Perhaps the most significant ongoing challenge for restaurants is attracting and retaining a strong kitchen (“back of house”) staff. Historically, kitchen workers have been required to work very hard for very little money so that customers could enjoy good meals at reasonable prices while restaurants could adequately cover operating costs. Fortunately, the market has adjusted somewhat over the past couple of years, demanding that restaurants pay kitchen staff something closer to what they are worth. At Veggie Galaxy, we have been blessed with sales growth that has enabled us to happily increase our hourly wages for back of house staff by approximately 25% during that period.
Despite the back of house wage increase, there remains a significant gap between what back of house staff earn versus the much higher amounts that tipped front of house staff earn. While our front of house staff work hard for their tips, our back of house staff work just as hard for their wages. Veggie Galaxy, like most other restaurants, faces significant challenges in being able to pay kitchen workers their full worth.
The current economic model for the restaurant industry, in which this back of house versus front of house wage gap persists, is not sustainable. The economics need to work for ALL staff, as well as for the restaurant and its guests. Forward thinking restaurants throughout the country have been experimenting with different models to create more equal pay for their employees. One such experiment was launched locally in 2015 by a restaurant group in Jamaica Plain; owners of Tres Gatos, Centre Street Café and Casa Verde. By their own testimonies, the experiment has been a big success, and Veggie Galaxy has decided to emulate it.
In short, we will be implementing a 3% “Close the Gap” administrative fee that will be distributed 100% to kitchen staff. From the guest perspective, it will effectively be a 3% price increase. However, we will not be structuring it as a straight-up price increase because we want all of the proceeds to go to back of house employees. A more traditional price increase would result in higher tipped wages for front of house staff as well, thereby offsetting any potential reduction in the wage gap that we are trying to address.
In the end, we hope you agree that paying a few extra pennies on the dollar will probably make little difference in your lives, while cumulatively making a big difference in the lives of our kitchen staff. We appreciate your understanding, and we will continue to do all that we can to ensure that the small extra charge is worth it.
In the meantime, we thank you for being here. We would not exist without you.
Adam Penn & Kathy Tanner, Owners
Michael Bissanti, General Manager
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