The protests against fast-feeders and low-wage-paying retailers continued over the Thanksgiving weekend — and continue into this week. The groups behind these protests are citing a recent study that’s likely to convince even more Americans that the minimum wage must be increased, and soon.
“The high participation rate of families of core fast-food workers in public programs can be attributed to three major factors: the industry’s low wages, low work hours and low benefits.”
“Overall, 68 percent of the core front-line workers in the fast-food industry are not in school and are single or married adults with or without children. For more than two-thirds of these workers, fast-food wages are an essential component of family income.”– Fast Food, Poverty Wages: The Public Cost of Low-Wage Jobs in the Fast-Food Industry
The study, sponsored by the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was funded by Fast Food Forward, a pro-worker and pro-union group that has ties to SEIU (Service employees International Union). The union has long been unsuccessful at organizing restaurant workers.
The union also is helping to create worker centers as a way to organize and influence the public regarding, chiefly, low wages of fast-food workers. The aforementioned protests in front of fast-food outlets is a tactic the centers have recently used to gain attention and sway public opinion.
The study was condemned by a Worker Center Watch spokesman, who declared in a press release that “the report being touted by the union PR machine completely distorts the facts and ignores the reality that fast food employers often offer the only opportunities for many people to work, gain new skills and advance.”
Not surprisingly, WCW has close ties to businesses that don’t like unions.
The WCW claims these centers are not playing by the rules the U.S. government long ago devised for unions when Congress passed the The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959. The worker centers don’t appear to be unions, however.
Worker centers have been particularly active in 2013, and no doubt their protests will persist as long the economy remains sluggish – and employers have no particular reason to add new workers to their payrolls or, indeed, raise the pay of the 4.6 million employees at or below minimum wage.
Still, there’s no arguing that the federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour and $2.13 for tipped employees) can’t support a family. Not that it was meant to, of course, when teenagers comprised the bulk of fast-food workers.
Today, with many fewer teens flipping burgers, few fast-food companies pay minimum wage, long-term anyway. The average wage for foodservice workers (including fast-food employees) is $9 — though even that wage has come under fire as far too little.
“So can anything be done to help these workers, many of whom depend on food stamps — if they can get them — to feed their families, and who depend on Medicaid — again, if they can get it — to provide essential health care? Yes. We can preserve and expand food stamps, not slash the program the way Republicans want. We can make health reform work, despite right-wing efforts to undermine the program.
“And we can raise the minimum wage.”– Paul Krugman, December 1, New York Times
This spring proponents in Congress attempted to lift it to a federally mandated $10.10 an hour. H.R. 1010, which proposed to increase the minimum over three years, was voted to down in the U.S. House of Representatives, with all the Republicans voting against it.
In November, however, Gallup reported that a majority of Americans are in favor of increasing the minimum wage to $9 an hour. (58 percent of Republicans said they would vote for it.)
Wherever you stand on this issue, one thing is clear. As long as pro-business politicians control votes in the House of Representatives, no minimum wage bill is likely to pass. It’s really that simple.
Posted in burger chains, employment, fast food, government data, Government regulations, hourly workers, politics, quick-service, restaurants, ROC United
Tagged fast food, minimum wage, politicians, restaurants, worker center watch, workers
I asked RTS Partner Karen Zaniker, a veteran restaurant marketer, for her take on Chipotle’s recent animation and game app, which the chain released last week. Called the “The Scarecrow,” it has already been viewed more than 5.6 million times on YouTube. (Watch it below.)
Here’s what Karen had to say: “I love this kind of positioning for two reasons: 1) It enhances Chipotle’s brand by reinforcing the message of Food with Integrity and their commitment to serving fresh, not processed food, and 2) It uses new technologies in a way social is meant to work — by fostering engaging, useful, share-able interaction with their current and potential consumer base.
“Even better, it accomplishes both at the same time. And the icing is that they’re the first out of the box, which drives word-of-mouth and trial rate that much higher.
“Given that the number one use of personal devices is gaming, and that Chipotle’s core user (the young, male customer) falls right in line with the mobile gaming’s core user, the idea is a no-brainer. While there may be some debate about the challenge factor between gamers vs. non-gamers, there is no denying that the app offers multiple levels, fosters learning through play (the way we all most effectively learn), and reminds us that through positive behavior modeling we can make a real impact on the world.
“Who wants to eat processed food after making it a couple of runs around the factory floor? Chipotle’s app is on-brand, engaging in a share-able useful way; it generates more loyalty from fans who share the brand’s values, and is a great example of gaming for good.
“I personally found the film engrossing. I’m a fan of the message, and as a person and a parent, abhor the highly processed, politicized mass production food industry that I believe is a major contributor to the growing epidemic of metabolic diseases and many other public health issues. Any organization that can generate awareness and positively influence consumer demand toward access to whole, non-processed foods is a winner in my book.
