Welcome Saru Jayaraman (UC Berkeley) (Twitter) and Host Sarah Jaffe (Alternet) (Twitter)

Behind The Kitchen Door

You’ve probably heard this statistic before: food service is one of the fastest-growing areas of our economy, and food service work one of the fastest-expanding job fields.

Did you know, though, that only 20 percent of restaurant jobs pay a livable wage?

I worked in restaurants for years, in high school and in college, and well after when I found that the grand promise I’d been sold that a college degree would get me a good job was not true. I worked two jobs at a time while writing for free or very little on the side, and all those jobs weren’t enough to pay my rent.

Lots of people have a story like mine, yet perhaps don’t know statistics like the one above. In her new book, Behind the Kitchen Door, Saru Jayaraman blends stories of restaurant workers like me with research on the industry, creating a book that is at once an organizing tool for people seeking to improve their jobs and a wake-up call to people who eat at restaurants and ask their waiter to tell them if the tomatoes are organic, how far the lettuce traveled, and if the chicken was free range, but hardly ever ask about the waiter’s own conditions.

Jayaraman doesn’t want us to feel guilty for eating at restaurants—she shares her own stories of important life moments that took place while dining out. She takes us through her own awakening, when she met the workers from Windows on the World, the restaurant that had been atop New York’s World Trade Center, in the fall of 2011.

She helped those workers found what became the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a nationwide coalition of restaurant workers organizing for better conditions. It is the research and the connections she made working at ROC that inform and shape this book.

The concepts of the growing food movement inform this book, concepts such as “Slow Food” and “sustainability” and fairness. We meet restaurateurs who do their best to pay living wages and provide paid sick time, while stocking the best healthy ingredients and not charging an arm and a leg for their meals. And we meet servers who fought back against sexual harassment and racism to become leaders and organizers in their own right.

The core argument that Behind the Kitchen Door makes is that better labor conditions are better for all of us, that it is not simply altruism that should motivate diners to support moves like paid sick days (ROC New York was deeply involved in the successful, though imperfect, campaign to bring a paid sick time law to New York City) and decent pay and training. Two-thirds of restaurant workers, she notes, report working sick—do you want someone sneezing on your burger?

The organizing ROC has done, outside of a traditional union context, relies on multi-pronged strategies that include legal action, legislative battles, community support, and of course, worker action. As it’s become harder and harder for workers to organize into National Labor Relations Board-sanctioned unions, the work of nonunion organizations like ROC becomes more and more central to the broader labor movement.

I’ve covered ROC campaigns in New York and Philadelphia and met workers in ROC T-shirts around the country. I’ve drawn on the work in Behind the Kitchen Door to do my own work as a journalist covering labor and particularly restaurant and fast food work. As we see fast food workers making headlines in city after city with strikes, it’s more important than ever to be informed about the conditions and struggles of those in the restaurant industry.

Jayaraman asks all of us to be more conscious not just about the quality of the food we eat, but also of the workers who serve us that food, and for us to advocate for those workers when we do eat out. We can help, she notes, by making the lives of workers as central to our concept of “food justice” as environmental and health concerns are.

“So, what if consumers demanded that restaurants provide sustainable wages (definitely more than $2.13 an hour) for employees as well as sustainable food for customers? What if we based our dining choices on which restaurants promote diversity and good working conditions along with grass-fed beef and organic strawberries? What if we insisted that a clean kitchen include workers who can afford to take a day off when sick?”

These are the jobs we have, the jobs we can’t outsource. We need to make sure that they’re good jobs.

Join Saru and I to discuss Behind the Kitchen Door, restaurant work, and organizing to make the industry better.


[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

100 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Saru Jayaraman, Behind The Kitchen Door”

BevW August 24th, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Saru, Welcome to the Lake.

Sarah, Welcome back to the Lake, thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

For our new readers/commenters:

To follow along, you will have to refresh your browser:
PC = F5 key, MAC = Command+R keys

If you want to ask a question
– just type it in the Leave Your Response box & Submit Comment.

If you are responding to a comment – use the Reply button under the number, then type your response in the box, Submit Comment. (Using Submit Comment will refresh your browser when you reply to a comment/ask a question.)

Sarah Jaffe August 24th, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Hello and welcome to the book salon!

I’m particularly happy to host this week’s event with Saru Jayaraman because I worked for many years as a server in restaurants, and I wish I’d known anyone doing the kind of organizing in the restaurant industry that her group, ROC United, does.

Saru, tell us, after years of working as an organizer, why did you decide to write a book?

dakine01 August 24th, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Good afternoon Saru and welcome to Firedoglake this afternoon. Welcome back Sarah!

Saru, I have not had an opportunity to read your book but have to say that I have been somewhat stunned at the attitude presented by some of the restaurant and fast food chains towards the health insurance reforms by proclaiming they are going to cut worker hours in ways to almost require the workers to come in when sick. It seems these restaurants would be primed for health inspections and shut down as public safety menaces.

Do you cover the chains and others who actually do pay a close to living wage with health benefits?

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 2:03 pm

For the last 12 years of organizing restaurant workers, consumers often asked us, “What can we do to help? What impact could we have ask diners?” Finally, when we were faced with one of the biggest campaigns of our history – raising the abysmally low minimum wage for tipped workers of $2.13 an hour – we realized that we really needed consumers to get on board. So I wrote the book to share what we had learned over the last decade – that most consumers don’t know – and how every diner can participate in changing the system.

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 2:05 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 3

Hello, Yes, we could not agree more. While health departments cite restaurants for various sanitation issues, one of the greatest public health disasters – the lack of paid sick days – remains for the most part completely unregulated. In my book I do describe several ‘high road’ restaurants who provide livable wages and benefits; and we have one hundred employer partners around the country like them, trying to do the right thing by their workers. Only one such ‘high road’ restaurant is a chain – In N Out Burger on the West Coast.

metamars August 24th, 2013 at 2:05 pm

I wrote a diary here at FDL, called
UPDATED The plutocrats are laughing at you, Part 1: Why I won’t support rocunited.org

I have two main problems with your organization – sufficient to make me not support it. (This doesn’t mean I’m not sympathetic to your goal; this means I don’t believe you are maximizing your opportunities to achieve your goal; so much so, that unless you raise your game, strategically speaking, I expect you to get meager results, and so I’ll find other ways to spend my time and energy to support socially useful goals; I honestly think I’d be doing your organization more good by critiquing it, than by lining up, like a good soldier, and keeping my doubts to myself).

