Struggling to find restaurant workers? Why not pay them more?

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — As the hospitality industry continues to rebound, some of these local businesses like restaurants and bars are struggling to hire people. Something being considered by some of them, a new pay structure.

Business at the popular downtown Raleigh Lebanese restaurant, Sitti, is picking up. They said they’re making about 75 percent of what they were pre-pandemic. But finding people to work here is a struggle.

“We’ve brought back everyone we had pre-pandemic that wants to be back in the industry, a lot of folks moved on to different industries,” Greg Hatem said.

Hatem is the owner of Empire Eats, which owns Sitti along with six other restaurants in Raleigh.

“A lot of people have left the industry. When restaurants shut down it was just such a free fall for so many people,” Hatem said.

So what about paying those in the restaurant industry more?

Damn Good Food, which owns Heyday Brewing in Raleigh is paying its employees $15 an hour.

“There’s a lot of people that work in the back of the house especially like having kitchen positions and things like that are never included in any kind of tip pool that you see when you’re a server or a host,” Madison Casey, the Strategic Director for the company said.

They said the cost is passed onto customers in the form of a 15 percent living wage service fee that’s included in every check.

Signs are located by registers to inform customers.

“We’ve gotten really awesome feedback… A lot of people actually choose to tip on top of the gratuity, it’s not expected, it’s not necessary,” Casey said.

CBS 17 asked Hatem about that policy.

“You know I think pay is a partial factor for sure. You know historically the restaurant industry has not paid well,” Hatem said.

But explained it’s not all about money.

Hatem explained he pays his workers a living wage in Wake County, which starts at $13.50 an hour.

He’s looking to hire 50 people for his restaurants.

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