Jun 15 2012
05:14 pm

I have patronized several of those in the list.

From Yahoo News ...

The guide ranked 150 of the most profitable restaurants in the United States on how much their workers earn, whether they get paid sick leave, and what kind of chances they have for advancement. A shocking number of well-known restaurant chains earned "zero" ratings because they didn't meet any of the minimum requirements for their workers

The Worst Restaurants to Work For

The Guide seems to be on a web site that cannot handle the traffic
2012 Diners Guide

Clements's picture

Ruth's Chris?

I'm very surprised to see Ruth's Chris on the list but my only experience has been as a customer where I see professional servers with much tenure several of whom chose Ruth's from other higher-end Knoxville restaurants like the Orangery and Bistro by the Tracks.

JakeMabe1's picture


We had a wonderful experience at Ruth's Chris on my wife's birthday.

But, then again, I'm just coming at it (like you) from a customer's point of view.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Per this February 2012 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 73% of employees in any industry receive paid sick leave--and 10% of those employees receive sick leave only on an "as needed" basis, not under any policy affording them a set number of days.

Frankly, I was surprised to see that the percentage of employees receiving sick leave had grown so high.

I haven't worked full-time outside the home for over a decade, of course, but when I did--and it was not in the restaurant industry--the benefit was not then one we could necessarily expect.

I specifically recall that when my children were young and frequently ill (from the petri dish that is private daycare), I often needed to use my vacation time to cover time off for their illnesses. At the time I ceased working, my husband and I had been unable to take any vacation days off for the purpose of actually "vacationing" for a full eight years.

What are others' experiences across industries, now and in the past?

jbr's picture

I have not found Tennessee's

I have not found Tennessee's regulations on sick food workers. It looks like some states require sick workers may not work with food or food-contact surfaces. I think that is loosely enforced.
That sort of business should have a tightly monitored sick employee policy.

fischbobber's picture


That would be an outrage and a violation of a person's right to work! How would Typhoid Mary pay her rent?

bizgrrl's picture

Doesn't this also just mean,

Doesn't this also just mean, support local?

Most chains that are supportable, according to these guidelines, are relatively small and in few states.

Can't recall working somewhere that didn't provide sick leave. It could have been the case, but it would have to have been early on and many years ago.

michael kaplan's picture

Local doesn't always mean

Local doesn't always mean better wages and benefits. (I won't name names.) Congressman John Duncan once wrote in his newsletter that he patronized downtown eateries when in town; I responded that he should ask the servers their salaries and whether they had health insurance (many in local eateries do not).

But thanks for posting; interesting list.

Clements's picture


Employer-provider health insurance came to be during war-time wage controls. The separation of consumer and payer has contributed to higher health care costs in the U.S.

If the restaurants do not provide adequate compensation/benefits, etc., the workers should seek alternatives.

Clements's picture

Yes and maybe

I agree regarding a single-payer system but regarding unions---should their demands make the venture greatly less profitable, the risk is no job. The best option for an unhappy employee is to make oneself more marketable for a better job.

Crowley 's picture

I wouldn't be surprised if

I wouldn't be surprised if you really believed you had a unicorn. I'm sure you think it's pure coincidence that during the greatest economic expansion in history, union membership declined & as evidenced in Wisconsin, it's often by choice.

Clements's picture

I don't think he/she has to

I don't think he/she has to keep trying. From the 50's on, infant mortality improved, civil rights were enacted, the rate of poverty decreased, innovation increased as did quality of life. Unions were very valuable and still can be but there are simply fewer problems to solve. Most workers are treated very fairly and thus don't want a union. Wisconsin should offer some proof of that.

CE Petro's picture


Most workers are treated very fairly and thus don't want a union.

Seriously? SERIOUSLY?
Let me tell you exactly how kitchen staff in local (non-chain store) restaurants are treated -- I have two sons who work as cooks in local restaurants, so yeah, I am qualified to speak on what happens in some of these kitchens.

There are NO, repeat NO sick days. If you are sick, and take the day off, you don't get paid...if you still have your job. Chances are, if you have a lengthy illness, lasting more than 2-3 days, you will NOT have your job, unless the boss really, really likes you.

There is NO, repeat NO health insurance. If you need to go to the doctors for an illness, one of three things happens: you pray you are still on your parents health insurance, if not, you pray you have enough money to go to a walk-in clinic, and if not, you don't do a damn thing, because you can't afford to go to the doctors.

That is the reality of working in the restaurant business. You bet this group of people would benefit from union representation. Yet, so many of these people are hoodwinked into believing unions are evil (evil is the exact word that was expressed to me, to my face, by co-workers of my sons).

How the hell can you possibly equate what really happens as workers are treated fairly?

michael kaplan's picture

i know the above to be true.

i know the above to be true. included are some of the restaurants that make up the so-called 'renaissance' of downtown. not such a renaissance for those kids who live in slum housing, can barely pay the rent, and don't dare get sick.

Crowley 's picture


The why do they work there?

michael kaplan's picture

ask them.

ask them.

CE Petro's picture

Two Reasons

Two reasons: They each like cooking. And just as important, it's a steady job (unless you get sick).

Clements's picture

I understand

I can appreciate and understand that they "like cooking" but if this type of work does not meet their economic needs, they should seek alternatives. There are many things that I like but that wouldn't sustain me.