FIRST: You have not embraced systematically propagating a strategy which has recently gotten dramatic results for low paid workers, namely minimum wage LAWS, at the local level.

SECOND: You are not systematically educating about ALEC, which is behind state-level efforts to sabotage minimum wage laws at both the local and state level. (Your website has exactly one article tagged “ALEC” : http://rocunited.org/tag/alec/ ) . Your “opportunity cost” in not making ALEC education part of your ground game extends beyond helping the hoi polloi correctly identify their enemies – you are also losing the opportunity to enjoy activist synergies with, and support from, other more ALEC-aware activists, like anti-GMO folks, activists fighting the prison pipeline, which has particularly made life miserable for many black Americans (draconian drug laws were supported by ALEC) and Greens.

This forum is not ideal for hashing these things out, but I’d consider doing so in a more dedicated forum, if I thought you and your staff were actually open to criticism about your strategy. Just in case you are, you can email me at: feedback@occupypublicplaces.org

Elliott August 24th, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Welcome to the Lake,

Are you in favor of doing away with the tip system in favor of the living wage with benefits?

Sarah Jaffe August 24th, 2013 at 2:06 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 3

I’d note that they don’t “Almost” require workers to come in when sick–they often do. Saru has some points about this in her book, indeed.

dakine01 August 24th, 2013 at 2:07 pm
In response to metamars @ 6

Yes, please stay on the topic of the book rather than your personal agenda as this is NOT the forum to thrash out your disagreements

dakine01 August 24th, 2013 at 2:10 pm
In response to Sarah Jaffe @ 8

I’ve never had to be a server and can’t imagine having to come in to work when I am ill. As I mention, it seems it should be a public health risk and those businesses should be shut down that require this of workers

emptywheel August 24th, 2013 at 2:10 pm
In response to Saru Jayaraman @ 4

Welcome Saru

I enjoyed the way you put stories to the servers you’ve worked with.

Sarah mentioned the Slow Food movement in her post. And I’ve seen (some) chefs increasingly pointing to labor efforts (both within sitdown restaurants and fast food).

To what degree has support for labor been increasing along with the Slow Food and related Foodie movements?

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 2:12 pm
In response to metamars @ 6

Hello, we are most definitely open to critique about our work, but I fear you are mistaken. We have been leaders in advocating for the increase in minimum wage for both tipped and non tipped workers, at the local and national level. We were key leaders – of course with several allies – in raising the minimum wage for tipped and non tipped workers in New York State in 2005. We are also key leaders now – in coalition with many allies – fighting for minimum wage increases in Illinois, California, New York, Massachusetts, and at least a dozen other states. As to ALEC, I encourage you to read our recent report “Darden’s Decision,” all about our current campaign against low wages, lack of paid sick days, and corporate lobbying by Darden, the world’s largest full service restaurant company and a member of ALEC. I’ve also been speaking on a number of media outlets about ALEC’s recent work with the National Restaurant Association and Darden to pass laws in 14 states that would pre-emptively prohibit any localities from passing local paid sick days ordinances.

BevW August 24th, 2013 at 2:12 pm

I was talking to a young women in a store this week, she mentioned working in restaurants and hated it – especially the “side work” for no pay. The other people listening were surprised to hear the pay was $2.15 / hr.

metamars August 24th, 2013 at 2:13 pm

I’ll take your comment as an invitation for me to exit this thread.


Sarah Jaffe August 24th, 2013 at 2:14 pm
In response to BevW @ 13

My favorite story of side work was having to scrape gum off the bottom of tables on a slow day–when I was just making $2.13 an hour!

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 2:16 pm
In response to Elliott @ 7

HI, Thanks for your question. We’re often posed this question as an ‘either/or’ and for us what really matters is that every worker – whether they receive tips or not – receives a stable base wage that allows them economic security and stability. While in most states the tipped minimum wage is less than $4 and the federal tipped minimum wage is $2.13 an hour due to NRA lobbying, seven states in the country have the same minimum wage for tipped and non tipped workers (including California, the country’s largest and fastest growing restaurant industry), regardless of tips. The key point diners need to know is that most tipped workers are not fancy steakhouse servers rolling in tips – 70% of tipped workers are women who work in Applebee’s, IHOP, the Olive Garden, and Red Lobster (the last two are Darden restaurants). Restaurant servers suffer from three times the poverty rate of the rest of the US workforce and use food stamps at double the rate of the rest of the US workforce. So we don’t advocate getting rid of tips at this time; we DO advocate for a much higher minimum wage for both tipped and non-tipped workers.

metamars August 24th, 2013 at 2:16 pm
In response to Saru Jayaraman @ 12

Well, one last comment. Thanks for this response. Unfortunately, I don’t feel comfortable continuing the discussion. My “personal agenda”, and all.

bigbrother August 24th, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Here we opposed MacDonald’s application to open. Living wage is part of the issue and it was the biggest turnout opposing an application for approval in County history.
I like the cooperative model where the workers own and make the decisionsas well as share the profits. Any thoughts?
The visitor sevrning sector is one of the largest employers in the county. Oue median income is below 1968 minimum wage USA.
And I also am interested in a living wage ordinance as Sanat Barbara and Long Beach Passed.

Phoenix Woman August 24th, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Welcome, Saru!

Your book is both an enjoyable and informative one. I’m so glad you could be here with us today.

I don’t know if the news traveled out to the East Coast, but here in Minnesota a couple of years ago, we had a Republican gubernatorial candidate, Tom Emmer, who claimed that restaurant workers didn’t need a minimum wage because they made $100,000 a year. In other words, it was the old glibertarian War on the Waitstaff, dusted off for 2010.

