With all the debates on restaurants and models I thought this one was missing.I don't know if you have any experience with it but it does work.Seen it succeed too many times.Most restaurants do fail in 1 year or less but lots of ethnic restaurants hang on, here's the secret.
There is a great move in activist communities to change the flow of money. There is a great desire to bring more money into the activist community while being able to maintain our moral codes. Many have attempted to open restaurants. Some do well, some fail, and others barely survive for years.
One model of restaurant rarely discussed by the activist community is the immigrant restaurant and the model it uses for economics. Immigrant restaurants often use a totally different approach than any western or european model. Most immigrant restaurants succeed and some have huge lines every night. So what do they do that is so successful? What is their secret and how do they make it work for everyone?
Changing the restaurant dynamic.
Number One: Housing
Restaurants that rely on immigrant labor also know the difficulty of getting anything in America without a social security number. "Can you please verify the last four digits of your social security number?" Now you know what that is about. So any restaurant that is going to rely on immigrant labor needs to meet the basic needs of it's employees. Yes, that means that if you want an upscale restaurant in the Hawthorne district you rent an apartment within walking distance for the employees to cohabitate. After all, many homeowners will not rent to immigrants. Most employees are stoked to have a place to live in. Especially in the coolest are of town. The cost of an apartment in these area are usually no more than the cost of one employees salary.
There are families who will not want to live in an apartment with a bunch of singles and married couples. They are expected that if they choose to live away from the apartment, that they will adhere to the strict work atmosphere. No extra salary is provided for workers who do not want to live in the communal housing. There is no extra salary for greediness. When you work for an upscale restaurant you are to wear a dress uniform. Your clothes must be pressed, clean and your shoes must buffed. Basic city hygiene must be observed. You are not in the woods so you should not smell like you are in eco defense basic training workshops. You should smell clean and nice, so as to compliment the aromas of the food you are serving.
Since you live close to work and have that option you must always be there when the doors open. You are expected to work all hours that the restaurant is open. You are the difference and you must realize it. If you are late you will be fired. Most people won't be late because the perks of the job are certainly great.
Workers are expected to pay for electricity, TV, phone and internet. If you use it you pay for it. In most cases the bills divided up come to less than $20 a month for the workers.
Number Two: Salary
All employees receive a salary. They have a certain amount of sick days in a year, a small amount of tardies, and they do not receive tips. All tips go to the owner to take care of housing, food, etc. Yes, that's right, the workers do not work on gratuity. They are the best damn workers you ever saw, but they don't kiss ass for tips. It is very nice to have a guaranteed steady income, with steady work days, and no vying for extra hours.
Salary is based on attendance. If you don't come to work you receive a pay cut. Too many absences will lead to being fired. But most people will start to enjoy this friendly atmosphere. Salaries are reasonable, and when they include room and board they are great. Most restaurants with this model begin at a salary base of $1200 a month. They work up to $2500 for a cook. For a blue collar position this is great! To have free room and board plus salary is a great bonus. Immigrant labor expects to work hard so often they will be working at least 50 hours to 60 hour a week. They are not expected to work more than their boss. They are expected to work as much as the boss. The boss is expected to wait tables and help out in busy times. The boss is also expected to answer the phones, and handle accounts and salaries. Salaries are often paid in cash as they result largely from the tips that the costumers leave.
Customers will leave large tips as the workers who work at these restaurants are great. Never an empty water glass, never without bread, etc. This is never to happen otherwise the workers aren't up to par. I know it sounds heartless but it is not. It is simply meeting the needs of the customers which are the blue collar workers wanting to be pampered.
Number Three: Food and the communal aspect
All food and drinks are shared. You can eat everything but the expensive stuff off the menu. You are expected to learn all positions of the restaurant unless you are content dishwashing. Some positions receive higher salaries like cooking, waitressing., etc. All people at the front of the restaurant must put the needs of the customers first. On busy nights all workers are expected to share in burden. That means that you are not only a waitress but a busser, a dishwasher and cook however just like sports you maintain a position and try to keep that area taken care of at all times.