“I hope it stirs the creative juices of other restaurant brands who believe they can capture the minds, hearts and imaginations of their fans in similar ways. I applaud Chipotle’s team for bringing it all together.”
Normally, I wouldn’t promote a single restaurant (or brewery, in this case) in this space — unless it was doing something quite special. But Great Lakes Brewing Co. is indeed engaged in a most unusual effort. This coming Wednesday the craft brewer is hosting a sold-out beer dinner that features Sumerian-style suds.
For those of you for whom is history is hazy the Sumerians were among the first people to have discovered fermentation — and, hence, the first to brew something akin to beer roughly 4,000 years ago. Sumeria, not incidentally, is often described as the cradle of civilization. You might know it as Mesopotamia.
Still hazy? Think Iraq.
In any case, brothers Pat and Dan Conway, the founders and owners of the Cleveland brewery and restaurant, have been endeavoring for months to re-create a facsimile of the beer Sumerians sipped. They first enlisted the help of archaeologists from the University of Chicago to learn what agricultural products and tools were available during this period. Then they began brewing. The final result will debut next week at the dinner. A few weeks later the brewers sponsor another dinner featuring the beer in Chicago.
Pat Conway in the GLBC Tasting Room with guests Jennifer Weng and Kathleen Farkas at an alumni gathering of the University of Chicago.
Pat meanwhile has been discussing the unusual project with anyone willing to listen. In June the New York Times ran a story about his brewery’s efforts. This week, he told a group of alumni of the University of Chicago (where Conway earned a Master’s degree) about the process. It involved research into special grains, yeasts and ceramic brewing kettles like those the ancients probably used.
He said the first batches of the beer (brewed in ceramic kettles) smelled like his dirty socks and, he joked, “tasted like them, too.” The final product, he promised, tastes much better but will still seem odd to the modern palate.
Do your shift supervisors and key hourlies deserve a share of the loot that’s stuffed in tip jars? And what about assistant managers? Are they entitled to a piece of the jar action, too?
The New York State Court of Appeals provided an answer to these questions recently regarding two suits involving Starbucks. The giant coffee chain’s baristas, on the one hand, argued that shift supervisors do not deserve to share in tips because they are “company agents.” The state’s Department of Labor prevents “agents” from accepting tips. To wit:
Section 196-d. Gratuities. No employer or his agent or an officer or agent of any corporation, or any other person shall demand or accept, directly or indirectly, any part of the gratuities, received by an employee, or retain any part of a gratuity or of any charge purported to be a gratuity for an employee.
The appeals court disagreed — and rightly so, we think. Shift supervisors are, in fact, hourly workers who largely service customers like other employees. They may train their colleagues and even close the restaurant. But as non-exempt workers their main duties fall within a customer-service paradigm, not a supervisory one.
The court, correctly noting shift supervisors remain”tip-pool eligible,” acknowledged they have direct contact with customers.
“The Court compared the shift supervisors to restaurant captains who have some authority over wait staff,” writes labor attorney Shira Forman in a brief article about both cases that’s worth reading,”but are nonetheless eligible to participate in tip pools pursuant to the DOL’s Hospitality Industry Wage Order and DOL guidelines dating back to 1972.”
The other case the appeal court ruled on involved Starbucks assistant managers citing (oddly enough) the same labor statute above to argue they, too, deserve to share in tips. They justified that desire asserting that under §196-d their duties were comparable to wait staff. To bolster the claim, they added that they cannot fire anyone because they lack authority.
No way, the Court of Appeals declared. Comparing an employee with significant managerial duties to a server is an unfair characterization. Notes Forman about the ruling: “Starbucks shift supervisors can legally participate in tip-sharing with other store employees, but the coffee chain’s assistant managers have enough managerial responsibility to disqualify them from sharing in customer tips.”
Not long ago I came across an article about fast-workers on Forbes.com that had this to say about hiring them:
The conventional wisdom is that finding terrific employees is simply not the priority. The labor force is overwhelmingly young, pay is generally rock-bottom, and you can’t be too choosy at those wages. It’s fairly routine to see 100 percent annual employee turnover or more at the big chains.
So what else is new, right? But what kept my attention was the mention of a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Wendy’s franchisee with 107 units. The franchise company, in keeping with Wendy’s store revamp, intended to fill 500 positions in that state with — get this — “quality hires.”
A Wendy’s franchisee announces that he plans to staff his restaurants with quality employees. We offer advice below.
The Forbes piece linked to another article in which a franchise official explained:
“We just want to make sure [new hires] have the basic skills for customer service, to operate machines in the kitchen, work the register, use simple math — things like that.”
I knew at that point we could offer help. I called RTS Partner Jean Birch (see the previous post for her bio) who has managed large fast-food work forces. I asked her to offer a few hiring guidelines. Jean’s advice:
- Hire right. Move beyond “fog the mirror” standards and hire people who like people, can smile and make eye contact. Use current team members to interview potentials and give a realistic view of how things will work. Let the interviewee observe a rush hour as a realistic job preview.
