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Restaurant guide goes behind the kitchen doors

2 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

A group that made news last year with a survey revealing that 63% of restaurant workers show up sick to prepare and serve food because they don’t have sick days released another report, this one rating 150 of the most popular U.S. quickservice, casual and fine-dining restaurants based on the quality of their jobs.

Restaurant Opportunities Centers United released its first guide to help consumers make dining choices based on employees’ working conditions, including wages, opportunities for advancement and whether the restaurant provides paid sick days. Goals of the 10-year-old national group for restaurant workers’ rights include a raise in the federal minimum wage and passage of a bill that would mandate paid sick days.

On the wage front, the guide gives kudos to restaurants that pay tipped employees at least $5 per hour and offer nontipped workers no less than a $9 hourly wage. A restaurant wins in the upward-mobility category if it has provided at least half of employees with a promotion. Further, restaurants that have joined one of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United’s industry round tables earn the group’s “High Road Restaurant” designation.

Several independent restaurants, including Washington, D.C.’s Busboys and Poets and Jack Rose, fared best in Diners’ Guide 2012. Some regional chains, including COLORS in Detroit and in New York City, won high marks. Big chains didn’t tend to score as well. Some of the largest, including McDonald’s and Burger King, earned a zero in every category.

Busboys and Poets owner Andy Shallal told NPR that, while consumers have grown much more concerned about the source of their food and conditions in which it was raised, they don’t often stop to wonder about the people serving it. “It should’ve happened the other way around,” Shallal said. “I think it’s time for cage-free employees.”

The guide also comes with an “I Eat Ethically” tip card that consumers can hand to restaurant workers to make sure they understand their rights under labor law, as well as a separate version to give to restaurant owners, letting them know about the guide and that they can contact Restaurant Opportunities Centers United to correct any information that they think is incorrect.

Image credit: iStockphoto

Do these criteria offer a fair snapshot of restaurant jobs? Do you think consumers make dining decisions based on how an eatery compensates its workers?