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 2:20 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 11

Hi, that’s a great question. There has been tremendous progress over the last few years toward the food movement to becoming more aware of the issues of the 20 million workers in the food system. In 2008 we created something called the Food Chain Workers Alliance, a coalition of now 15 organizations of workers throughout the food system, from farmworkers to meat and poultry processing workers to restaurant workers. Together we have worked to educate the food movement about the integral part sustainable labor must play in sustainable food. There is certainly a very long way to go, but we’ve seen tremendous response from hundreds of thousands of ‘foodies’ and food activists around the country. For example, when NY Times writer Mark Bittman wrote about our ROC National Diners Guide, which you can download for free on your smartphone and which rates restaurants on their employment practices, about 100,000 people visited our website to download the guide. One person wrote us, “I always thought abotu the pigs and the cows, but I never thought about the people. IT seems that you’re on the cusp of something big.”

Sarah Jaffe August 24th, 2013 at 2:21 pm
In response to Saru Jayaraman @ 16

You noted that most of these workers are women–which is a key point of your book, that restaurants are often rife with discrimination on the basis of race and gender. Can you share some stories related to this?

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 2:22 pm
In response to BevW @ 13

Yes, it’s amazing how much Americans don’t know that in most states- thanks to the lobbying of the National Restaurant Association – our tips are not on top of wages, they are the wage itself. In other words, because of the power of the National Restaurnat Association, this industry has found a way to say, “We shouldn’t have to pay our workers’ wages – you, customers, should pay our workers’ wages for us.” What other industry has such a deal? And we ask, in any other context, what would it be called to require workers to work without paying them?

BevW August 24th, 2013 at 2:24 pm

ROC United – website

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 2:26 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 19

Hello, thanks for your comment. Yes, we’ve heard this argument from the National Restaurant Association multiple times. To answer both your comment and Sarah’s, 70% of tipped workers in America are women earning that abysmally low federal tipped minimum wage of $2.13 an hour. U.S. Department of Labor data shows that these women suffer from three times the poverty rate of the rest of the US workforce and use food stamps at double the rate. So the idea that these are fancy fine dining workers earning $100,000 annually just isn’t borne out by the data. What’s incredible to think about is that, because non-tipped workers (whose federal minimum wage is $7.25) are majority male and tipped workers are majority female, while in other industries gender pay inequity is a matter of private employer discrimination, in the restaurant industry it’s currently the law. In other words, the restaurant industry legally pays women 1/3 of what they pay men.

bigbrother August 24th, 2013 at 2:26 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 18

Saru this comment was meant for you. Truly our food service workers as well as farm workers are victimized. What do you think of the coop model?

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Hi Sarah – thanks for bringing this up. When Herman Cain ran for president and was accused of sexual harassment, MSNBC reported that while 7% of American women work in the restaurant industry, 37% of all sexual harassment charges to the EEOC come from the restaurant industry. Sadly, this is often the first job that young women obtain, some while they are in college or grad school. So even if these women end up moving on to other professions, they often tell me that they never did anything about sexual harassment at IBM or at a corporate law firm because “It was never as bad as it was when i worked in restaurants.” But we like to say that Herman Cain harassed women in more ways than one. The fact that the tipped minimum wage is $2.13 an hour is thanks to Herman Cain, who was the head of the National Restaurant Association back in 1996. As its leader, Cain and the NRA struck a deal with Congress saying that they would not oppose an overall minimum wage increase as long as the minimum wage for tipped workers remained frozen forever – and so tipped workers in the industry, in vast majority female, have seen their wages stagnate at $2.13 an hour for the last 22 years.

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 2:34 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 26

Apologies if I’m missing some comments! So we actually have started several cooperatives ourselves. In 2006 we opened COLORS Restaurant in New York as the largest cooperative, worker-owned restaurant in North America; the restaurant is still open today. We then opened a second COLORS Restaurant in Detroit, where we have partnered with the food movement to incubate several worker-owned cooperative food enterprises, from catering businesses to salsa companies. So generally I think cooperatives are a wonderful tool to help workers build positive alternative models. However, I do not believe that they will transform the industry or our economy if they stand alone, outside of a broader movement for change. In our case, we see COLORS as one piece of a multi-pronged strategy that includes worker, employer, and consumer organizing, worker-led research and policy work, and much more; in other words, COLORS is part of a broader movement to build power and voice for restaurant workers vis-a-vis the powerful industry lobby, the NRA. If we were only building COLORS Restaurants and not simultaneously fighting the corporate powers that control our industry and our economy, I don’t think we’d actually succeed in transforming the industry.

Sarah Jaffe August 24th, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Saru, you’ve been an organizer for a while–we’re at a moment when “traditional” unions are under fire and losing members, but we’re seeing remarkable organizing from outside of the existing union movement. Talk about ROC’s connection to unions, and how ROC builds worker power on the job.

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 2:42 pm
In response to Sarah Jaffe @ 15

Federal law says that restaurant owners are required to make sure that tips make up the difference between the tipped minimum wage of $2.13 and the regular minimum wage of $7.25 for every hour that a tipped worker works. Unfortunately, after surveying more than 5000 workers, I personally have only ever heard of one incident in which an employer actually counted how much each worker earned in tips and made sure to make up that difference. In fact, the US Department of Labor reports an 84% violation rate with regard to the tipped minimum wage – meaning that employers are either stealing tips or wages or not appropriately compensating workers when they are paying the lower tipped minimum wage. So in your case, if you were scraping the gum off tables and not earning tips, the employer should have been paying you $7.25, though employers almost never do. In my book there is the story of Claudia Munoz, an immigrant who worked at the IHOP in Houston, TX. Claudia’s wage was $2.13 an hour but many days went by when she earned $0 or $2 or $3 in tips; the employer said he would not make up the difference. When you get a wage of $2.13 you receive a paystub that says “THIS IS NOT A PAYCHECK,” because your wages go entirely to taxes and you live off of your tips. This was Claudia’s situation; and she says that she was unable to afford to eat, and so often would wait to go to work to eat pancakes, and sometimes would feel forced to flirt with cooks or management to get more food to eat. This is the situation of millions of women and men who feed us each day.

BevW August 24th, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Sarah, how many years did you work in restaurants? Did you notice differences in working conditions between different places – or was it all the same?

Teddy Partridge August 24th, 2013 at 2:45 pm

I haven’t read your book, so please forgive me if this is covered: what’s your take on no-tips restaurants? There’s an article in Slate about one. The owner discusses how food improved and the server team made more money.

