Behind the Kitchen door (Online writing)

Published November 1, 2014 by djlwsu

What are the pictures, feelings, smells, sounds, and words that come to mind when you read the word “restaurant” or “restaurant worker”? How have our discussions and the book (please give two examples) changed what you think about/how you feel about “eating out”? What do you do with this information moving forward? Post should be 400-500 words and must integrate course readings AND film shown in class

Last day to participate November 13

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29 comments on “Behind the Kitchen door (Online writing)

  • I never really realized there was an issue in the restaurant business till we watched that video in class about the unfair wages and tips servers are left. When I began reading Behind the Kitchen Door I started to understand a little bit more about how truly awful some restaurant worker’s conditions can be. One of the most shocking pieces of information to me was the fact that most average waiters, busboys, hosts and hostesses, etc. only get paid minimum wage and some don’t even make that. Along with that all the money that gets pulled out for taxes and here a good majority of restaurant employees are trying to make a living off of that. I feel like a lot of people underestimate just how much work these employees have to put into their jobs and how poorly they are rewarded back for it. Like the author of Behind the Kitchen door says, “I’d always loved eating out, but I had no idea that, in accepting the union leader’s offer and becoming at 27 the leader of a new restaurant workers’ organization, I’d spend the next 11 years of my life meeting low-wage restaurant workers- servers, bussers, runners, dish washers, cooks, and others- who are struggling to support themselves and their families under the shockingly exploitative conditions that exist behind most restaurant kitchen doors.” Apparently the restaurant industry incudes 7 of the 11 lowest-paying occupations in America- an appalling fact considering it’s also one of the highest employing industries and is rapidly expanding. Walking into a restaurant all we seem to be focused on is how fast our food can get to our table, how expensive our meal will be, what table we get seated at, etc. It never seems to cross the mind that the people who are so patiently waiting on us work hours on top of hours on the job, make little to nothing, and have run back and forth from the kitchen so many times their bodies could give out any second of exhaustion. Going forward I will definitely be sure to leave a bigger tip, after all, that’s the only pay some workers even get. Another surprising issue that was brought to my attention in the book and video was the racial discrimination that’s happening in restaurants. The book states a fact that says out of 4,323 workers surveyed, restaurant workers that is, only 6.1 percent of all dishwashers were white- leaving the rest as immigrants or people of color. The video stated that out of white workers and black workers, white workers also received better tips. It’s an interesting dynamic to a business where the customer is being served yet discrimination still happens. Perhaps that has a correlation to stereotypes and how America perceives minorities. I think it will be interesting eating out now that I am more aware of this situation. I definitely will pay more attention to it and do my best to make a restaurant employee’s day better.

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  • As someone who has previously worked in the restaurant business and seeing firsthand the difficulty and unfairness that goes on in the business, I know what the people from the video are talking about. However I have had the advantage to enjoy where I work. The video talked about how the employees at restaurants do not get health care and how they always go to work unless they are in the hospital or extremely sick. That is one of the main difficulties with being employed in that career field. It is unfair to have to make someone work when they are sick especially when they are serving other people. It is important for everyone to be able to have the opportunity to take a “sick day” or to get the help that is necessary for them to get back to full health. The book talks about how 1 in 6 Americans suffer from food poisoning each year. We are bound to get a foodborne illness when many different people are touching our food. This is a health and safety hazard and the restaurant workers are affecting the health and safety of the American people.
    It is especially hard in the restaurant business because some of the employees are barely making minimal wage after taxes. That is hardly enough money to survive off of for those who are making a living out of this business. The video talked about how many people who work in this business make their money from the tips that they receive. The book talks about how the federal minimum wage for workers who are tipped is $2.13 per hour. That means that the employees are getting less than minimal wage and some people do not tip the %15-%20 that is recommended. From now on I am going to tip more because that may be the only money that a person receives. After working in the food industry and now reading and watching the video it is definitely something that is affecting our society. After learning more about this I will definitely be more aware when I go out to eat.

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  • Being a customer and never having experience working in the restaurant industry, it is easy to forget to acknowledge anything other than the service and food quality when eating at a restaurant. When I think about pictures, feelings, sounds, smells, and words that come to mind when i think about a restaurant I think of the smell of a hot plate of food, a clean eating environment, the sound of others having conversations, happiness, and demanding customers. People really never think about anything outside of the actual restaraunt such as the history behind the people serving you. What these people go home to every night, whether or not they struggle, if they are a single parent, or where they live. Working at a restaurant is similar to acting. No matter what is going on in your personal life, it is required that you don’t leave your customers with any guesses and you cover everything up with a smile. I believe that if everyone knew the stories behind the people who serve us when we go out to eat before hand, there would be a lot more tips going out and a deeper appreciation for what these people do for us. After watching the film showed in class, I learned that people who work in the food industry do not have it as easy as everyone thinks. Behind closed doors comes a lot of sick workers (because they cannot afford to miss work, waiters and waitresses scavenging for every last penny of their tip, and a lot of hard work to keep every customer happy. Unfortunately, this is not something that anyone knows so there will continue to be no change in how we see our servers. Many workers get their entire living based on tips because there is nothing left of their actual pay. In the book “Behind the Kitchen door” Saru Jayaraman speaks about how restaurant workers live on some of the lowest wages in America and how poor working conditions such as discrimination, hard labor, and unsanitary kitchens affect the food we as customers are served. On page 11 it says “After that, every time I ate out I would look in the kitchen. For the first time i saw every kitchen worker, every restaurant worker, as a human being, with a unique story, family, dreams and desires.” This quote really spoke to me and stood out because there are so many stories behind every person and its important that we all take that into consideration before making any ounce of judgement in the world.