Immigrant restaurants flourish and are becoming more notable than American food. The can not be franchised as well because they follow a more community based model plus you don't need a franchise sign to know this is going to be good food. After all, if you are going to eat every meal there you are going to make sure the meal is good.
They still follow the basic model. Good locations, good food, lots of paint and art, and the capital to start it. Some of the restaurants start as cooperatives or collectives not for any moral reason but simply because after working together at another restaurant and living together for years under this model they were able to save enough money to do it for themselves. Therefore the workers go on to work at other restaurants namely the ones they open. Aren't you amazed at the number of ethnic restaurants in the upscale ends of town? Hell even the Republicans went out to Indian food at the RNC.
This model works. If you blend it into a total commune: working, eating, living, and owning together they have a high potential for success.
Immigrants need a large cash flow in order to pay lawyers high fees for visas, work permits, and sponsoring other immigrants. This is the way they ensure that they have it. All food is cooked from scratch in an immigrant restaurant because it is cheaper and tastes a lot better. You can be sure that makes all the difference.
I would add this in parting anyone eating alone in the restaurant is waited on. That means if your coworker sits down to eat you fill their water glass etc. Your job is to take care of each other, to wait on people. When you are working you are always playing that role and it doesn't stop until you leave.
Many white people think that when they see the immigrant labor sitting down to eat together at the end of the night that it is a family business. This is not so. Most immigrants can not afford to immigrate as families but must do so one at a time. When they arrive the accept their new family as coworkers etc.
This is not a perfect model. But it is one to contemplate when opening a restaurant. The fact is that the tips model is a bad one. Most workers can not rely on tips. There are many days that a worker will go home with less than $20 in tips and others when they will make over a hundred dollars. When I worked on bourbon street some waiters left with over $300 but other days made about $1 or $2. I am serious. So no owner can assert that someone is getting tips and that they make more than there salary. That is grossly false. Tips can not be relied on. By providing a salary, a place to sleep, and food, you have given the worker security. Sometimes as a blue collar worker that is what we need the most of. If someone who workers a waitress job is making $2000 a month, and they put away $1000 dollars a month because they send money home, or they like supporting various organizations, or they have to have the hippest rarest LP's so they can easily spend $1000 in salary that still leaves the worker $36,000 in savings after 3 years. This is a lot to blue collar workers. I know because the restaurant model actually pays out more than a $15 dollar an hour job. And it is guaranteed money. Most waiters or waitress approached with this model would prefer it.
Number 4 waste eliminated
So what is eliminated?
1. Food waste. Food needing to be used up can be used for employee meals and buffets.
2. Cars. Employees would walk or bike to the restaurant because they would be so close.
3. Dishwashers quitting their job after a month. Most dishwashers can not afford minimum wage and it is irresponsible to pay people minimum wage and expect them to survive.
4. High restaurant turn over. Think about it if you lived in Hawthorne district and you were making after expenses about $2000 dollars with free room and board but you had to share the room with three rad coworkers would you quit or would you stay?
So what are the downsides?
The owner takes on the stress of the tips program. If you don't make the hundred dollar night this can be very stressful to a owner with a large overhead. This is when the owner has a great deal of worries because you do pay for food and rent for so many workers. You need to make sure that their needs are met each month and that the bills can be paid. When an owner stresses about tips suddenly they find that talking to their customers, listening to food feedback, making afford menus etc are very important to everyone.
Another downside is that the workers will work more hours in order to cut back on the number of workers, they will have to minimize sick days, take care of their health, come into work hung over or drink less, and also have to live with their coworkers. So yeah that asshole that pissed you off at work maybe your roommate, too, grrr.
The other downsides are obvious, if you don't want to have a communal tribal village life this is not the idea for you.
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