Restaurant Unions

What is a union? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary it is “an organization of workers formed for the purpose of advancing its members’ interests in respect to wages, benefits, and working conditions”. I believe that workers in the restaurant industry should start forming unions in each state. The wage for a server has not increased since the beginning of time, not really the beginning, but servers have made $2.12 per hour plus tips for at least the last 50 years. Some people don’t tip so on occasions like that the server really did make two dollars and twelve cents that hour because most tables, even two tops, usually stay for an hour. Most workers in the fast food industry generally make minimum wage which is only $7.25 an hour, so if you go in places like Moe’s and you see a tip jar (gas jar) take into consideration that the whole crew splits the jar at the end of the night. Keep in mind that those people just prepared your food and that they are even willing to do a job like that, at a pay that low just so that you may have the convenience of dining out instead of preparing your own food at home. They make sure that the environment that you are eating in is clean and sanitary as well as give you good customer service. Even if they work 40 hours a week, that’s only $1160 per month, so the tip jar really is gas to get them to work because after paying rent they can’t afford gas! By starting a union the workers can unite to increase wages. Yes, Obama is trying to get minimum wage increased but it has not happened yet. And yes, there are days when a server can go home with $300 in their pocket but there are far more days when they go home with $20. There are days when you go into work and at the end of the day you don’t make any money because the manager made a trade-off (which basically means the people got free food because they did something for the restaurant like free advertising). What I don’t get is, the customer knows they are getting free food but they don’t think about who is leaving the tip. The worst part is the manager doesn’t compensate the employee/s either.

Not only will forming unions help increase wages but it can also help employees gain benefits.  Most restaurants do not even offer employees benefits like health, dental, or vacation time. It’s not because they don’t have it but because they don’t want to do the paper work. If a server or host is willing to stay at the same restaurant for more than a year then they deserve some kind of benefits. This industry has one of the highest turn over rates that dedicated people should be rewarded just as they are in any other industry. Managers in the fast food industry make it impossible for you to get benefits with tricks like scheduling an employee 20 to 25 hours a week (at least twice a month) which is part-time so they don’t have to offer you benefits. In the restaurant industry they schedule you 30 hours but send you home two hours early everyday because “it’s slow”. How can an employer want you to bring in a doctor’s note when you are sick but not offer you health care benefits or give you enough hours to afford personal health insurance? Color me puzzled. 

Forming unions has worked to increase wages, benefits, and even overall respect for employees in other industries so I am confident that it will work for the employees in the restaurant industry. If you live in a state that has a restaurant union spread the word, if live in a state that not do the research and take that first step to form your own union. Whether you are part-time, just working in the restaurant while you finish school, or full-time you deserve respect, benefits, and fair wages.


Hidden Gem of Art

A couple of years ago I worked for one of the best art galleries in Charlotte… Central Piedmont Community College. This community college has three art galleries on its main campus as well as galleries on several other campuses in the city. One thing I like about the galleries is the fact that they actually display and sell student work. Not only do they exhibit and sell students work but also faculty, local, regional, and national artists.

There have been some great exhibits at Central Piedmont Community College. One of my favorite exhibits was Amy Bagwell’s: The Factories Don’t Install Emotion Tapes, which was a combination of poetry and art. Some of the most fabulous artwork I’ve ever seen displayed there was by an artist name Erika Diamond. She is really someone to watch out for. My favorite pieces would be her wearable art made from recycled materials.

There are receptions for every new exhibit in which the public is invited out to view the art and meet the artist. The receptions are free and child friendly, so if you are visiting Charlotte or a local looking for something to do go the CPCC website and view the schedule for upcoming exhibitions.

I’ve Been Missing Out!

I went home to Charlotte to celebrate my birthday this weekend. One of my friends asked me to lunch and suggested that we go to Miguel’s. I had no idea what he was talking about. Even though I had lived in Charlotte majority of my life I’d never heard of this Mexican restaurant. He said it was off Little Rock Road but when we got there he told me to turn on the service road. I thought he was playing a joke on me because I had never seen any restaurants in this area and April’s Fools was still a few days away. We got there and it was small and colorful. I was a little afraid to go in but I did. The decor was vibrant and made you think of Mexico with the red, green, and yellow colors throughout.

