In times of tension and perceived inequality, people take to the streets and protest. We certainly have seen this with various communities and the police who serve those citizens. Let us not forget the voices on Wall Street and the many protests around the US from fast food workers. We hear the clamor of the disenfranchised and the cry for equality and fair treatment. In the world of hospitality and the restaurant sector, voices are loud and getting angrier as our employees consider their wages, their job security and organizing rights. Industry leaders can do better – they can lead rather than be dragged along through the court of public opinion. There are Brand reputations at stake.
The Boston Globe on Monday, December 29, 2014 ran a topical editorial about our fast food workers, stating an obvious consumer fact, “…we’ve come to demand high quality and sustainable sourcing in every part of a restaurant’s operation. Well, except in how the employees who work there are treated.” An increase in the wage rate simply will not kill a business. Not many believe that an even modest increase will close doors. Another factor that many miss involves the cost of turnover. Many proprietors simply accept that rate and the associated cost. Admittedly, the fast food sector has a high incident of people moving around. However, the time it takes to recruit, interview and process a new employee all has a cost, too. Intelligent restaurant companies should be able to leverage their compensation scales and opportunities, and the public will respond! As CEO Patrick Renna of Boloco in Boston states, “Happier employees mean better service and higher customer satisfaction”. The concept is not hard to grasp.
The Globe gave some valuable thoughts on how to bring greater equality to the fast food sector:
- Demand intelligence. Unlike health code violations, an eatery’s bad labor practices aren’t regularly catalogued in any city-run online databases. For now, the US Department of Labor’s “Eat Shop Sleep” app is one of the best tools available, listing past citations for wage theft or other labor violations. It allows users to search by location or a restaurant’s name, but the results are still limited.
- Patronize the good guys. There’s not yet a Yelp rating or a widely used “fair trade” label to identify restaurants whose managers take pride in treating workers well. But a simple Google search can provide some help. Pay attention to online reviews that mention good labor practices. Tell owners that’s why you are there. Tell your friends, too. (Boycotting bad apples is harder to do — see above — but an admirable goal nonetheless.)
- Tip in cash. Servers who make the tipped minimum wage ($3 in Massachusetts as of Jan. 1) often must rely on generous tippers to make up most of their take-home pay. And, as backwards as it sounds in an electronic age, wait staff report that leaving cash is the best guarantee your tip will end up in the right pocket.
- Push for higher wages and worker’s rights. The Fight for $15 campaign continues. Polls suggest most Americans support an increased minimum wage, so be vocal about it. Sign petitions, attend hearings, join protests, confront politicians about their stances, trumpet the issue on social media.
Our communities revolve around our restaurants. Everyone wants their neighbors to do better than just subsist. Whether you are an independent, a franchise or company operated store, an increase in your wage structure is the right thing to do, and, I might add, it can give you a Brand marketing edge. Get in front of the issue! Be a leader!
John Hendrie is the author of the LRA blog, focusing on anything and everything about customer experience. LRA Worldwide is the leading global provider of Customer Experience Measurement services for multinational companies with complex customer interactions. For over 30 years, LRA’s innovative brand standards audits, quality assurance inspections, mystery shopping programs, research, and consulting services have helped ensure our clients deliver consistent, memorable, and differentiated experiences to their customers. Many of the world's preeminent global hospitality brands, as well as companies in the gaming, dining, healthcare, sports and entertainment, real estate, retail and travel industries choose LRA to help them measure and improve the customer experience. For more information, visit www.LRAWorldwide.com.
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