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.