A chef who offers health benefits, paid vacation, and a 401(k) plan raised base pay to $18 to $24 per hour and says he's not struggling to hire workers

Irene Jiang/Business Insider
Restaurant operators are facing a crisis in staffing, with 75% struggling to find qualified employees.

According to the NYT, many restaurant owners are looking for a way to pay workers more.

Chef Jason Hammel stated that adding a higher salary to his benefits package makes it easier for staff to find him.

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Jason Hammel, a Chicago chef, has been busy over the past 20 years. He opened Lula Cafe in 1999, with a four burner stove and some used pots and pans. The restaurant became an international favorite.

Hammel explained to the New York Times that he was forced to eat out less after the pandemic. It was also an opportunity for him to think about his business.

He said, "The pandemic provided me with an opportunity to begin from a blank slate and say let's rebuild both the model and how we've always done it."

The biggest change Hammel made was increasing the base pay of all employees to $18 to $24 an hour. This is in addition to Lula Cafe's existing benefits package, which includes paid vacation and health and retirement benefits.

According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), 75% of restaurant operators are facing the challenge of hiring and keeping employees. Hammel believes his approach makes it easier to find the 40 staff he needs.

The math is easy with a 20% service fee on each check and additional tips distributed to the entire team.

Ruby's West End owner Corrina Stum in Maine added a 20% service fee to the Times. She also said she skipped expensive scheduling software and reservation software, and passed the savings on to her staff.

Ruby's base wage is $12.15. This is the minimum wage in Maine and not the sub-minimum wage that is allowed for tipped workers in 43 US states, according to One Fair Wage, a worker advocacy group.

One Fair Wage recently conducted a two-week survey and found that 1,621 restaurants in 41 states, including Ruby's West End and Lulu Cafe, offered the minimum wage or higher for tip workers. The average was $13.52 before tips.

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Restaurants need to increase their wages to attract workers. But that's not the only problem.

Richard Wahlquist is the president of the American Staffing Association. He told Bloomberg that his organization still struggles to find 10 temporary workers to attend a conference. The company offers up to $25 an hour. He has already found two.

Applications for restaurant jobs declined by about 3% each week for the past nine weeks, according to data from restaurant-management software company Restaurant365. The decline is even more pronounced now that the enhanced unemployment benefits are over.

Insider has spoken with dozens of restaurant workers about their frustrations at long work hours, poor management and customer abuse. Matt Murphy, a 25-year veteran of restaurant work, said that he is happy for the disruption caused by labor problems in the workplace.

He said, "It's causing some positive changes in our industry." Employers who used to treat workers like disposable workers now treat them like employees. It has definitely changed our perspective."

Business Insider has the original article.


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