We made this change because we wanted to distribute the “tip” revenue to our cooks as well as our servers, making our pay more equitable. Servers and cooks typically made similar base wages—and minimum wage was the same for both jobs—but servers kept all the tips, which could often mean they were taking home three times what the cooks made, or more. In California at that time, it was illegal to distribute any tip money to cooks. (Recent court rulings in the Western U.S. have loosened that restriction somewhat). By replacing tipping with a service charge, we were legally able to redirect about a quarter of that revenue to the kitchen, which reduced the income disparity and helped foster unity on our team.

emptywheel August 24th, 2013 at 2:47 pm


You also talk about how restaurants claim they don’t realize workers of color might want to move into more senior and better paid positions. It’s a particularly bad problem in my neighborhood (which has my city’s best restaurants but also abuts one of the poorest, most violent, and most heavily African American neighborhoods in the city).

Besides just raising the question, what has worked to push restaurants to address the racism in the industry?

Sarah Jaffe August 24th, 2013 at 2:48 pm
In response to BevW @ 31

I worked in restaurants from the time I was 18 til I was 24. And yes, there were definitely differences–different managers, different owners, chain restaurants, fine dining, casual, and all sorts of different conditions. The fanciness of the restaurant, often, was no indicator of how I would be treated.

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 2:48 pm
In response to Sarah Jaffe @ 29

Yes, I actually think it’s a very exciting time for the labor movement. We are not a union, but we consider ouselves part of a larger movement for improved wages and working conditions for the nearly half of American workers earning low and poverty wages. Workers are taking action at Wal-Mart, in fast food restaurants, and in other low wage sectors across the economy. In our case, we’ve organized workers to stand up at Darden, the world’s largest full service restaurant company and owner of the Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Capital Grille Steahouse, LongHorn Steakhouse, and about 8 other brands. Darden’s CEO earns $8.5 million annually and has $22.5 million in stocks, but pays workers as little as $2.13 an hour. But what’s critical to know about Darden is that they don’t just follow the law – they set it. They have been the leading monied lobbyists against raising the minimum wage and providing paid sick days. In 2011 they announced a public partnership with Michelle Obama to provide healthy food for kids at the Olive Garden, and at that same moment a server in a Fayetteville, NC Olive Garden was forced to work with Hepatitis A because they didn’t have paid sick days. 3000 people had to get tested for Hep A, filed a class action against the restaurant, and won. In our campaign, following the model we’ve used over the last 12 years, workers have organized within Darden restaurants across the country, filed litigation, partnered with consumer groups to demand change at Darden, and much more. Over the last 12 years, using this model, we have moved 15 large restaurant companies previously taking the ‘low road’ to take the ‘high road’ and won $7 million in stolen tips and wages for workers.

PhilPerspective August 24th, 2013 at 2:49 pm
In response to Saru Jayaraman @ 30

How can this ever be enforced? Meaning is it the job of the various states? The job of the DOJ and DOL? And is one of the reasons it’s not enforced is because of the high turn-over? Meaning people don’t know about the law and by the time they might, they’ve moved on to the next job?

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Hi, yes, I was just on the Today Show speaking about that comment in Slate. These ‘no-tip’ policies are being implemented in very fine dining restaurants, where servers may make more money earning tips. Unfortunately, such jobs are less than 20% of the 10 million restaurant jobs natwionwide. The vast majority of tipped workers in the US restaurant industry live in poverty, and work at IHOP, Denny’s, Olive Garden, and Red Lobster. So while we applaud the intention of owners of these fine dining restaurants to ensure all their workers receive a livable wage, what we really need more than anything – more than a ‘no tips’ policy at this point – is a stable, livable, secure wage for all workers, tipped and non tipped. We need to pass the bill currently moving through Congress called the Fair Minimum Wage Act, introduced by George Miller in the House and Senator Harkin in teh SEnate, that would raise the regular minimum wage to $10.10 and the tipped minimum wage to 70% of that, or initially $7.07. It’s not perfect, but it would certainly go a long way to ensuring a stable wage for all workers in this industry – regardless of tips.

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 2:57 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 33

This is a very important issue; racial segregation has become so normalized that most of us don’t even notice when we walk into a fine dining restaurant and everyone who serves us and speaks to us is white, while the bussers, runners, and ktichen staff are most often people of color. In fact, there is a $4 wage gap between white workers and workers of color in our industry; workers of color are concentrated in more casual and fast food restaurants and in lower-level positions even in fine dining. The 3 best solutions we’ve seen so far have been: 1. organizing campaigns that include press, litigation, and consumer pressure to move companies to desegregate; 2. research we’ve published using the ‘matched pairs audit testing’ methodology ,sending in hundreds of pairs of white and people of color applicants into these jobs and finding that white applicants had twice the chance of obtaining a livable wage job even when the person of color had a better resume; and 3. consumer demand. On #3, we are asking everyone who eats out to speak up to management (not your server) at the end of your meal, saying “Loved the food, loved the service. I’d love to keep coming here but noticed that all the servers are white and the other lower-level workers are of color. As a paying customer I’d love to see that changed.”

bigbrother August 24th, 2013 at 2:58 pm
In response to Saru Jayaraman @ 28

That is helpful and I totally agree. The industry needs to pay the workforce a living wage. I am at edited by moderator please send me the contacts to your coop org. I have been trying to help my local food service workers but they seem afraid to rock the boat of status quo. I have some friends in coops that have organized to help some of our local coops. It may be unionizing can help raise the working conditions like spit shifts, unpaid chores and the many degrading conditions that many workers are forced to put up with or not work. And you re doing wonderful work.

RevDeb August 24th, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Hi Saru (and everyone)

I preached on the issue (and your book) in April and went to an organizing meeting in Philly in June. Our UU Service Committee has taken it on as a project. Mr. Rev and I talk with servers at most of the restaurants that we go to now. In PA the tip minimum is a whopping $2.83. The servers never even see the paychecks—it all winds up being taken out in deductions.

I read that in MA they are working on raising the minimum wage for everyone and upping the tip minimum to 70% of standard minimum. Since there are no listings (that I know of) in the Boston area I wonder if you have been active working this issue in the MA statehouse. I see little hope of it going anywhere in PA though many of us are working on it. Most of my parishioners—even the activists feel uncomfortable talking with those who serve their meals in restaurants. We have to work at getting people to engage in the conversations.