- Train right. Especially during the on-boarding, make sure the new team member feels wanted and respected. Teach them the history of the brand and why it matters (aspirational goals) and the values of the organization. Don’t let them fail early. Get the basics right – clean uniform, clear scheduling, how and when they will get paid, over-communication.
- Treat right Post schedules a week in advance, teach them the business – how what they do matters to the guest, the P&L, to their fellow team mates. Use liberal amounts of recognition and make it fun. Quietly provide constructive feedback when needed. Leaders must walk the talk of the values every moment of every day.
Says Jean: “”Getting it right is pretty simple, but we all know that in restaurants simple can be pretty damn hard to get right all the time.”
We really couldn’t be happier. Jean Birch, who has a very impressive resume, hopped aboard our consulting ship and is ready to solve the restaurant-related problems our clients throw at her.( Hint: She’s especially good at finding ways to control costs and inspire your team to do a good job). Jean is also a lovely person to work with. Meanwhile, you can learn more about her experience and accomplishments by reading our press release.
Charlotte, N.C. – Results Thru Strategy (RTS) announced today that Jean Birch, a veteran restaurant executive, joined the consortium, which consults with restaurants, hotels and manufacturers. She will begin working on new projects immediately.
Birch, a former President of IHOP Restaurants, Corner Bakery and Romano’s Macaroni Grill, is an innovative executive who increased IHOP franchise revenue by double digits after developing new revenue platforms in retail sales, international development and nontraditional locations.
Veteran restaurant executive Jean Birch has joined the RTS team.
“I am thrilled to be a part of the RTS team. I’ve spent my career making every business I work on better. I love turning around a group of restaurants, setting a solid foundation for a young brand to be able to grow quickly without losing its identity, and taking a brand that’s seen better days and re-igniting the consumer’s love for it. At RTS, I’m surrounded by great talent that shares my passion for solving and fixing — and doing it in a way that builds long term, sustainable results,” Birch said.
Prior to IHOP, Birch spent four years with Brinker International, serving first as President of Corner Bakery Café and then as President of Romano’s Macaroni Grill. Birch aligned and motivated large teams to drive immediate improvements in sales, profits and ROI while also instilling a culture of recognition and accountability. With the introduction of social and digital tools, she was able to drive sales and brand affinity simultaneously. At Corner Bakery Café, she improved restaurant operating margins over 1,000 basis points in just 14 months.
She was also Vice President of Operations for Taco Bell, responsible for driving sales, profits and guest satisfaction in both company-owned and franchise locations at the 1,800-unit Central Division of the quick-service chain.
“Jean’s management experience at national brands and her ability to lead and inspire large teams give the consortium even greater ability to optimize people, performance and profits,” declared Results Thru Strategy Founding Partner Fred LeFranc.
Birch launched her foodservice career at Pizza Hut, rising to Senior Director of Concept Development. Her accomplishments included blunting expansion of Donato’s Pizza, aligning international branding, and developing alternative brand extensions. She also led a team to create a shared-service organization after PepsiCo spun-off the restaurants into the now-existing standalone business.
She received an Executive MBA from Southern Methodist University, graduating second in her class and earning her election into Beta Gamma Sigma. Birch is a cum laude graduate of the University of Arizona with dual degrees in Economics and Oriental Studies. She currently serves on the boards of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and the California Council for Economic Education. She and her husband Jerry reside in Las Vegas.
About Results Thru Strategy
Results Thru Strategy is a restaurant, hotel, and food manufacturing consultancy based on the consortium model. Launched in 2008, the group has grown to 24 Partners who variously have expertise in operations, finance, marketing, design, analytics, social media, and franchising. Learn more about how we help businesses at www.resultsthrustrategy.com.
Yesterday, Father’s Day, in a popular restaurant for Sunday brunch, I spotted a server filling the water-spattered pint glass below. I could hardly miss it. I was seated at the bar sipping a pint of Guinness myself. (It was also Bloomsday).
A few seconds before I snapped the shot with my iPhone, the server had cleaned the glass by plunging it into an auto-sanitizer a foot away from the tap itself. He was in a hurry and, as a result, water sprayed everywhere — including onto my wife. No big deal, we told the server; she and I were having a grand time in a busy pub.
I bet whoever ordered the Guinness was having a blast, too. Maybe she was inside the small room next to the bar reading “Ulysses” aloud, like they do in this Irish eatery every June 16 (the entire novel). Or, perhaps, he intended to toast his old man like he does every Father’s Day. Who knows?
I do know this particular customer wasn’t sitting at the bar and therefore had no idea the drink looked like this as it was being filled. Good thing, too.
Watered-down: Filling a wet glass with beer.