Better treatment starts with higher wages, but it does not end there. Every one of us can treat workers in the service industry with kindness, dignity, and respect.
This global pandemic has opened our eyes to the necessity of sick staff staying home. Yet, this means that we are forced to operate short-staffed, which leads to more stress on those at work. It’s harder to greet guests as quickly or prepare food at the same pace as we could with a full staff. Fluctuating cost and unpredictable supply chain issues have also led to menu items needing to be altered or being unavailable.
I’m sorry to say there is no way to raise the conditions of restaurant workers without a modest increase in the cost of restaurant meals. A recent article in Time cites what I know all too well: restaurants operate on a razor thin margin, with most failing in the first 3 years. In the best of times, restaurants work on a profit margin of 3% to 5%. It is up to customers to be willing to pay more so responsible businesses can pay both their bills and their staff.
Hospitality, at its core, is about welcoming people and taking care of them. For this to happen in 2022, restaurant workers need to be treated better, with increased wages, paid sick days and kindness. Otherwise, they will end up continuing to leave the industry. Our guests have to help as well by treating staff a little more kindly, tipping generously and accepting that dining out in 2022 will have to cost a little more and may look a little different. If we all do our part, locally owned restaurants like Lily’s Dayton will make it through 2022 and beyond.
Emily Mendenhall is the owner and general manager of Lily’s Dayton in the Oregon District and Vice President of the Oregon District Business Association.