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  • When I read the word restaurant I think of a place with a quite atmosphere. I typically think of it as a somewhat special event because I don’t go out to actual restaurants all that often so I associate it with special dates or birthdays or something of that nature. When I read the word restaurant worker the feeling sort of changes. I think of someone who is outgoing and energetic but also young and poor. I usually think of a college student who is working there to pay for school or rent but not really there for a career. After witnessing the way people can treat restaurant workers I have a new respect for them and picture them as someone who has to be able to deal with a lot and have the ability to keep going. The video taught me a lot about the struggles in the restaurant business and the lack of pay and benefits that accompany that struggle. There is no being sick, and no day’s off. Job security is something that is nearly impossible to accomplish In the restaurant industry because even if you do put your heart into it looks have a lot to do with whether or not you keep your job there. Many restaurant’s want to keep a young workforce which is easy to do with the abundance of young college kids looking for “pass-through” work. I have never worked in the restaurant business and this lesson has made me glad that I haven’t but I do have a whole new level of respect for those who are working in that field. It made me understand that there is a whole other world that happens behind the scenes of the restaurant. There are hazards and accidents that occur every year and leave people with hefty medical bills that they cannot afford due to the lack of health insurance provided through work.

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  • Previously I had heard some stereotypes of workers at restaurants but, I had never looked into the bad things occurring in the restaurant business across the United States until I took CES 101. First, in class we watched the video about wages and tips at restaurants. Then in class we have had two lectures about the restaurant industry. Also, I read the book ‘Behind The Kitchen Door’ by Saru Jayaraman. Some of the most surprising things in the book are in chapters 4 ($2.13-The Tipping Point) and 5 (Race in the Kitchen). 

    In the lectures and videos from class, I learned multiple facts about the restaurant industry that were very alarming. The most alarming fact was that “only 20% of restaurant workers make livable wages”. I cannot believe that 80% of restaurant employees do not make enough money to support themselves. In addition to that, “90% of restaurant workers lack health insurance”. Health insurance can become very expensive and it is important to have incase you or a family member gets sick or injured. Working in the restaurants can be dangerous work, over 200.00 accidents occur each year. Over 50% of restaurant workers suffered work related cuts or had been burned, according to a survey to ROC (Restaurant Opportunities Centers United).

    The book ‘Behind The Kitchen Door’ by Saru Jayaraman brought multiple things to my attention that I could not believe. The first of which was that “the federal minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13 an hour… as long as the workers’ tips make up the difference between $2.13 and the federal minimum hourly wage of $7.25 (Page 70)”. The restaurant employees are supposed to payed the amount difference between the minimum wage and the hourly tip wage if they do not match up. But, this is not always the case, an example in the book was about Claudia, a former low-wage worker. Her restaurant “didn’t want to have to pay for the difference between $2.13 and the minimum wage of $7.25. In addition, they never paid her overtime. “I would have to work off the clock,” says Claudia (Page 80)”. But, in situations where restaurants workers are paid minimum wage the wage varies by the race of the worker. In a survey of 600 restaurant workers in “Miami – Dade County, white workers reported a median wage of $11.29 per hour; Latinos, $10.00 per hour; non-Haitian blacks, $9.00 per hour; and Haitians, $8.21 per hour (Page 119)”. In another national survey of near 5000 restaurant workers, “white workers reported a median wage of $14.00 an hour, while people of color reported a median wage of $9.88 an hour (Page 117)”. I was shocked by this variation in minimum wage just based on the workers skin color. Nationally there was over a $4.00 difference in minimum wage from white workers compared to a worker of any other skin color.

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  • Before these class periods, videos, and reading the book I had never even thought what restaurant workers conditions were like. Now understanding what they are like I feel for them more but, it honestly does not change much of the way that I think about the restaurant industry. One thing that I did not know before was that minimum wage for those earning tips is 2.13 dollars per hour. I assumed everyone working had to be earning minimum wage whether they receive tips or not. I personally think that that is how it should be and tips should only be given then if the waitress offers a service above average. This is a job that requires little to know experience and no education so the pay and the conditions do not need to surpass that of a low on the totem pole job. If the worker working in these conditions does not like it that much then find a new job,. If this is the only job one can find then be thankful you have a job because many people do not. Many jobs do not have ideal working conditions. It would be great if all working conditions were perfect but that is not going to happen. I understand we should do everything we can to make them as good as possible and restaurant conditions are not very good but working conditions everywhere are not good. Many times to get to those good working conditions and good paying jobs you have to have an education or experience. You have to start at the bottom and work your way up. Too many excuses and pity parties are made when all someone needs to do is work hard. Times are not always going to be easy especially when you are starting at the bottom. One thing that I do think should change are the sick days. I did not know that sick days are not paid and a lot of the times not even able to be taken in the restaurant industry. This is not only harmful to the worker but also everyone eating the food. Moving forward I will still eat out and will know that the workers are not working in prime conditions which I will feel bad for but, also understand that they do have the opportunity whether in the near future or distant future to move up and move out of those working conditions. In states where the waiters or waitresses do not receive minimum wage I will now tip more and in all states whether they receive minimum wage or not if they do an exceptional job then I will tip even more like I do alrea

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    • Ashley I think you make extremely valid points here. I completely agree with you when you say that if people are so sick of their working conditions, than they should find another alternative. You point out that people should be grateful that they even have a job, because so many people would be ecstatic to be in a position of work, and getting any sort of pay at all. I like that you are sticking to your values and your own personal beliefs specifically, you are only going to tip a waiter or waitress if she goes above and beyond the average. However, I do feel the need to ask how much you tip your waiters/waitresses as of now? I ask this because I know that waiters/waitresses sometimes completely depend on and live on tips. Overall, I think you provide some excellent challenges to this issue that should be considered when debating this topic.

