When we choose to go out to eat at an area restaurant, we look to patronize places that are within our budget, have a convenient location, a great ambiance, and of course- quality food. However, we seldom think about the treatment of the employees, wages, and quality of life at the establishment. People in the food service industry often work long hours, suffer from the physical demands of their position, and have mental health issues due to a lack of work-life balance, pressures from the cutthroat nature of the industry, and substance abuse problems.
Research, Surveys, and Interviews
The Workers’ Rights Center of Madison and the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice launched Just Dining Madison, a project “focused on working conditions in central Madison restaurants.” The result of extensive research, as well as surveying and interviewing restaurant employees is compiled into a yearly dining guide which informs the public about working conditions. Just Dining Madison sets minimum standards for different aspects of the workplace including wage (for tipped and non-tipped workers), health insurance, sick days, written personnel policies, retirement plans, and paid time off in coffee/tea shops, quick serve restaurants, casual dining restaurants, and fine dining restaurants. The report presents the criteria for Madison restaurants by giving stars to restaurants that meet the established standard, revealing which businesses pay decent wages and have excellent benefits, ultimately setting their employees up for success and providing great opportunities.
Just Dining Madison urges restaurant-goers to patronize establishments that have multiple stars, support efforts to improve working conditions for restaurant workers, and support restaurant workers who are trying to improve their workplaces. In the 2016 report, the restaurants that received a full score (7 stars) were The Wise in HotelRED, UW-Madison, and Ian’s Pizza By The Slice.
Treat People Well
Jason Ilstrup, the General Manager of HotelRED, has made it a priority to set a high standard when it comes to working conditions in both the hotel and the restaurant. He is proud that The Wise has been recognized for being a business that goes above and beyond when it comes to being a great workplace. “The employees are the most important part,” he said. “We want to take care of them, because they take care of the business. We want to treat people well so they are able to maintain a good life.”