Eons ago in the 1970′s I waited on tables and hostessed in NYC and at that time the going rate was, I think, $1.60/hour which according to the BLA measures at $5.65 in what they call “constant dollars” Today’s minimum of $7.25 is worth $4.97 in “constant dollars.” In the mid-70′s between tips and wages I could almost make a living on it. Today that would be impossible. This is really important work that you are doing and the book has both heart warming and chilling stories that people need to read.

What are the bright spots you are seeing where there is movement? And where can we all do the most good to help the cause (other than staying away from the truly bad employers like Darden)?

nixonclinbushbama August 24th, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Thank you for your advocacy.

Don’t anyone laugh, but, at age 14, I was server in summer camp. I can attest that it is exhausting work, even for a 14 year old. (My endurance level when doing other kinds of work has always been remarkably high.)

All I can say is, tip well, folks.

Of course, I agree that workers must organize and take collective action, whether labor unions serve them well or not. Solidarity is everything.

No matter how many times the minimum wage has gone up, though, actual buying power (all workers) seems to have flatlined for the last 30 years. I don’t know what the solution is.

emptywheel August 24th, 2013 at 3:01 pm
In response to Saru Jayaraman @ 38

Actually, in my neighborhood (close to a small college) I think lots of the backroom workers are white too. There’s been a lot of talk about why the revival of the neighborhood hasn’t helped the people of color who’ve been here for years, and it seems like the restaurant boom is passing them by. (And one of the few black-owned restaurants shut down in the last year, got replaced by a Little Caesers).

I know there are server training programs. Do community centers ever sponsor such trainings?

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Hi, thanks for your question. The first and best answer to the deep problems of tip theft and improper payment is simply to raise the tipped minimum wage to be the same as teh non-tipped minimum wage, as is in the case in California and 6 other states. That way, employers would not have to calculate the difference between the tipped and non-tipped minimum wage, and would not be liable for it. Even the California Restaurant Association has said that changing to a situation in which they’d have to calculate tips for each worker would require additional human resources staff in each restaurant. So it’d be better for everyone to simply have the same base wage for all.

As long as we do have a lower tipped minimum wage, in my opinion, DOL enforcement is important but not sufficient. The DOL says that the restaurant industry is the #1 violator of wage theft of any industry, and that the industry has a “culture of non-compliance” with employment laws. So the only way to really attack the root of the problem – rather than just the symptom, through enforcement – is to fight to change the culture. We need to continue to organize workers to stand up in the largest companies that set these ‘low road’ standards for the whole industry, like Darden. But we also need customers to demand change. In the same way that customer demand led to restaurants providing locally sourced, organic food, we believe that customers demanding change – livable wages, paid sick days, compliance with the law, race and gender equity. We have instructional guides on YouTube showing how you can speak up at the end of your meal.

Teddy Partridge August 24th, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Thank you. Did you, by the way, see the former McD’s CEO on Chris Hayes’ program last night, posing as a non-expert expert on the minimum wage? It was really hilarious, but sad, watching him defend the indefensible with no facts on his side at all.

nixonclinbushbama August 24th, 2013 at 3:05 pm
In response to Saru Jayaraman @ 12

None of us knows how to fight ALEC or it would have been gone by now.

RevDeb August 24th, 2013 at 3:07 pm

One of the other things we’ve become aware of is that many restaurants—if they don’t outright steal tips—do take a % out of the tips that are put on credit cards to “help” them pay the cc fees. We’ve taken to only tipping in cash and encourages others to do the same.

dakine01 August 24th, 2013 at 3:08 pm
In response to RevDeb @ 46

I had servers tell me years ago that they had to wait to receive any tips on the plastic so I have paid cash for tips for over 20 plus years now

bigbrother August 24th, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Just signed up for your website hope we can work together for sucess in our county of San Luis Obispo CA. Is California more progressive on these issues in your mind aany links to network your efforts in our County?

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 3:08 pm
In response to RevDeb @ 40

Hello, thank you so very much for preaching on this issue and spreading the word! And we simply cannot thank the UU’s enough for your amazing contributions to this movement. We have been engaged in the MA fight; we have a group of restaurant workers there advocating for a higher tipped minimum wage and I think they have a very good chance of winning.

There are wonderful bright spots and signs of progress. Personally I am feeling incredibly optimistic and hopeful. 100,000 people have signed our petition to pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act. The food movement’s support of our work is growing. The fast food worker strikes have been positive signs of workers saying ‘we’ve had enough!’ We’ve even made some progress at Darden – when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was ruled constitutional, Darden annouced that they were reducing their workers’ hours to less than 30 to evade ACA. We and others engaged in online consumer organizing, and the company ‘clarified its stance’ when its S & P rating went down over consumer outrage on this issue – saying that they were not reducing anyone’s hours. We have a long way to go, but so many exciting things are happening!

I’m sorry if I was confusing, but we don’t actually want you to avoid eating at Darden restaurants (Olive Garden, ReD lobster, Capital Grille Steakhouse, Long Horn Steakhouse). We want you to keep eating there – and anywhere and everywhere you want to eat – but to please speak up every time you eat out. There are 3 things we’re asking of everyone 1. please buy the book, read it, and tell others to please buy it and read it; 2. please go to the website http://www.TheWelcomeTable.net and sign the petition to raise the tipped minimum and regular minimum wages; and 3. please continue to eat out everywhere, and speak up to management at the end of your meal!

RevDeb August 24th, 2013 at 3:10 pm

he will personally NEVER be affected by the minimum wage, therefore he doesn’t have to know about it. He only had to know to pay the peons as little as he could get away with. McD’s surely has an army of pencil pushers keeping them on the low road for as long as possible.

Sarah Jaffe August 24th, 2013 at 3:10 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 47

There are all sorts of innovative and creative ways restaurants steal tips. One of my favorites (and by that I mean the worst ones) that I’ve heard of lately was a restaurant in Philadelphia that was giving workers tests on the menu and withholding a percentage of their tips based on their score!