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  • When I read the word restaurant, the first thing that comes to my mind is sitting down in a noisy, talkative place and eating, compared to fast food, or food to go. I imagine smelling the different foods coming by and waiting a fair amount of time and getting super excited when my food finally arrives. When I read the word “restaurant worker”, base off my experiences, I think of a person that is hardworking yet they are extremely fustrating to me because of their service. I honestly would feel like like they were to give me good service or not get a good tip. I felt like they had to earn it. After watching the movie in class, I feel kind of bad for how I would make some waiters and waitresses PAY for their bad service. I never took into consideration it is not alway their fault. They multiple tables to wait and even more requests to rememeber. I watched the movie last Thursday and went out dinner Friday night. My waitress could barely speak english and that was kind of fustrating for me because I could hardly understand her and she could hardly comprehend what I was saying. She didn’t mess up my order and the service that she provided was fine. The video didn’t cross my mind until I had to tip her. I gave her 15% of the bill. After watching the movie and seeing how workers need the tips, I am going to always give a 15% tip; (Unless the server is rude) I will give even more than 15% if the server has a great sense of humor and fun personality. They deserve the extra because of they make the lunch or dinner expereince better than just eating; some waiters add some more life to the meal. The most disturbing information was that people give less genrous of a tip to minorities. Not only is it sad because the discrimination is simply wrong, it is also sad because most servers are minorities. The book “Behind the Kitchen Door” talks about how some servers live-how they are poor, and how some need money so much that they work when they’re sick because they can’t afford to take any days off- so I am going to inform my friends on how much servers need it and how they depend on their tips. In the movie, a couple was being interviewed and she mentioned how she used to be a waitress and there was a specific group of people that never tipped (she didn’t want to say who). It is a stereotype that black people don’t usually tip and mainly black teenagers. Many of my black friends do not tip so I want to inform them on why the should to tip these servers. They deserve it and need it and most of all, black teens need to be viewed differently. They should not be looked at as a group of people who are inconsiderate or cheap. I hope I can make a differnce.

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    • I think this is a great point to bring up because many people tend to see waiters and waitresses as people with easy jobs. Therefore, when one makes a huge mistake we tend to look at it as their fault. We can also think about shows such as Undercover Boss, where they really learn that everyone in the restaurant industry has a story. Most people we tend to find in those industries are some of the nations most elite workers. They commonly work off the idea “baby needs shoes.” It is so unfortunate that those workers in the food industry are somewhat required to work through highly contagious and unfortunate sicknesses. The food industry is a field in which sicknesses are not very appealing to have someone work for. The idea that minorities get lesser of a tip than white, and commonly are the lowest on the workers totem pull is really quite a societal disappointment.

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  • When I first think of restaurants I think about the service and the food. Most people that think of going out to eat probably think the same. I also think of them as extremely loud and a lot going on with the workers. I can definitely tell that when I am being served by a waiter or waitress that they are trying their best to do their jobs and when they are not, I feel like I am understanding that it is probably just a busy day or that there is a lot going on in the kitchen. However, most people don’t think this way. Most people react harshly towards waiters and end up tipping them badly. After watching the video and listening to peoples responses in class, it made me realize that there are so many different types of people with so many different types o situations going on in their lives that people don’t know about. For example, I was talking to a girl sitting next to me and she was a server for a restaurant and she was describing all of the different types of workers that there are. When watching the video, it made me sad seeing how many women are taken advantage of by their bosses just to get by. For example, in “Behind the Kitchen Door”, it talks about how women often have to flash their bosses before they punch in for the day. Also, the book states that “the median weekly wage for women servers in the restaurant industry is $387; the median weekly wage for men servers is $423.” The same goes for racial equality, African Americans, (especially women) are paid way less compared to white servers. The fact that we people’s perceptions controls the way the people get paid is unbelievable. In the movie one of the waiters was saying that whether he has a good tipping day or a bad tipping day can determine whether or not he gets that extra trip to target or not. The things that people have to do just to earn barely minimum wage working for a restaurant is really sad. Hearing in the video how many people didn’t know that typical minimum wage was 15-20 percent was also really shocking. I thought that it was common sense, but most people said 10-15. Its crazy that one of the largest industries in the United States has workers that are paid and treated so poorly. People need to have more sympathy for people making their food in both the fast food industries and the restaurant industries. We often don’t think about the people making our food as actual people. In my opinion, the service goes both ways. If the industries treat their workers better than I think their servers will work better and give back more to the company.

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  • Thinking of the word restaurant, prior to beginning to read “Behind the Kitchen Door”, had a much different experience on me. When I would first repeat the word in my head I would visualize large family gatherings with my grandparents sitting at the head of the table at various restaurants. I visualize my parents and older family members drinking and conversing over many different topics and the kids always messing around in the arcade or outside in the parking lot. The feelings of family were all brought together for a meal, especially because my family does not eat out all that often and only on special occasions. The sounds that would go through my head are people laughing and talking freely while being served great food. After beginning to read the book my feelings towards restaurants have changed pretty greatly. In the book a man named Thomas is guaranteed to make $500 a week at a job so he quits his old one. At his new job the owner says that he is unable to pay Thomas and continues to put off paying him for two months. These types of situations as well as the fact that a $2.13 minimum wage can be given to tipped employees make me question the managers at restaurants. Every person deserves a livable wage and to actually reap the benefits of their work but many in the restaurant business are not given this opportunity. Also, have always felt that eating out led to a clean environment were sanitation was one of the top priorities among the management but that seems to be the contrary. In class we watched a video to show how this is not the case; in the video a food worker was showing off the kitchen and could not stop sneezing and coughing. That video did a good job portraying to me that the people who prepare/serve our food are not always healthy and often have to work while sick in order to make up for low wages. In the book it is stated that of the four thousand restaurant workers surveyed 90% reported not earning paid sick days. When you are earning barely enough to live on it is obvious that at some point you would work sick to earn money. Moving forward with this information I will attempt to change some of my eating out habits and will definitely be much more conscious of the people who are preparing my food.

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  • When it comes to restaurants and workers alike, my immediate thought goes into a place and person, paid to provide for you. What I mean by this, is it’s their job to make sure we as customers have an enjoyable experience no matter what. Since this tends to be a demanding job, one would think that theses workers would be paid a decent amount of money, along with receiving benefits. However this is not the case. With the example given in class, 90 percent of the population work in the restaurant industry, and only a handful of those workers receive medical benefits. Not only do the majority go without medical benefits, but also receive very little pay for what they have to do. A reason for this is because 40 percent of the workers are made of those who are undocumented. This results in workers who are not getting treating the way they should, to “turn the other cheek” in order to keep their job and avoid deportation of themselves or their family. Going back to amount of pay that workers earn in the field, even though it is already low, it is even lower for those who are female restaurant workers. For example, in the book Behind the Kitchen Door, it is stated female workers make a significant amount less than those who are male, and do the same amount of work.“the median weekly wage for women servers in the restaurant industry is $387”. With unequal pay to those who are female and do the same job as those who are male being a long term, reoccurring issue in the United States, it might not be a surprise to see this fact, however that does not make it okay. On of my biggest concerns is the reasoning for the people in charge and how they manage and “care” for their workers. These employees are constantly having to fulfill the needs of multiple people at a time. I rarely payed attention to the workers in terms of seeing them as a person rather than a server. Seeing and reading the facts of what really goes on behind close doors is an eye opener to what seems to be all good and well can really be stressful as well as miserable for the people in the restaurant industry. Since I tend to be an impatient person at times, especially when hungry, it can be very easy for me to blame a bad experience on the server, when in reality they could be doing the best they possibly can with which ever circumstances they are faced with on a day to day basis.

