Local chefs push for increased wages across restaurant industry

Updated: May. 2, 2021 at 9:40 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A grassroots effort from chefs in Charlotte is calling for increased wages across the restaurant industry.

This effort by Sam Hart, Sam Diminich, Rob Clement and Chris Coleman comes as the industry is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic -- from lost wages and restrictions to workers leaving the industry.

“A lot of people that left the industry have found other opportunities or career options that provide them with security that food and beverage haven’t in the past,” said Chef Sam Diminich with Your Farms Your Table.

The chefs are hoping their grassroots effort helps to push the hourly wage for restaurant workers to at least $15 per hour, which is double the current minimum wage.

Both Hart’s Counter CLT and Diminich’s Your Farms Your Table start their employees at $15.

“It needs to happen because these employees are struggling to make ends meet. You have some working three jobs and yet you’re making thousands of dollars off each individual at night and yet you’re paying them less than the minimum wage...I mean $3.25 an hour,” said William Brinkley, the managing partner at Counter.

The idea is more money equals a lot of happiness.

”When there is less attrition, our staff, our service, our all creates a culture of longevity and sustained success,” said Diminich.

Brinkley said working on tips is simply not enough for restaurant workers.

”When you have kids, a house or apartment, bills that are consistent, you can’t deal with the whims of a random customer to potentially give you 20 percent. Just to depend on tips alone, that’s what causes the instability. I think that’s a big reason why it’s hard to hire someone for an industry that’s been so inconsistent. Would you go out and get a job not knowing what your paycheck is going to be every week? No, that’s not fair,” he said.

While both realize it may not be feasible for everyone, they’re still hoping the grassroots effort leads to other restaurants jumping on board.

”As an owner, they’re looking at I need to make X amount of dollars every month for my lifestyle. On the flip token, you can still make a good profit but you need to be able to pay your employees so you can retain them,” Brinkley said.

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