I ordered nachos at first, which was an appetizer and my friend ordered his “usual” the chimichaMiguel's Mexicanngas. Miguel came over and said they were out of black beans. I can not eat nachos without black beans so I changed my order to the tilapia burritos. We munched on chips and salsa while we waited for our food. I was surprisingly in awe when it did arrive. It was mouth-watering! There were two burritos (comes with black bean salsa inside) ,  queso blanco drizzled on top, rice cooked with diced tomatoes and a side of lettuce topped with two slices of avocado. The burritos were awesome… flavored with the right amount of spices. The fish was cooked to perfection, light and fluffy. Every thing was good. I asked Miguel how long had they been there and he said 15 years. I couldn’t believe it. I had been missing out on some great Mexican food!

We sat there, letting our food digest. My friend noticed the sign which stated that a pitcher of margarita was $6.00. Yes… we got one. It was the perfect drink to follow that meal. I was really glad that my friend suggested Miguel’s. I can’t wait to go back and sit in the unique and funky little patio. The only thing I would change about Miguel’s is… NOTHING. The artist in me would love to freshen up the paint and maybe the decor just a bit but other than that its a great place to dine. This is a fun place to take the kids, a lady ordered a fried ice cream and it was huge and looked very tasty.


Should I Leave A Tip?

I was out a couple of nights ago at this great local bar and grill called Carolina Ale House in Wake Forest. We decided to eat at the bar instead of getting a table because it was almost 10 pm and we wanted to be more casual. There was a nice crowd at the bar but not enough for us to receive bad service. The girl greeted us and gave us menus, she even got our first round of drinks but then she walked away and didn’t check on us for 30 minutes.

We actually decided to change bartenders and afterwards received better service. “Mr. Fish”, that’s what we were calling him because his name tag said Fish, was great. He remembered what we were drinking, placed our food order, chatted us up… gave us the type of service we deserved.  So my question to you is who did we give our tip to? Even though the girl started us out, Mr. Fish took care of us so we gave him the tip, and we left him 20%! We had decided not to tip the girl because she was not friendly, didn’t smile, and her service was terrible, she didn’t even make eye contact and if Mr. Fish had not come to her rescue I probably would have never gone back to that restaurant.

When you work in the service industry 85% of what you make comes from the attitude you give and how close you pay attention to detail. If my cup is empty it is your job as a server or bartender to notice and offer another, it is not the customers job to flag you down. If a customer asks for a menu it should not take 30 minutes for someone to take my order. Not only that but while I was sitting at the bar I noticed dried food on the counter top which means that they had not wiped it down. This is what I mean by paying attention to detail. It is the servers job to check their section when they come in. This means the tables, chairs, and floor should all be clean and the silverware, glasses should be polished otherwise the server has not done his or her job. When people go to a restaurant in which they are spending their hard-earned money they should receive quality service in a clean and friendly environment. Think about these things when you go out to eat and base your tip on the quality of service you receive.

Quality Service… Where Has It Gone?

I have worked in the restaurant industry for many years now and there is a big difference in the quality of work from servers. I don’t place all the blame on the servers because the amount of money they make per hour has not changed since the 1920’s and most people still do not tip properly. But with anything that you do you should do it to the best of your abilities and sometimes that means taking initiative to learn information to improve your craft.

 Servers make $2.12 an hour in most restaurants. Country clubs, hotel restaurants, and banquet servers make more per hour because oft-times they do not earn tips. The amount of money you make per hour from your employer is not reflective of who you are as a person but the quality of service you give your customers is, and will determine how much money you will make that shift. I started out in fast food in high school, KFC. I loved that job or maybe I just liked working. In college I moved into fine dining, started as a hostess and then moving to server. I remember learning seat positions so that no matter who ran your food to the table the customer always got the right food without having to be asked who ordered what. I remember learning table times which is the amount of time it should take for you to greet the customer (30 to 60 seconds), take drink and appetizer order (3 to 5 minutes), food order, and desert order. This also included how many minutes it should take for the customer to receive each item. Servers today do not practice these standards. I don’t know if they are not being taught or if they simply just don’t care but the quality of service has declined.

Ultimately it is the restaurants responsibility to provide the proper training and to enforce quality service which is my second reason for not blaming the servers. Many of them have never been through a wine training class and most restaurants do not have their servers sit down and sample the whole menu. How can you describe food that you’ve never tasted? The manager at the first restaurant I worked in made me eat baked beans but after that I was able to describe them honestly to my customers. Serving is selling and to sell you must know your product. Restaurants are focusing more on quantity, the number of people who enter the restaurant, rather than the quality of service given by their waiters.