ROC Philadelphia was actually organizing with those workers and helped them fight it: http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/14946/striking_workers_accuse_fat_salmon_of_wage_theft/

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Hi, thanks for your comments (and for sharing your own story!) While yes, of course we want everyone to tip well, I always say that just tipping better will never be enough. If we continue to just tip better, we continue to subsidize an industry that expects us to pay its workers wages for it. This must change now. The solution is a bill that’s moving through Congress called the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which could have a real chance of passing if consumers demanded it. 71% of voters -Republicans adn Democrats alike – respond to polls saying they support it; it’s simply the lobbyists holding up Congress from passing it. Please go to http://www.theWelcomeTable.net and sign the petition to raise the wage.

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 3:13 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 42

We actually run the only real national fine dining server and bartending training in the country. We train about 1000 low wage workers of color annually to move up to these livable wage jobs. We partner with community colleges nationally to offer credit for our training programs, since most community college training programs currently focus on culinary (kitchen) skills. Our research shows that’s not actually where the livable wage jobs are – they are in the front, in the fine dining server and bartending positions. Which is why we’ve focused our efforts there. If you let me know where you are offline I can connect you to our closest local affiliate offering such training programs.

Peterr August 24th, 2013 at 3:15 pm
In response to Saru Jayaraman @ 43

One more thing I’d add in your response to Phil, from my (long ago) years in restaurant work . . .

Servers *do* know the law. Those who don’t come into their job interview, and are shocked when the person hiring them says “and you’ll get $2.15/hr, plus tips.” The newbie says “$2.15/hr? What about the minimum wage law?” and gets the reply “The way the minimum wage law works for restaurants is to include tips in the calculation. You’ll get the minimum wage, because you make up the difference in tips. Actually, you’ll make up MORE than the difference, because we’re such a great place to work.”

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 3:15 pm
In response to RevDeb @ 46

Yes, thanks for raising this. As you know, in coalition with UU’s and many others we led and won a campaign in Philly to make it illegal to deduct credit card processing fees from workers’ tips – which is unfortunately legal everywhere else. So yes, please pay your tips in cash!

RevDeb August 24th, 2013 at 3:16 pm
In response to Sarah Jaffe @ 51

I’m aware of that. I was shocked. It really is an outrage.

Sadly there aren’t enough of your high road restaurants around here. Our members would much rather eat in the places that treat their employees well. And I haven’t eaten at a Darden in years nor do I feel the need to—even to talk with the management.

nixonclinbushbama August 24th, 2013 at 3:17 pm
In response to Saru Jayaraman @ 43

We have instructional guides on YouTube showing how you can speak up at the end of your meal.

I would rather hand someone a written statement with my payment for the meal.

bigbrother August 24th, 2013 at 3:18 pm
In response to Sarah Jaffe @ 51
RevDeb August 24th, 2013 at 3:19 pm

there are downloadable cards with statements that you can give to the servers and/or the management on the ROC web site.

nixonclinbushbama August 24th, 2013 at 3:20 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 47

Agree, cash tips are much preferable, even if you pay the bill by credit card.

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 3:20 pm
In response to RevDeb @ 50

It is quite hilarious. Everywhere we go and debate any representative of the National Restaurant Association – which McD’s is a leader in -they have very few facts or real arguments to make. But it is sad – somehow with that real dearth of facts and arguments, they still managed to keep a stranglehold on Congress for decades on the minimum wage, and to convince many Americans that the minimum wage simply can’t be raised because 1. it will put restaurants out of business; and 2. it will raise the cost of food in restaurants. Neither has proven to be true empirically. Most economics studies show that raising the minimum wage has not had an impact on jobs; and as I’ve mentioned, of the 7 states who have the same minimum wage for tipped and non tipped workers, 5 have faster industry growth rates than the national restaurant industry growth rate overall. On the second point, I co-authored a report called “A Dime A Day” together with another professor and the Food Chain Workers Alliance, which showed that if the current minimum wage bill in Congress were passed, it would not increase the price of food bought in both grocery stores and resaturants by more than 10 cents a day, even if employers passed on100% of the cost to consumers. So the truth is that there is no real argument against it, which is why instead the NRA chooses to simply try to hide the fact that the wage is $2.13 – hence, most Americans do not even know that the tipped minimum wage is $2.13 an hour.

nixonclinbushbama August 24th, 2013 at 3:21 pm
In response to RevDeb @ 59

Great. Thanks!

I’d wear a button too.

I’d even buy a button to wear. Just a thought.

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Yes, great idea! We’ve created tip cards that you can simply hand a manager that are on our website, http://www.rocunited.org, and the Unitarians created a sticker in support of our campaign that you can put on your check fold, that says “Paying Customer, Paying Attention! I support livable wages, paid sick days, and opportunities for advancement.” You can contact us at info@rocunited.org to get some.

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Great idea about the button! I’ll talk to others about it.

nixonclinbushbama August 24th, 2013 at 3:24 pm
In response to Saru Jayaraman @ 61

People with money, lobbyists and laws on their don’t need facts. And don’t much care to learn (or acknowledge they know) facts that cost them money.

Sarah Jaffe August 24th, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Here in New York, the state passed a minimum wage increase but has yet to determine what the tipped minimum wage will be. I know ROC NY has started a campaign to pressure the board that will make this decision–what can New Yorkers do to get involved?

RevDeb August 24th, 2013 at 3:25 pm

There is a restaurant festival coming up in West Chester in a couple of weeks where many of the local establishments have food served and sold on the sidewalks. It would be a great opportunity for some of your organizers to have a table and talk with people (and even go from tent to tent to hit up the owners). I’m sure there are opportunities like that all over the country. Is it something you do?

Peterr August 24th, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Saru, any plans by ROC to expand the coverage of specific cities beyond the 10 on the website?

