How diners can act on their ethical concerns each time they eat out.
Activist Jayaraman (Behind the Kitchen Door, 2014)—co-founder and co-director of the Restaurant Opportunities Center United, a national movement aimed at fostering change in the industry—hopes to raise diners’ consciousness about wages and working conditions for those who prepare and serve meals. Unlike authors such as Michael Pollan or Dan Barber, Jayaraman, winner of a James Beard Leadership Award, focuses not on sustainable farming and environmentally sound food choices but rather on equitable treatment of restaurant employees. ROC United has evaluated a variety of restaurant types: casual and family-style restaurants, such as California Pizza Kitchen and Philadelphia’s The Quick Fixx; fine dining establishments, such as Red Hill Restaurant in Los Angeles and the Ruth’s Chris Steak House chain; Mexican eateries across the country; fast food restaurants, including McDonald’s, Subway, and Taco Bell; diners; and coffee cafes. Each chapter begins with a chart of restaurants evaluated as Low Road (poor working conditions) and High Road according to four criteria: wages for nontipped workers (hosts and hostesses, dishwashers, prep cooks, line cooks, and porters); hourly wages for tipped workers, which can legally be as low as $2.13 per hour; policy about paid sick days; and access to raises or promotions. With this book, a diner trying to choose between Chipotle, which earns ROC’s praise, and Taco Bell, which has been sued repeatedly over employee rights, can make an informed decision. ROC’s findings, downloaded to a smartphone, can serve both as a guide to eating and to taking action. Jayaraman urges diners to share their values with restaurateurs, to join ROC, and to tell elected officials to support “One Fair Wage” for all restaurant employees.
A revealing exposé of the realities of restaurant work that makes a strong case for reform.