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District Taco looks to the big leagues, including health care coverage

Monday - 7/7/2014, 3:11pm  ET

Local Mexican chain District Taco now boasts four locations with a fifth on the way and more than 100 full- and part-time employees, which means it’s time to make things “more legit,” including in the area of health care, according to owner Osiris Hoil.

Some form of health coverage for full-time workers will likely be required of the business come January, when the Affordable Care Act will require all businesses with 100 or more full-time employees to provide some kind of health plan option.

It’s a deadline that many D.C.-area restaurants will come up against, and one that one upstart industry group is trying to tackle with a restaurant employee-specific health care exchange to launch later this year, as my colleague Tina Reed writes about today.

Hoil, who owns District Taco with a partner, is just starting the process of meeting with insurance agents to determine how best to proceed. He hadn’t yet heard about the Industree Exchange, he said.

“It’s pretty hard for a small company,” he said. “And when you have a really affordable product, trying to make up for that extra expense for your business is where it gets a little bit harder.”

District Taco has more than 100 employees now with about 75 percent full time, Hoil said. He hopes to have 10 restaurants by the end of 2015.

“We’re growing aggressively, so we want to become more professional,” he said. “See all these other companies, like Starbucks, and how well they treat their employees, and what kind of employees they have. I want to be a good solid company so that when people hear we have an opening, they say, ‘I want to work at District Taco.’”

Until now, the health coverage has been more informal. Someone gets hurt at work, District Taco takes care of it. Once, Hoil noticed one of his employees struggling with asthma, and he helped him get the medicine he needed.

“I’m not saying I do that every day, but if I feel like I can help, I don’t have any problem doing that,” he said.

Hoil’s aware that the health coverage will be a significant investment, and he’s willing to figure out how to balance that cost with food costs and revenues, including, possibly, raising prices slightly.

“Everything is a balance. We still want to be a restaurant where you can walk in and spend less than $10 and be full,” he said.

“I’m not going to say it’s going to be easy,” he continued. “But here’s the thing. We have to do it because it’s the law, but we also have to provide better benefits to be a good company.”

© 2014 American City Business Journals, Inc.