Wages and attitude...

First of all, congrats to TT and all the regular expert posters, this is a fantastic resource for indies, just wish I’d known about it before joining the party!!!

I made a significant change to our business model as the year began: 1) full service dining room, 40 seats inside with 40 outside - and wait staff. 2) Wages: everyone gets at least minimum, now $7.25 + tips.

I’ll explain the results and my observations over the past 7 months. #1, I’ve got the best crew since incorporating. Both drivers and CSRs do double duty, cleaning, bussing, taking orders, doing cut, salads, dough as needed. I restrict the drivers from taking dine-in orders, but they jump in for delivery and take-out orders. On average, both CSRs and drivers make about the same in tips, approximately $12 - $25 an hour. SO, on the low side they’re making $19/hr and on busy days as much as $32/hr. As you can imagine, the staff is very motivated. Morale is very high, especially when I hear talk from waiters at restaurants who make $2.13/hr + tips and have to compete with others just to get a table or 2 for the day.

I made this decision early mostly from the gut, but also from numerous comments from TT regulars about the benefits of fair wage. The results are night and day in staffing attitude. Wage is always going to be a tough issue, but when its higher, the quality of people are higher. Of course, how this correlates to the economy, I can’t say. I’m out of time, but in ending, I realize there’s more to it than just an hourly rate - but that with training and direct feedback in the form of tips really helps.

I’m glad we made the jump!!

Here’s to you Pizza2007! I have managed many companies over the years in the food industry and outside and the bottom line is that you get what you pay and offer for. My best example was a contracting firm that I was brought in to manage / try to expand since the owner was not having a good go at it. He had 27 employees, all making low wages, no benefits, and some of the worse unreliable equipment out there. After 6 months and a lot of pleading, I finally said this is it, I am tired of the crapy employees that do not show up and do not work when they do, the trucks that never start, and every other thing you low ball around here. I told him you have me for 30 days and I am gone unless you let me spend what this company needs too and I will make it worth the money spent. Don’t get me wrong, he was making money at what he was doing, but at the expense of 100 headaches a week and employees that were coming and going as fast as the weeks went by. In the end… spent a lot of money on 6 new fully equiped trucks, kept 7 of 27 employees and hired 5 or 6 additional. My best paid installer went from $13 an hour with no benefits to $25 with full benefits and the average pay went from $9 to $18 and hour. It is amazing what a satisfied employee can get done in a day. At the end of that year…about 8 months after my upgrades and changes… the sales went from about 1.3 mil the previous year to over 2.2 for the current. He also experienced an average 23% growth the next 2 years until I left and is still going strong. Business owners, and I am sure I will take a lot of crap from some people for this one, need to pay and treat their employees the same way they want to be treated. They have lives and family’s and are not showing up everyday because they love seeing your shiney face in the morning. Treat them well, pay them decent, give them benefits and they will work hard for you and go that extra mile when asked or even better… when not asked… all by themselves! In the end…you the owner will be the one that benefits with the happy customers and the additional income. :smiley:

I always felt that it is much cheaper to have one higher-paid employee that hustles with a smile on their face than two lower-paid employees that don’t. The one will do as much work as the two and increase, rather than decrease, the number of customers.

We pay all of our employees at least $7.50/hour to start. We have about 12 employees and the newest is currently making $8.00/hour and the highest is at $9.50. They all split tips and consistently make $15-$25/hour with tips. Until this past month, I only had to hire one new person in the past 13 months. Though payroll can seem fairly painful at times, I am confident we are saving money in the long run with improved product consistency and lower training costs. There is a true sense of team work and there is not the division I have experienced in other restaurants between servers and kitchen staff. Everyone is highly motivated to work together. That said, I think this structure works because of the size of our restaurant…5 tables in the winter and double that in the summer (in addition to deliver and take-out). I’ve often wondered if we would need to change the structurel if we ever expand. Good luck! I think you will have some happy employees!

I agree 100%. In our state the sub-minimum wage for servers is 2.83, I start mine at 3.50. Just because of that little amount of money, my wait staff kicks butt for us! They actually get a check, in every other restaurant around here they lose their entire check to taxes. The word has spread and now servers come to us all the time to see if we have any openings. I also start our kitchen staff .50 over minimum and give raises very quickly to go getters. Again, we have a lot of cooks from corporate stores stop in all the time to see if we have any openings. Like someone posted before, you get what you pay for! :slight_smile:

This is a timely post as we’re FINALLY inching closer to having a location locked up! I’ve always thought an owner would do well for themselves by paying above average wage, thereby attracting above average staff…and having the ability to back the expectation of above average results!

I’ve got a lot to learn about proper restaurant wages, what a decent cook should be worth etc. but I know I’ll be following the same model when our doors are ready to open.

we have found a way to “reward” our part-time high schoolers that do alot of the important counter/phone work that usually pays a little more than minimum ($8). We let them work the dining room as waitstaff from 2:30 - 5 (usually $10 - $20 in tips) and then when they switch to their normal job from 5 - 8 we have a tip jar on the counter that usually gets them another $5 - $10 a shift. I figure they average well over $12/hour and really do a great job plus they can always cover for a waitress in case of emergency