National Consumers League

DC Restaurant Week shedding light on reality of working in the industry


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It's Restaurant Week, here in Washington, DC, when participating restaurants make dining out a little more affordable by offering discounted price-fixed meals. Eating out is a special treat for many consumers, but what about workers? If you've never worked in the restaurant industry, these facts might surprise you:

  • 88 percent of more than 4,300 restaurant workers surveyed by Restaurant Opportunities Center report not having paid sick days so they often come to work sick to earn a paycheck. That means sick employees who should be at home resting are handling your food.
  • When customers leave a tip on the credit card receipt, servers don’t always get the full tip: it may go to pay part of the credit card fee or the restaurant may keep part
  • 90 percent of surveyed restaurant workers - servers, bartenders, bussers - receive no health insurance through their employers.
  • When you eat out, you are subsidizing the restaurant industry’s low wages. Restaurant servers don’t receive the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour – they get only  $2.13 the federal tipped minimum wage. That wage has been the same for 21 years
  • The median wage for restaurant workers is $8.90 an hour, just below the poverty line for a family of three
Pretty shocking, isn't it? These numbers may make dining out a little less appetizing. Is there anything consumers can do? Stay tuned for advice about how to play a role in making things right for restaurant workers.