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 3:26 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 48

Hi big brother, please do reach out at info@rocunited.org and let’s connect. California is definitely on a roll – besides San Francisco, which has the highest minimum wage in the country (and a thriving restaurant industry), San Jose just passed a minimum wage increase, Long Beach just passed a living wage ordinance, and the whole state has no difference between tipped and non-tipped workers. Right now there is a bill in the City of Berkeley to raise the minimum wage and of course the Restaurant Association is proposing that tipped workers be excluded from the increase – for the first time ever anywhere in California. We need more localities in California to follow San Fran, San Jose, and Long Beach, and encourage Berkeley to do the right thing and not exclude any workers from an increase.

nixonclinbushbama August 24th, 2013 at 3:27 pm
In response to Saru Jayaraman @ 63

Thanks. As long as they are making money from me, do they really care if I wish they would take actions that cut into their profits? At some point, doesn’t there need to be a boycott of some kind, even for one weekend?

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 3:28 pm
In response to Peterr @ 68

Yes, by the end of this year we’ll have 13 staffed affiliates and 20 unstaffed restaurant worker committees. Our plan is to be in every state, just as the National Restaurant Association is. Anywhere the industry lobby has a voice, so too should workers! Contact us at info@rocunited.org to find out about whether we’re coming – or plan to come soon – to your locality.

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 3:30 pm
In response to RevDeb @ 67

Definitely! Please do let us know about it and we can come.

nixonclinbushbama August 24th, 2013 at 3:30 pm
In response to Saru Jayaraman @ 69

I am surprised not to see Los Angeles and West Hollywood in the list of California cities that passed the laws you favor.

RevDeb August 24th, 2013 at 3:32 pm
In response to Saru Jayaraman @ 72


third item down

and this


It would be a great opportunity to educate the local population. It is incredibly popular and crowded which is both good and bad.

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Hi, this is an important point. Our experience is that these are very high-volume restaurants that would not feel as much the impact of a boycott as they have responded to consumer demand. We have seen it on numerous occasions . I remember 10 years ago, restaurants said they would never be able to afford locally sourced, organic food, and now as a result of consumer demand they are jumping over themselves to claim that they provide locally sourced, organic cuisine. Recently, consumer demand made Darden change its stance on reducing workers’ hours as a result of the Affordable Care Act. So we have seen consumer demand play a significant role in changing the industry. We know that when lots of consumers say things, management reports that to corporate. And especially in a centralized, non-franchised company like Darden, the company hearing the same comment from multiple locations is sure to have an impact. But we are definitely open to a variety of tactics to move the company to do the right thing, so I’d never rule out anything, and you’ll certainly see our actions against the company ramp up if they continue to refuse to change — it’s just that for now, what we are asking of consumers is to actually go into these restaurants and say something, even if you don’t like eating there. If you could just go into a Darden restaurant if you happen to be passing by, and say “I’m choosing not to eat here because of the worker campaign for better wages and working conditions at this restaurant,” even that would help!

karenjj2 August 24th, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Thank you for your work, Saru, and this very enlightening discussion. Much appreciated.

Peterr August 24th, 2013 at 3:36 pm

In looking at the restaurant list at the ROC website, I was struck by the fact that not one of the restaurants highlighted for good compensation policies was a national chain. Not one.

As close as it comes is In-N-Out Burger, and a separate listing for Chicago’s Houlihans. Otherwise, no chain has corporate policies that rate two or three starts. Not one.

I suspect that the larger the operation and the farther removed the management is from the kitchen and the customer, the less likely the management is concerned about the well-being of the staff. It’s all about the Benjamins.

Generally speaking, I prefer local restaurants to chains, and this only reinforces that preference.

nixonclinbushbama August 24th, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Have you networked with the NAACP and women’s ? I have mixed feelings about playing into the “divide and conquer” strategies of the plutocrats, but a new movement might benefit from a symbiotic relationshp, at least for a while.

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 3:37 pm
In response to Sarah Jaffe @ 66

Thank you Sarah for asking this! We will be holding a series of events in New York to lift up the issue of the tipped minimum wage throughout the fall – if you could check them out at http://www.thewelcometable.net and click on the “Behind the Kitchen Door” section, they will be listed as upcoming book talks. If you could please come and/or encourage others you know to attend, and/or encourage any journalist friends to report on the issue, that would be helpful. Again, most New Yorkers have no idea that tipped workers were left out again, so it will be important to spread the word.

nixonclinbushbama August 24th, 2013 at 3:41 pm
In response to Saru Jayaraman @ 75

I remember 10 years ago, restaurants said they would never be able to afford locally sourced, organic food, and now as a result of consumer demand they are jumping over themselves to claim that they provide locally sourced, organic cuisine.

If I may, that is very different. Places serving locally sourced organic food have been around a very long time, especially in California. It was not until Food Network and other TV shows and celebrity chefs publicized and praised that kind of cooking that more places of that kind opened. And people who were interested in food flocked to them. Then the demand became obvious, and more places went that direction to compete for the organic foodie customer.

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 3:42 pm
In response to Peterr @ 77

Hi Peterr,

Thanks for your comment. It is very true that there is only the one large chain, In N Out Burger, that meets our criteria. However, it is unfortunately not true that local restaurants generally do better on wages, benefits, race, or gender issues. We find these issues pervasive across the industry, regardless of segment or ownership structure. What is very true, though, is that it is the Fortune 500 corporate chains – Darden (Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Capital Grille Steakhouse, LongHorn Steakhouse), McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King – that lead the National Restaurant Association nationally and in every state, and lobby to set the minimum wage, obstruct paid sick days laws, and much more. So while there are problems – and responsibility to do better- industry-wide, certainly the chains are responsible for setting the standards. Again, though I’d ask that progressives please don’t just avoid those restaurants – they’d never feel the impact – but rather go into those restaurants and speak up, and work with us to fight the NRA by demanding of Congress (through our petition and by contacting your legislator, which you can do on the rocunited.org website) that they not listen to the chains but rather listen to the American voting public.

Sarah Jaffe August 24th, 2013 at 3:42 pm
In response to Saru Jayaraman @ 79

I should also mention the confusion about the paid sick days bill and what the situation for restaurant workers in New York City will be.

And to go national again, there’s a new phenomenon of states passing “pre-emption” bills to prevent paid sick days requirements from going through. This seems like a clear response to the success of worker organizing in many places, but also seems to be having a lot of success. Any thoughts?

