More than half of this country’s restaurant workforce earns incomes below what’s considered the poverty line. That’s what the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC) — the restaurant workforce advocacy group that has caused headaches for Mario Batali, and backed the gratuity protection bill that was just passed in Philadelphia — is reporting in its just released National Diners’ Guide. The report assesses working conditions at what ROC has identified as the 150 highest revenue-grossing restaurants and national chains in America based on a worker pay, provisions of paid sick days, and equal opportunity for advancement. And while the industry-wide snapshot is hardly flattering, it’s particularly critical of the practices at chain restaurants.
On one end of the spectrum, you have a guy like Tom Colicchio, whose Craft restaurants hit all of ROC’s high marks — employees get paid sick leave, tipped and non-tipped workers are paid a fair wage, and there’s always room for growth. On the other end, there’s Darden Restaurant Company, which operates Capital Grille, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, and others, which earned a zero in each of the survey’s categories, indicating that workers who receive tips are paid only $2.13 an hour, and non-tipped workers rarely see more that $5 an hour. ROC contends that this is not a living wage. What’s more, ROC claims workers from the company’s Capital Grille Steakhouse restaurant chain have approached them with complaints of racial discrimination, lack of breaks, and hostile work environments.
The group says the guide isn’t meant so much as an attempt to shame the offending restaurants, but rather as a tool to help restaurant diners make informed dining decisions — just in case you needed another reason to eat at Craft instead of Red Lobster.
Related: Batali Sucker Punched by Protesters