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  • When I think of the word restaurant, I think of somewhere that I go with family and friends to celebrate a special occasion or to relax and catch up. I picture a quiet atmosphere and a nice time spent with family and friends. However, when I hear the word restaurant worker a very different image comes to mind. I picture the back of the house, loud and busy, and people yelling at others constantly about what needs to be done and who needs to be doing it. Having worked in a restaurant, I know just how stressful and exhausting (both physically and mentally) the environment can be. However, I was lucky enough to be very happy with my job. While it could be very exhausting and the customers could be very rude, I did get paid minimum wage. While I was only working there part-time during high school, I do know that they offered health care to the full-time workers. Because I had such a positive experience working in the restaurant industry I had no idea, prior to reading “Behind the Kitchen Door” or watching the film, just how bad restaurant workers are treated. For example, I had no idea that tipped workers had a minimum wage of $2.13 and that only 20% of restaurant workers make a livable wage. I also never knew how segregated restaurants often are, with “lighter-skinned workers in the front, serving customers, and darker-skinned workers in the back, hidden in the kitchen,” or that only approximately 6.1% of dishwashers are white. I never knew that approximately 40% of New York City restaurant workers are undocumented immigrant workers, meaning that employers have no incentive to pay them fair wages or provide any form of health care. Also, according to “Behind the Kitchen Door” “most employers in the industry refuse to offer paid sick days or health benefits.” This means that since they can’t afford to not go into work, for fear of getting a lower paycheck or even potentially losing their job, many restaurant workers will go to work sick. To me, this not only seems hugely unfair, butt also very unsanitary, as a restaurant worker’s job is mainly preparing and serving food. Watching the film and reading the book have definitely changed my perspective of the restaurant industry. I never knew that one of the largest industries in the United States treated its workers so unfairly. From now on, I will definitely try to have even more sympathy for restaurant workers, as I now know that they are dealing with much more than just a stressful work environment.

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  • In response to Katie Spencer:
    Katie I definitely agree with you. I don’t think that anyone can even understand the efforts that people in the restaurant industries have to put forth for so little money. Everyone assumes that people don’t need a large tip because they are just getting paid money from their job at the end of the month like any other job would be but in reality all of their income is based off of tips. Your statistics and numbers shown really put into reality the struggles that these servers go through and how hard most work and at the end of the day are not rewarded for. I will definitely think twice the next time Im thinking about putting a small tip forward as well!

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  • Prior to reading the book “ Behind the Kitchen Door” by Saru Jayaraman and watching movies along with discussing the food industry and restaurants in class I never thought of all the discrimination, racism, and poor conditions that take place in restaurants. I use to think of restaurants as a glamorized place. A place that you go with friends, family, or coworkers to celebrate and converse. Personally, restaurants were not only about the food, but also the experience, the service and idea of someone doing everything for you. Additionally, I thought of a restaurant as a special place that one goes to for special occasions such as birthdays, dates, anniversaries, and even weddings. Many people have some of their fondest memories in a restaurant.
    Much like the word “restaurant” the words “restaurant worker” never had a significant meaning to me prior to this class either. To me a restaurant worker is generally young, and using the job as way to make money to put themselves through school or to reach a higher goal. These workers generally have a good attitude and spirit about them because that is how they make their tips. Also, I use to think that restaurant workers were only waiters or waitresses, completely disregarding the cooks, hostesses/host, dishwashers, and table clearer. Many people often think that their experience at a restaurant completely depends on the waiter or waitress, if their food is not to the customers liking the customer most of the time takes this out on the waiter. Where in reality, the waiter only brought the food from the kitchen to the table and had nothing to do with how it was cooked or prepared. Even as a previous restaurant worker, I was completely oblivious to the poor wages, unfair conditions, and the awful privileges that restaurant workers face. The reason I feel that I was oblivious to this all is because I only worked for one summer in a restaurant in-between college years. To me the job was a pass through, and I never expected to get a good well-paying job with benefits without a college degree. However, the reality is that most restaurant workers are not just using the job as a pass through, rather it is their career.
    Now after all of our class discussions and after reading the book “Behind the Kitchen Door” I have a whole new perspective on the phrase “eating out”. Although one can still enjoy eating out, there are a lot of disgusting hidden facts about the restaurant industry that changed my mind. As costumers at a restaurant we often times think that the food is being prepared and cooked by professionals in a clean environment because of strict health codes we have in our country. However, many of the restaurant workers that are touching your food are often times not even documented citizens and therefore are paid less than minimum wage. Even scarier, most of restaurant workers do not have paid sick leave and often times if they are sick and they try to get the day off their managers encourage them to still work. Most restaurant workers work unless they cannot physically walk. Additionally, the servers often times make less then minimum wage per hour, on average they make 2.13 dollars per hour because of the tips they can make. Although it is nice that these servers get tips, it doesn’t matter how good their service was compared to themselves, rather their income relies on the customers and their satisfaction. Ultimately, rather than seeing restaurants as a glamorized place, I now see them as a rough, unfair, and gross environment to work for. It made me think more about what I tip, and how I treat my server. All in all, my mind and opinions about the food industry have dramatically changed.