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Yes, we most certainly have worked closely with a large number of civil rights’ and women’s organizations. We just published “The Dream Deferred,” a report released together with several civil rights organizations, documenting how the minimum wage and the tipped minimum wage in particualr disproportionately impact communities of color ,and how communities of color would stand to benefit tremendously from an increase. We also released two reports with twelve national women’s organizations, ranging from NOW to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, called “Tipped Over the Edge,” about women suffering on the tipped minimum wage, and “The Third Shift,” about the challenges of accessing childcare while being a woman in the restaurant industry. These organizations have been working with us to advocate for an increase in the minimum wage.

RevDeb August 24th, 2013 at 3:46 pm
In response to Saru Jayaraman @ 81

We’ve been asking around at local restaurants around here and none of them treat their servers well. Thus the need for the conversations here We can understand a bit better when they are family owned and run—but most of them are not.

marymccurnin August 24th, 2013 at 3:47 pm
In response to Saru Jayaraman @ 69

Both of my daughters worked their way through college waiting tables. They worked in a very high end restaurant in Marin County. Some of the servers there make $60,000 a year. California is sometimes a leader.

BevW August 24th, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Realizing the Dream Report- ROC United

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Definitely, it is different, but there is something to learn from that history. However it started, you say customers interested in food flocked to those restaurants, which prompted other restaurants to follow suit. But also, customers asked when they ate out, “Is this locally sourced? Is this organic?” Portlandia even made a comedy sketch about foodies asking such questions when they ate out.

Where we’ve been able to educate consumers about how poverty wages and the lack of paid sick days impact your meal and your diet and health as much as the organic chicken and the locally sourced produce, we’ve seen dramatic differences in customer behavior. For example, we worked with a message testing group to conduct an online focus group with 25 self-identified ‘foodies’. At the beginning of a weeklong online chat discussion, 0 out of 25 respondents said they would do anything about workers in teh food system. After a week of education and discussion, 15 out of 25 said they’d join an organization to take action around issues of food workers. In the same way that consumers read Omnivore’s Dilemma, Fast Food Nation, and saw the food network, and demanded locally sourced organic cuisine, we believe consumers can read Behind the Kitchen Door – and a growing number of other books and films – and take action for change on these issues as well.

BevW August 24th, 2013 at 3:50 pm
BevW August 24th, 2013 at 3:52 pm

As we come to the last minutes of this great Book Salon discussion,

Saru, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book, and for all you are doing for the restaurant workers.

Sarah, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Saru’s website (ROC United), twitter, and book

Sarah’s website (In These Times) and twitter

Thanks all, Have a great weekend. If you would like to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

nixonclinbushbama August 24th, 2013 at 3:53 pm
In response to Saru Jayaraman @ 83

Rachel Maddow seems very sensitive to women’s issues and Ed Shultz seem very pro labor.

One or both might interview someone from your organization on air.

Sarah Jaffe August 24th, 2013 at 3:53 pm
In response to Saru Jayaraman @ 87

I would note that the lack of concern for workers in restaurants mirrors the larger decline of workers’ rights as a major issue in this country. And that worker action can change that.

As a labor reporter, I had to struggle to get editors to pay me to cover labor before the Wisconsin uprising in 2011. Now, there are several of us who cover labor almost exclusively, and major publications are interested in labor stories.

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 3:53 pm
In response to Sarah Jaffe @ 82

Hi Sarah,

Yes, this is the effort I was writing about earlier between ALEC, the National Restaurant Association, and Darden, to initiate bills in 14 states that would pre-emptively prohibit any localities in those states from passing local paid sick days ordinances. Unfortunately they have already passed in 8 states. We have to fight hard, together, to make sure these bills don’t pass in more states, and to fight the consitutionality of those already passed. This is an issue of free speech! If the people of the city of Miami , where we were figthing for a paid sick days ordinance, want to ensure that their food workers aren’t sick on their food, they should have that right without the state legislature or the governor telling them they don’t have that right.

The Center for Disease Control has reported that 50 to 90% of all norovirus outbreaks (stomach flu) can be traced back to sick restaurant workers. This is an issue both of free speech and a potential public health disaster.

karenjj2 August 24th, 2013 at 3:55 pm

just a thought: in my mind “consumers” eat at fast food chains while “customers” dine a restaurants. Hopefully, someday, even patrons of fast food outlets will be treated and served as “customers” by employees earning a living wage.

Saru Jayaraman August 24th, 2013 at 3:56 pm
In response to Sarah Jaffe @ 91

Thank you so much, Sarah, for covering these issues even when others did not. Thank you also, to you and Firedoglake, for hosting me today, and to everyone for your great comments. Please do continue to connect at info@rocunited.org, and to work with us to change the plight of workers in one of the largest and fastest growing sectors of the US economy!

nixonclinbushbama August 24th, 2013 at 3:56 pm
In response to Saru Jayaraman @ 87

Again, I think the organic food movement went from chef/restaurant owners to the customer, not the other way around. And, as it went from chef to customer it had the benefit of a lot of free TV education of the customer over time. I don’t know if the wages are going have the benefit of either of those things.

Sarah Jaffe August 24th, 2013 at 3:56 pm
In response to Saru Jayaraman @ 94

Thank you for this wonderful book–it really is an incredible resource–and this conversation! Thanks everyone for coming.

RevDeb August 24th, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Thank you Saru for all the good work you are doing. The book was well written and very accessible. Keep working. You are making a difference.

nixonclinbushbama August 24th, 2013 at 4:06 pm
In response to Saru Jayaraman @ 87

However it started, you say customers interested in food flocked to those restaurants, which prompted other restaurants to follow suit.

The customers flocked to places that were already serving organic, locally sourced food because chefs and a lot of expensive TV time had educated them and built the demand. That is signifcant and I don’t think it can be discounted.

After all that, the customers started patronizing those places and other restauranteurs followed suit. And customers were flocking for their own benefit, health, taste, food snobbery, whatever.

I am not saying there are no parallels, but it was not driven by the customer for a long time. It’s similar to Julia Child, who spent years teaching America about French food and then there was a demand in the US for bistros and French cookbooks.

nixonclinbushbama August 24th, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Yes, thank you so much. I wish you well. I will go to the website and will be on the lookout for a button ;-)

Elliott August 24th, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Thank you both
Best of luck on the book tour and organizing efforts – and change.

and thanks BevW!

Sorry but the comments are closed on this post