an hourly employee. He shares his story on Amy’s Kitchen’s website, revealing he moved to the United States in 2001, leaving behind the turmoil of his native El Salvador.
“When I moved here, I didn’t know the language or culture and didn’t know how I would support my family,” Mojica admits. “Amy’s gave me a chance. I was hired onto a packaging line, and I met our owner, Andy, who always made me feel at home and cared for.”
Mojica says Amy’s gave him the opportunity to learn English and offered additional training to guide him on his journey to eventually landing the warehouse supervisor role.
“The leaders listened to my ideas, and I was provided the opportunity to manage production, packaging, and the kitchen,” Mojica adds. “Since I didn’t have the opportunity to go to college, Amy’s supported my education at Santa Rosa Junior College. I attended Amy’s Leadership Academy to continue my growth and development as a leader.”
These days, Mojica says he supervises more than 600 people at the Santa Rosa facility. When he looks toward the future, Mojica says his mission remains rooted in some of the initial conversations he had with Andy Berliner when they first started working together.
“I remember when Andy asked me over 10 years ago how we could create better health care for our people,” Mojica adds. “He learned that too many people were not using primary care due to language and other challenges.”
Mojica adds that constructing an onsite bilingual health care center to provide employees and their families with free, high-quality primary care was a game changer. “Our employees are healthier and happier because of our health center,” Mojica notes.
Mojica says he knows the names of his teammates and, like his managers above him, he’s willing to be available for employee questions, needs, and concerns. His mother is also part of the Amy’s Kitchen staff and works on the production line. ”My other family members, too,” Mojica says. “Many of our employees bring their families and friends to work here. We all care deeply about the health and safety of each other.”
Investing in a more sustainable tomorrow for its employees and its consumers is another facet of Amy’s Kitchen’s core philosophy.
“We are so very proud of where Amy’s Kitchen is today, and we sincerely thank every employee and every person who eats our food for helping us get here,” Andy Berliner wrote in a letter. “We also know in some ways the journey has only just begun.”
And that includes creating the kind of work environment that appreciates employees as much as the bottom line.
Goretti Hamlin, chief people officer at Amy’s, said, “Taking care of each other is a core value, so we are thrilled to see that the top word to describe Amy’s work environment by our employees is ‘supportive.’
“We also found in the employee surveys that nearly 90% of our employees feel valued for their efforts. We won’t stop there and are continually striving for that 100% score.”
Image by wirestock on Freepik