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  • Hearing the word “restaurant” brings out numerous senses. I think of my feeling of extreme hunger, the smells of my favorite foods as it approaches the table, and I can hear my family conversing about whatever has happened during the day. Our atmosphere in the restaurant is relatively calm, and I am having an enjoyable experience with my family as we eat massive amounts of food. When I hear the words “restaurant worker,” I often think of the opposite of all of the positive feelings I am experiencing while in the restaurant. I often see restaurant workers as being in a rush, always having to do something at all of the tables they are waiting. They are trying their best to be of service to multiple people, while maintaining a positive attitude despite their exhaustion. Through our reading and discussion, I have begun to think much more about the atmosphere of the restaurant and all that restaurant workers do to uphold what our expectations are when sitting down to enjoy a meal.
    Since reading “Behind the Kitchen Door,” watching the video in class and discussing it, I have become even more aware of restaurant workers and how difficult their job can actually be at times. Like most, I was completely unaware that the minimum wage for those earning tips is 2.13 dollars per hour. I know many people that choose not to tip, and can imagine that there are many more people who are just like this, meaning that workers will not be getting the fair pay that they deserve for their work. This is highly upsetting because these people working as restaurant workers are in need of an income, just like anyone else, and it should not be dependent on how generous their customer is feeling that day. When I recently went out to eat, I found myself checking to make sure that all of my friends at least left the minimum amount of tip, as opposed to none at all. Also, it came to my attention that being a restaurant worker is not just a “passing-through” job for everyone as most assume it to be. For some people, being a waiter is their career, the one job that they choose to have for life. By realizing this I became aware of how important it is to go into each restaurant, and treat the workers with the utmost care and respect because not every problem that we encounter is their fault. They are doing a job just as we do at our respective workplaces every day, so we should try to make their time as positive as we can because we are the ones that are majorly responsible for it.

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  • Since I have never had experience working in a restaurant, all of my restaurant experiences were as a customer. I only saw the front of the restaurant, where the business usually hires white workers. They try to hide the reality of the sometimes brutal restaurant industry with the kind waiters and inviting atmosphere. However, there is a lot behind the scenes that I was not aware of. I never paid close attention to the business details, such as sick days, pay, tips, or health insurance. Although, the cleanliness of a worker and a restaurant I was more aware of. I found it surprising that most restaurant employees made $2.13 per hour and relied on tips to make a sufficient amount of income. Even then, some customers do not tip their server. Most Americans do not have proper tipping knowledge either. It is assumed that the tip is a reward for a waiter’s good service, when in reality it is to bring their pay to a decent, livable amount. It also surprised me that there was a stereotype about tipping in the industry as well, that African Americans were less likely to tip or tip the expected 15-20%. There are other stereotypes in the industry as well, including the back workers consisting of different ethnicities or being immigrants. For example, in Behind the Kitchen Door, page 6 says “Dishwashers, who earn minimum wage or less, are always the darkest-skinned workers in the back, hidden in the kitchen”. Since reading the book and watching the film, my perspective on the restaurant industry has dramatically changed. I never realized the amount of problems that most workers experienced, including basic things that other people can assume their job provides like fair pay and health insurance. The misconception of the business is that it is an easy, transition type of job that doesn’t deserve to be recognized as intense work. In reality, it is the opposite. People work overtime and don’t receive pay for their time, and also don’t get health benefits which means they can’t afford to take time off. There are many problems with the behind-the-scenes work which I didn’t notice as I would walk into a restaurant before, but now I can see the reality of the industry.

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  • When reading or even hearing the word “restaurant”, there are countless server stories I could talk about. Ever since I was sixteen years old I have always worked in the food industry. Having past experience I was hired on as a server immediately at Red Robin when I was 19. This environment was a big change from what I was used to. Red Robin being a corporate owned restaurant made it high volume and received 100 times more people than a small local restaurant I was used to. With the way this work place was everything was based off of what you sold. Who could sell the most appetizers or who could sell the most desserts, all along with who had the most server compliments on a survey online. It was almost stressful being a server here because if your beverage order rate weren’t to a certain standard your hours would be cut and given to someone who could sell more. This is frustrating to any server because it all would be based of the guest that was seated in your section. A lot of the times when you have a group of teenagers come in, they all order water because who wants to pay for a three dollar drink when they can get a water for free. This automatically drops your drink per guest average and along with this teenagers normally don’t tip as well as a family or old couple would (that being based off experience). Going off that, at the end of the night we are required to tip out 3% of our sales to the expo, bartender and busser. So if we don’t receive tips, but our sales are high we tip out money we didn’t even make by the end of the night. This being said when watching the film about the servers and how they felt brought back all the feelings I felt while working at the restaurant. How they commented on no sick days, I recall a moment when I had food poisoning but had to come in and serve because no one could cover me. When I go out to eat at any restaurant, regardless of the service I will never stiff my server because I know how it feels. Also living in Washington and being a server we are very privileged, because we still receive our state minimum wage and tips are only an addition, granted we get taxed more, its still more than the $2.13 federal minimum wage that was stated in the book “Behind the Kitchen Door”. My opinions didn’t change after this film but the moment I started working at a restaurant. I never had it as hard as some people who serve for a living, but I definitely understand how much hard work it takes to be a server and moving forward I have and always will respect the people that serve me.

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  • When I think of the word restaurant, I think of busy workers going from one table to the next, working to keep all of their tables in order. I hear a lot of chatter coming from each of the tables and an occasional outburst of laughing coming from one family a couple booths down. The smell of burgers and fries coming from the kitchen makes me even more hungry as I sit with close family and friends and catch up on life. When I hear the word restaurant worker however, it almost has a negative connotation to it, as I think of the stories I heard from my parents who both worked in restaurants growing up. I think of angry customers complaining about bad service and little to no tip that is given because of it. As well as a boss who scolds workers for calling in sick, telling them that they may lose their job if they do not come in. I think of the bad and typically unsafe working conditions that the workers in the back have to deal with. Our conversations in class and the readings have changed how I think and feel about restaurant workers even though I already had an idea about some of the bad things that came along with working at a restaurant because it put some things into perspective for me more personally as I thought of how my friends and I may act when we are eating out. For college students eating out, or high school students, the 15% gratuity is seen more as a suggestion and something that adults do when they eat out. Typically when I am with friends, it seems as if no matter what the bill comes out to be the tip is about 2 dollars a person. Along these lines, it is rare that I ever see someone go as far as leaving a tip for the chef, the very person that cooked the food that we all ate and enjoyed, even when I am eating out with adults. The respect for these workers is not there from customers or bosses, and the film showing the lady who was trying to film a commercial for her boss while sick just reassured my thoughts on this. She could barely get through a couple sentences without sneezing and asked if she could film another day when she was better. They would not let her though, and instead scolded her each time she sneezed for not being able to do a simple task as they saw it. As for Nikki, who is talked about in the book, she was forced to work with pink eye, which she had to self-diagnose because she had no health benefits to afford to see a doctor. Later on Nikki was unable to live off of her tips and was evicted. These are horrifying stories that happen too often and have given me a new perspective on restaurant workers.

