Thursday, May 30th, 2019

A few months ago, we opened a can of worms. We brought attention to the fact that the restaurant industry is not currently set up to benefit all restaurant workers. At Short Stack, we have taken steps to move towards a structure that is more fair and equitable to our employees. For example, we don’t pay our Front of House employees a typical servers wage (2.33/hour + tips). Our starting wage for every employee is above minimum wage, and because of this we can pool tips and distribute among all employees (including Front and Back of House) according to the number of hours worked.


However, we don’t have a perfect system. We recognize this. Simply ‘above minimum wage’ is not enough to support and sustain a mom with two kids or a student with tons of loans. This refers to a ‘living wage’ — the amount of money an individual person needs to make in order to meet their basic needs in an area given their dependents and place in life. Our goal is to be able to provide each employee with their own individual living wage.


This is significantly easier said than done! There are a multitude of hurdles to overcome in order to reach this goal. If any restaurant owner in the Madison area has figured out a way to do this, we would love to hear from you — please contact us at!


In our research to learn how we can make this work, we’ve discovered that this issue is so much larger than us. In order for us to really be able to effectively reach this goal, there needs to be large-scale change. There are organizations in this country that work specifically to improve working conditions for restaurant employees. If we want to be able to support our employees at Short Stack, and restaurant workers in the greater Madison area, we need to pay attention to and engage with national organizations who are doing influential work in this realm.


The Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC) is an organization that strives to improve wages and working conditions for the nation’s restaurant workforce. They have won workplace justice campaigns, in which millions of dollars of misappropriated tips and wages were redistributed appropriately, and initiated policy improvements in large restaurants and chains that cover thousands of people. They advocate for raising minimum wages for tipped workers and provide resources for restaurant workers, employers in the restaurant industry, and diners who care about the livelihood of restaurant workers.


Restaurants Advancing Industry Standards in Employment (RAISE) is an employer-specific offshoot of the ROC. RAISE believes that sustainable business practices are not an impediment, but rather a key to profitability and success. RAISE provides resources to employers to learn about sustainable business practices including livable wages for all workers, paid sick days and access to affordable healthcare, career advancement opportunities, safe and healthy workplaces, diverse and equitable employment, and environmental sustainability.


A main campaign that both of these organizations support is called One Fair Wage. One Fair Wage seeks to eliminate the two-tiered (tipped) wage system and pass legislation that requires tipped workers to be paid at least the actual minimum wage. Having to rely on tips to pay rent and bills disenfranchises all tipped restaurant workers and leads to ill effects such as needing food stamps, living in poverty, and putting up with sexual harassment. It doesn’t need to be this way. There is not currently an active campaign in Wisconsin, but with the upcoming changes to minimum wage that Gov. Evers is proposing, it is important that we make our voices heard and ensure that restaurant and tipped workers don’t get forgotten in this conversation. Reach out to One Fair Wage by submitting your story about why you support One Fair Wage, sign a petition, and contact our legislators with this form!


Restaurant workers are some of the hardest working folks in this country. It is critical that these people are compensated fairly and well, at the very least such that they don’t need to live in poverty. We’ve taken steps to create an equitable workplace for all of our workers, but there is still work that needs to be done. Will you join us in these efforts?