New York City’s recovery will largely depend on the success of a restaurant industry now forced to expand its definition of prosperity to include the capacity of workers, both front and rear. the house, to live decently. In this case, the rhetoric of returning to normal is inappropriate, because “normal” was dysfunctional and bleak. Before the pandemic, as data from Mr Parrott shows, 84% of restaurant workers in New York City earned less than $ 40,000 a year, of which about a quarter received food stamps.
So what’s the fair way to go? This is in part due to legislative changes to the rules governing pooled tips. In New York State, only employees who interact with customers are eligible to receive a share of tips. This means that while bus boys and bartenders can get a share of a waiter’s tips, the kitchen staff cannot. Restaurateur Danny Meyer, who has been pushing for the change, points out that hourly wages for kitchen workers have remained essentially stagnant for decades while tip rates have risen dramatically.
It would also appear that there is a moral imperative for the well-to-do, who saw their wallets skyrocket as they largely worked from home during the pandemic, to shoulder the burden of paying more for the experience of go out. Last summer, when people started returning to restaurants and eating out again, the euphoria and savings of months spent at home led to a new generosity – often aided by alcohol. The tips were plentiful, in many cases exceeding 30%, but the fate eventually dissipated.
Considering the climate, it shouldn’t be a problem to jack up the price of a shellfish risotto. “Restaurant enthusiasts understood years ago that it was worth paying more for better ingredients,” said Meyer. “But we haven’t done a great job of persuading them that what we really have to pay for are people. When you see a heirloom tomato on a menu, you know you’re going to pay more for it. Food service workers subsidize restaurant meals, and it will take education to make a difference. ”
One of the potential outcomes of the pandemic could be that restaurant work becomes more professionalized and less transient, adhering more closely to the European model. “I try to think about what people expect from the workplace,” celebrity chef Alex Raij told me. At a time when workers carry more weight because of their scarcity, they are more free to ask for more opportunities. Ms. Raij has been exceeding the minimum wage in her restaurants for years. But since her farm is relatively small, there are no overlapping layers in the management structure, so she had to be creative in coming up with avenues for advancement for people looking for more help in terms of ‘exploitation.