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  • When I read the word restaurant I think about a great place to eat. I usually think about my family, because that’s pretty much the only time I go out to eat at a restaurant. When I read the words restaurant worker, I think somebody who is doing their best to make your meal and visit a pleasant one. I used to think that working in a restaurant was a fairly easy thing, I often would get mad when servers wouldn’t give what I thought was good service. But after myself working at a restaurant as a hostess, I see how hard every single server tries to make the dining experience great. My opinion of it being a easy job has changed. After reading the book and watching the film, I feel that eating out is looked at a easy way to get dinner. Most people don’t see that the people working are trying to make a living so they can pay rent, save for college etc. After working with many rude costumers at Shari’s, I feel that eating out should be a treat and if you are going to go out to eat there are two things you need to be considerate of, 1. the time you out to eat. For example at noon, there will be a rush, so expect delays on meals no matter what. 2. Your attitude. Why go out to eat if you are going to be grumpy.
    Now that I have learned that restaurant workers have such a tough job I feel more sympathetic towards them. I try to make conversations and be a good guest. Lord knows how many times I’ve heard that guest were rude. I feel the need to tell people the hard work that servers do, many take them for granted. I had no idea that servers weren’t given sick days and how they cant afford to miss a shift. In the book, Nikki talks about how she was forced to work sick because it was crucial to miss a shift. I wasn’t aware of the injustuce going on and I’m happy that there are people trying to work and make the situations better for servers. I feel like people need to be aware of the things going on and speak up. The fact that this film was made means they are that much closer to making things better for servers in the restaurant industry.

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  • When I hear the word restaurant, I immediately think of eating out with my friends or family. It makes me feel happy because it is a setting for everyone to sit together and talk and usually enjoy a good meal. I always think of the chatter of kitchen utensils and people talking throughout the restaurant. It is usually a comfortable environment and often an enjoyable experience with the people closest to me. It is also a change of pace for the foods that I do not have at home. I would consider myself a person who is critical of servers unfortunately. I have taken my lack of satisfaction of food out on the waiter several times and until watching the video I have thought nothing of it. I considered them all to play the same role when realistically they have no control over what the food is like; they just have to deliver it to us. Before watching the video, it sounds bad, but I really never thought about his or her personal life beyond work. I never thought about how my tip affects their lives so greatly that they might not be able to pay their rent or provide food for that month. I have always assumed that they got paid minimum wage so the tips were not that important, but I now realize that I’m wrong. I always thought the delicious smell I picture was easy to come by but it clearly is not. I also have had the mindset that many others have according to the video that a majority of workers in restaurants are using it as an in-between job. The video showed me otherwise that there are many people in this country who have to rely on restaurant business in order to survive in the world. These people can be anywhere from the age of 20 to retirement age, many people stay along for different lengths of time. At restaurants, nobody really thinks about the dishes, how they are done, or whom they are done by. I did not either until I read Jayaraman. She states that only 6.1 percent of dishwashers in New York City were white. They have had the advantage in restaurants everywhere because it is much more likely for them to receive tipped jobs rather than behind the doors. She also states that only 20 percent of restaurant jobs pay a livable wage, one that is very difficult to obtain behind the doors, especially for immigrants or women. This book and film have opened my eyes of the crimes of the restaurant industry. They generate so muh income yet short its employees so much that they are unable to make it in the world. More people need to know these causes because it is kept so secretive because I know my whole point of view has changed.

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  • When I hear the word restaurant, I immediately think of food. After all, that’s generally the only reason I go to restaurants-for the food. But after that immediate reaction, my mind jumps to the layout of the restaurant. I think of how the tables are set-up, where the bathroom is, and whether or not I can see the kitchen and the workers. I picture some of my favorite places to eat, or special events in my life that were celebrated in a restaurant. I can easily think of five restaurants on the top of head that I especially enjoy to go eat. These places all have unique smells and decorum that attract me to it. When I read the word “restaurant worker” I immediately think of waiters and waitresses. I imagine them coming by my table to refill my water, take my order, and ask whether or not I am enjoying my food. Before this class, I never considered the fact that the term “restaurant worker” includes so many more people than just the waiters and waitresses. Specifically, Saru Jayaraman informs us that there are more than 10 million “restaurant workers” nationwide who work hard to feed us everyday, and yet it includes 7 of the 11 lowest-paying occupations in America. In her book “Behind the Kitchen Door” Jayaraman explains her experiences that made her change her perspective on eating out. Like me, she never paused to think about the people behind the kitchen door who were serving her. However, the more time she spent campaigning for the restaurant workers’ organization she was the leader of, the more horror stories of restaurant workers she uncovered and the more passionate she felt about the topic. And after reading about some of the experiences Saru Jayaraman went through, I know exactly why she feels so strongly about it. I will never look at another restaurant the same. I will always question how the workers behind the kitchen door are treated, whether they get paid sick days, health insurance, etc. This thought was reinforced when we watched the film in class that highlighted the incredible unfairness that restaurant workers experience. Specifically, the video where the waitress was trying to shoot a commercial but she fell ill and couldn’t do it, really made me think about how many other situations like that there are in our nation. These videos and readings really made me look at myself, and how I am treating the restaurant workers. I now know more about the truths of restaurants and I will work hard to be more conscious of where I am spending my money. I can do some research to see which places are treating their workers right, and which ones aren’t. Then, I can spend my money appropriately and support the institutions that deserve it.

