June 13th, 2014
06:00 PM ET
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Can a person learn the art of hospitality?

That’s the question the organizers of the first Welcome Conference want to pose to participants both within and outside the restaurant industry. This sold-out, service-focused event will be held in New York City on June 17, and the team behind it hopes their message will spread.

“Service is black and white, hospitality is color,” says Will Guidara, one of the organizers. He’s the co-owner and restaurateur of Eleven Madison Park and The NoMad in New York; the former most recently earned the No. 4 spot on San Pellegrino’s notably buzzworthy World’s 50 Best Restaurants List.

What he’s talking about is the somewhat recent trend of restaurants extending beyond traditional service and taking extra measures - like Googling guests or handling special occasions - to make their diners feel like active and unique participants in their own experience.

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Opinion: Restaurants - someone's mother works here
May 9th, 2014
01:30 PM ET
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Editor's note: Saru Jayaraman is the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, Director of the Food Labor Research Center at University of California, and author of Behind the Kitchen Door, a groundbreaking exploration of the political, economic, and moral implications of dining out. Nation's Restaurant News named her as one of the 50 most powerful people in the restaurant industry and she was recently included in CNN Living's 10 Visionary Women list.

About 80 million of us will head to our favorite restaurant with our Moms this Sunday. It’s considered one of the highest grossing days of the year for the restaurant industry. The world’s largest restaurant lobby, the National Restaurant Association, says that more than one quarter of American adults will celebrate Mother’s Day by dining out and nearly one in 10 more will order takeout or delivery.

The majority of restaurant servers working on Sunday will be women, millions of them mothers. They will be earning a sub-minimum wage as low as $2.13 an hour (the federal rate since 1991); their take-home pay will be mostly tips, whatever they have leftover, in some cases, after tipping out bussers, hosts, and the rest of the restaurant’s tipped staff.

Due to the instability of living off tips, these women are undoubtedly looking forward to Mother’s Day, even if it means not being with their own family, because serving a lot of customers usually increases what they can expect in tips.
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April 17th, 2014
01:00 PM ET
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GrubHub Inc, the owner of popular online food-delivery services GrubHub and Seamless, agreed to restructure its billing formula Wednesday after a year-long investigation by the New York state attorney general found that the company's restaurant partners were withholding tips from their delivery workers.

The company charged a fee to restaurants based on a percentage of the total food and drink, taxes and tips paid by customers. Once the fee was deducted, the remainder was returned to restaurants, according to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office.

The investigation found the fee created an incentive for restaurants to not fully distribute tips to their delivery workers.

Restaurants could “shortchange workers out of their hard-earned tips - tips that customers intended for them,” Attorney General Schneiderman said.
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The CNN 10 Visionary Women: Saru Jayaraman
March 24th, 2014
09:30 AM ET
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This Women’s History Month, CNN set out to highlight the efforts of 10 women who are helping other women find success, self-esteem and sometimes a safe haven. The women represent diverse fields: technology, fashion design, policy, activism, literature and skilled labor. What they have in common is a mission to empower their fellow woman. See the full list at CNN Living.

Saru Jayaraman wants you to eat with your mind full. The 38-year-old co-founder and co-director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United and author of “Behind the Kitchen Door” has spent her career fighting for service workers to get a fair wage in a respectful, safe environment. Most of those workers are women.

In an essay for Maria Shriver’s “The Shriver Report,” Jayaraman plainly laid out the facts: “Restaurant servers are three times as likely to live in poverty and use food stamps at double the rate of the rest of the U.S. work force. In a terrible irony, the women who put food on the tables of restaurant-goers everywhere are struggling to put it on their own.”
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