A movement to pay restaurant employees a “living wage” is building in Charlotte’s dining scene amid a dire staffing shortage.
Why it matters: A labor shortage is the latest hurdle for the industry after a year of hurdles due to the ongoing pandemic.
To draw hospitality professionals back, some restaurateurs like 5th Street Group’s Patrick Whalen have increased their minimum wage to $15+ an hour, CharlotteFive’s Laurie Larsh reports.
In a Twitter thread, Whalen explained the restaurant group’s new Tip The Kitchen initiative to eventually get all back-of-the-house employees (sous chefs, line cooks, etc.) up to a livable wage of $25.25.
How it works: At the end of a meal at 5Church, Sophia’s Lounge or the soon-to-reopen La Belle Helene, guests receive a bill with a tip line for both the service (front-of-house) and the back-of-house staff.
- Guests can elect how much they’d like to give, and the restaurant ownership will fill in for anything less than 22% for servers.
- Plus, Whalen and the ownership team will match up to $500 per day for back-of-house tips.
Zoom out: Other local restaurants are increasing pay and offering new benefits to slow the costly churn of turnover.
- Sam Hart of Counter- pays his employees $20-$22 per hour and offers four weeks of PTO, according to C5.
- FS Food Group hired two full-time recruiters and is considering a retention bonus for those who stick around for at least six months, Axios’ Katie Peralta Soloff reported last month.
A number of restaurant owners like Jeff Tonidandel and Jamie Brown of Haberdish also offer health insurance, which they say is a draw for applicants.
Still, Tonidandel tells me the group could hire about 20-30 across all five of their restaurants.
Hiring in the restaurant industry is much like the rapid-fire real estate market these days. “If you don’t get back to someone within minutes, you’ve lost them,” Tonidandel says.
- The restaurant group’s minimum wage is currently $13, up from $12.37/hour pre-pandemic.
- Tonidandel tells me he’s considering another increase once restaurants can open at 100% capacity again.
Between the lines: Labor shortages can spill over into guest experience. Restaurants that barely made it through the last year are now faced with a barrage of negative online comments from diners disappointed at spotty service.
- Some restaurants have had to limit hours because of a lack of staff or to prevent burnout among a skeleton crew.
My thought bubble: Be kind. Practice patience. Tip well.
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- Or check out the full Axios Charlotte job board here.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misspelled CharlotteFive reporter Laurie Larsh’s name.