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    • I like some of the points you made and that you mentioned that restaurant workers include 7 or the 11 lowest-paying occupations. Also, I love that you are willing to make changes and take the time to research restaurants to figure out how they treat their workers before going to eat there. I too was enlightened by these films and readings and want to make sure that I am supporting the restaurants who are treating their workers right by eating out at these places. If more people were to research the working conditions, health benefits, and wages of restaurants workers and then only give their business to those we are willing to treat there workers right, then we could influence other restaurants to start treating their workers better.

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    • These are great responses and realizations. It is great that now you have more knowledge on this topic you have chagned your views a bit. It is very important that the workers are treated fairly and well. There is no reason to treat them poorly. I also never thought about the poeple behind the doors that you do not typically see when going to a restaurant. One thing about them being the some of the lowest paid workers is that that job does not require an education or experience therefore it should be expected that they are not going to get paid all that much.

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  • I was grown up in upper middle class family, an Asia country, which demands service a lot country. Going to a restaurant, it is normal to have good service, good food and great atmosphere. If it is not good, I will wonder where is my money spending for. However, there is the satirical part, I do not pay for my tip. Waiters and waitresses must be nice to us; it is not for the tip; it is for keeping the job. Yes, you might say it is really unfair. However, before I saw the film played in class, I never think it is wrong not to pay tip. This was how I educated; this was my country culture. In the film, the waiters said that Asian paid less tips. Actually I was not surprised at all. When I came to U.S., I always wondered why I needed to pay tips. I never have to pay for the service in Taiwan. Tips just cost me more money. I have to admit I paid really little tip when I went to a restaurant. Now, I feel guilty after knowing only 20 percent of restaurant jobs pay a livable wage.
    Restaurant is a place that gives people comfy, joy, and happy memory. We all expect to have a nice meal when we go to restaurant to have dinner. If the waiters or waitresses have a bad attitude, people’s good meal is spoiled. This is how important waiter and waitresses take part of our great dinner. Nevertheless, if the food came late, waiters or waitresses might be punished with bad tips even though it is not their fault. Food is cook by the “back of the house”, but people are punishing the front of the house “waiters and waitresses.”
    The most shocking part of restaurant industry is that they do not have paid sick days or health insurance. I cannot believe how cold-blood employer can be. If restaurants workers do not receive paid sick days, they will show up to work and might spread their disease. People might say they should have work ethics and blame them but people did not think what is the cause. Who would want to work when their body is ill? It is hard enough to earn a livable wage. If they take a sick day off, it will be even more miserable. It is necessary to force employers offer paid sick days. It will be more humanistic and more responsible for their customers.
    I still remember when is the last time I think about a waitress’s income. I was in Red Lobster having anniversary celebrating. The dinner and the waitress are really perfect. Her smile and service made me think how much tip she received a day. I was thinking like a lot. I was jealous of her. Now, when I think again, I realize how naïve I was. There is nothing I should envy a waitress. She probably cannot afford the meal my boyfriend and I had that night. She even could not take a sick day off. Her job is 3 times more weight than office workers take. Each plate is around 25-40 pounds. The physical labor of pain should not be underestimated. I felt sad for her. Once a time, I think if I am an American citizen, I will choose to part-time in restaurant because the well-paid tips. Now I understand it was all my fantasy. I wish all the restaurant workers can receive the welfare they deserve.

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  • What comes to my mind whenever I think of restaurants is bees. I think of bees because I can imagine a lot of workers in the kitchen rushing to get their orders out to the customers, kind of how when bees come together they just “buzz” around each other. Reading chapters 1-4 really shocked me because I had no idea what the struggles were for restaurant workers. In chapter 4, we read about tipping. “I learned that my $5 is shared by many different people: the waiter who takes my orders, the runner who brings out m food, and the bussers who clean my table and refill my bread basket and water” this especially blew me away, I don’t even tip $5, I will usually tip $2 or nothing at all, you’d have to be a pretty good darn waiter for me to tip $5. As I read further into chapter 4, I learned that minimum wage for tipped workers is only $2.13 an hour. An hour! During the videos we watched in discussion, It also made me realize how much women or attractive women and men have advantages when It comes to tipping. I’d always knew that attractive people had an advantage but this video did make me think about it more. Another thing that shocked me was chapter 3, serving while sick. I always thought It was simple to call in sick, especially at a restaurants due to health concerns. This chapter made me look at a different perspective, that workers work on sick days either because they cannot afford to miss a day of work or the manager won’t let them call off work, just like the example this chapter uses in the beginning of a women’s situation in Detroit. “My kids were very young”, “was not allowed to leave work” these two things hit me, my mom used to work at Denny’s when my brother and I were very young. I never really asked her about her old job until this subject came up in lecture. My mother told me that it was prison. Of course working in a restaurant is not all bad, some people rather enjoy working in a restaurant just like one of the workers in the video we watched in lecture who had been working there for over 30 years. It does indeed have its up and downs. The book and the videos made me look into different perspectives and step into different shoes.

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  • To start, the word “restaurant” and “restaurant worker” bring about two different sets of feelings, smells, sounds etc.. Like most people when I read the word “restaurant” I’m reminded of celebrations, friends, and of course delicious food. I am someone who will come up with any excuse to eat out. I love indulging in my favorite dishes without the hassle of preparing them myself. Just the thought of going out to eat makes me bubble with excitement; it is an instant mood changer. I picture delicious melted cheese (because I rarely order anything without cheese) and tall comfortable booths, where I’ll sit and enjoy the company of loved ones and enjoy my meal in a cocoon of carelessness hardly paying any mind to the person interrupting my conversation to pour more water in my glass. That is, as long as I never notice when my glass is empty or that it’s taking exceptionally long for my piping hot plate of enchiladas to arrive. When these things start happening my joyous occasion is interrupted. I start to think; “how long does it take to melt some cheese in a tortilla? Or “can’t that waitress hear my ice clinking in my empty water glass?” At least this is how I used to think prior to our class discussions and videos. This brings me to the words “restaurant worker.” It is interesting that “restaurant worker” and “waitress” actually make me think about two different people. When I hear “restaurant worker” I think of someone, possibly an immigrant, with a stained apron and a jaded attitude. When I hear “waitress” I think of a jovial, personable individual wearing a nice white button up shirt, maybe adorned with some promotional buttons. What I’ve just described is basically what we discussed in class as the “front” and “Back” of the house. The waitresses put on the show and make sure your meal is enjoyable while the restaurant workers in the kitchen are making the show possible. After watching the video in class, I started thinking more about the lives of restaurant workers who weren’t just “passing through” the business, and even the ones that are. “I used to be a bad tipper. Even though I ate out frequently, I didn’t understand what tipping really meant” (p.69), this quote from Behind the Kitchen Door, describes my past relationship with tipping. Even as a former restaurant worker myself, I will admit I am guilty of under tipping my servers. Of course I feel guilty but I often use the excuse that we didn’t get our water glasses filled enough or I’m a poor college student and I need those extra dollars more than they do. Both of which I realize are pathetic excuses especially after learning that many restaurant workers rely on their tips to make up the reminder of their wages. I enjoyed breakfast at Old European restaurant shortly after watching the video in class. I caught myself paying more attention to the serving staff and the pressure they were under, as the restaurant was extremely busy this morning. I started wondering what their backgrounds were and how long they had been in the industry. This is something I had never paid any mind to before our class discussion. Since our discussions about wages of restaurant workers especially, I have been more conscientious as to how I tip my servers. Moving forward I will continue to make a conscious effort to properly tip my waiters and waitresses and I will remind myself not to send impatient looks their way because I have more empathy for their situations.

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  • Before reading the book and watching the video, when I hear the word “restaurant,” two things come to mind: food and service. I would picture a setting that is elegant, classy with people dressed in formal outfits. Customers would eat their expensive meals and have their nearly-empty glasses of champagne being poured again by waiters/waitresses. I know not all restaurants are like this, but overall, I expected restaurants to have a nice atmosphere where customers enjoyed the food and the people serving them are polite. I have always admired how hard many of the employees had worked where they put their time and effort in keeping the restaurant industry well-maintained. After watching the film and reading a few chapters of the book, my eyes had opened to a whole new perspective on restaurants I have been eating at.
    I was shocked to find out that restaurant workers only make $2.13 per hour. Growing up, people I know who had experience working at restaurants told me they do not make much money an hour per day. Although, I did expect people who work at restaurants to not make a whole lot of money, but I did not expect the pay to be this significantly low in the U.S. after many of them worked for long hours a week. In the book, Saru Jayaraman mentioned that many of the workers live in a difficult and poor lifestyle where they struggle to survive on a day-to-day basis. Jayaraman then informs about a worker named Floriberto Hernandez who worked at a restaurant for over ten years. He continued to have difficulties to pay off the $15,000.00 he owes. Excessively working long hours a day eventually impacted Floriberto’s health and even worked during days when he was ill due to no paid sick leave. This brings me to my attention towards how the health of these workers can tremendously affect the health of the people they are cooking and serving food to. The film also mentioned other workers struggling to earn a livable wage and hoping that the tips they would earn will hopefully lead them to it. Seeing only ten percent of the workers earn a livable wage brings me to my attention to how difficult it must be to take care of themselves and the people around them if the individual has a family. After learning and finding out all of this information, I would eventually tell people about this whether they work at a restaurant or not. People must know what occurs behind kitchen doors of the restaurants they are eating at as it can affect their health and how they can make a positive change towards restaurant workers who work extensive long hours a day into earning the chances of having livable wage is relatively low.

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  • When I go to a restaurant I don’t think of these things that I am about to describe. They are not the first thing that comes to mind. The first thing that comes to mind is the food I am going to get. The time that I am spending with someone. Nothing really goes through my head when thinking about restaurant. Now that I am asked about restaurant and what goes through my head, things come up when I actually look into it. When I think of the word restaurant the smell I think of is a good smell. A smell that you don’t mind smelling. A smell that you can taste the flavor of the food that’s being cooked. The feelings I think of about a restaurant is togetherness. When I think of restaurant i feel family and relationship. The reason why I feel this way is because when people like myself associate with restaurants, we are either with our family celebrating or on a date with a very special somebody. The sound that comes to mind is noisy. The sound of dishes being washed and put up, the sound of others talking to the people they are with, the sound of the waiter/waitress taking the orders of their customers, and the sound in my head thinking about what my day was like and how good the food will be when I’m eating it. Overall when I think of restaurants it is a good thought. restaurants are here for a good reason. That reason is to please the people. To have a place where people can go to for a good time. When I go to restaurants, before I get there I get so excited because I know that I am going to have a good time. There are variety of food that you can order and what’s bad about that. The best part about restaurants to me is the desert. The best part absolutely to me. For example BJ’s restaurants, BJ’s has one of the best dessert if not the best desert I have ever tasted. Their desert is called the pizookie. The pizookie is a big warm cookie or brownie with ice cream at the top in a plate of its on. The best thing I have ever tasted. Restaurants like BJ’s put an image in my head about restaurants and that image is a very wonderful image that I enjoy each and every time. Our discussions about restaurants haven’t really changed my mind about them. I still love them and will continue to go to them. The only thing I believe isn’t right is that a lot of restaurant workers don’t get treated with respect. What I mean about respect is that for one most of their earnings comes from tips, which is horrible. How can someone live like that, provide for themselves and probably their families from just tips. I believe their wages should be raised. Restaurant workers are the only one who wages haven’t raised. Their wage has been frozen at $2.13 which is terrible. The last thing I disagree about restaurant and treating their workers are that the workers basically can’t take a sick day. If they do the amount of money they lose just isn’t worth it. They can’t afford to take off because they are sick. So a lot of workers have gone to work sick, which is a bad thing for customers because they can become sick. All this just isn’t worth it. If we could just treat our Restaurant workers better it would work out for all of us. With this information moving forward I would tip more than usual. Honestly the way these workers live is up to us and as a person I don’t want anyone stressing over whether or not they can pay their rent or a bill.

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