CE Petro's picture


I mean, just wow! You completely skipped over "it's steady work".

Steady (as long as you don't get sick) meaning, they aren't laid off in a down/off season and have to scramble to find new work. Steady, as in they are scheduled to work specific days, every week. Steady, meaning they don't have to worry about getting laid off, because other people can't afford their product and the company will shut down. (and to clarify, they both work in established mid-range restaurants)

The fact is, they have been in this industry for so long that this is what they are qualified to do. To get another job would mean taking a huge cut in pay, which is even less sustainable than if they stayed where they are.

Big Al's picture

So...since they have been in

So...since they have been in the industry, things have changed or did they choose to enter (and then evidently continue to remain in) the cooking profession. The point is that they obviously understood their chosen field upon entry and certainly after a short period time. This is what they chose.

Now given that they are so experienced, and assuming that they have gained expertise, they should be relocatable (and in demand) to a similar employer that offers what their current employer does not.

Regarding a "cut in pay, which is even less sustainable", then they could certainly cut back (read invest) in their future to change careers. SmartPhone: gone. Ipod: gone. Car: gone. Big screen: gone. Etc. Etc.

CE Petro's picture


Regarding a "cut in pay, which is even less sustainable", then they could certainly cut back (read invest) in their future to change careers. SmartPhone: gone. Ipod: gone. Car: gone. Big screen: gone. Etc. Etc.

What in the world makes you assume they even have any of these luxuries, other than a car, which is necessary to get to work.

No big screen tv because neither can afford cable nor do either of them pay for internet.

Learn to "walk a mile" before you make assumptions on other people's life styles.

bizgrrl's picture

In addition, it's not as easy

In addition, it's not as easy to change careers as selling off everything and getting more education. There are plenty of articles published lately about people with college educations unable to find jobs.

michael kaplan's picture

correct, i know several food

correct, i know several food workers who get to their jobs by bike. personally, i don't even have a cell phone, cable, or a large-screen tv (old CRT here, which seems large enough). assumptions don't always hold true.

Crowley 's picture


Then why do they work there?

Crowley 's picture

67% decrease since after WWII

There is much room for improvement but...


Crowley 's picture


Jeez---substantial improvement with movement in the right direction.

Frank's picture

I don't see where anyone was

I don't see where anyone was "bragging" only merely stating facts that US quality of life has drastically improved. Different countries have different dynamics but a 2/3's reduction is great improvement. Both political parties need to show more pragmatism. We need to help those at the lower rungs of society to help themselves but trust me, very few of today's "poor" understand the meaning of the word. All too often, I see youngsters with enough money to add "bling" to their cars, tattoos & piercings to their bodies, "buds" to their ears, cell phones to their heads,, fast food to their bodies, cigarettes to their lungs, decorations to their finger nails, etc.& claim to be poor?

As we know, thee descriptions are VERY common----poor? They should read Angela's Ashes.

It's time for more personal responsibility. Exercise, eat right, don't smoke, don't take drugs & limit your individualism if it limits your opportunities.

Most anyone under my age doesn't know what poor is.

Frank's picture

Son, Greenville, MS was where


Greenville, MS was where we aspired to live when I grew up in Stucker, MS. I didn't stay there simply because there was no work so I migrated to Jackson with exactly $6.79. Five was in my sock & $1.79 in my pocket in case I was robbed. As I stated, most don't understand the meaning of poor but my generation didn't look for handouts. Instead, we made our way to self sufficiency.

Enjoy your unicorn,

bizgrrl's picture

All too often, I see

All too often, I see youngsters with enough money to add "bling" to their cars, tattoos & piercings to their bodies, "buds" to their ears, cell phones to their heads,, fast food to their bodies, cigarettes to their lungs, decorations to their finger nails, etc.& claim to be poor?

IMO, there is some validity to what you said. However, we all know it is not true across the board. Again, IMO, I can't say the poor/low income are looking for handouts. I'm thinking they are just trying to survive/live. Times are much different now. You used to be able to bum rides with strangers back in the day, not now, it's just not safe (I don't think).

Where the heck is Stucker, MS?

R. Neal's picture

Don't know about all that,

Don't know about all that, but when y'all go to Greenville be sure to check out Lusco's and take a step back in time to 1930. Weird place, pretty decent food. BYOB, prohibition style.

Big Al's picture

I don't know where Stucker is

I don't know where Stucker is but Frank brings up some valid points. Many folk, not all but many, could afford more necessities if they didn't spend so much on unnecessary items whether that be "tats", stereos, etc. Maybe Reagan's welfare Cadillac was a hoax but my son who has done repair work on Hope VI says he's surprised by the number of flat screens, big screens, etc. and jabs me for not having central H&A like all of Hope VI does.

Frank sounds like my dad when he talks about personal responsibility and while no one is making blanket statements, there does exist great truth in what he pointed out.

Big Al's picture

No one said that or even

No one said that or even implied it. It was however implied that those receiving dramatic gov't assistance for necessities seem to have funds for non-necessities.

Somebody's picture

See, the whole point of HOPE

See, the whole point of HOPE VI is that some people living there do receive various kinds of assistance, and some don't. This of course makes it more challenging to assume you know who is who.

As to the other discussion here, yes, as compared to, say, Somolia, being "poor" in America is a whole different thing. No doubt that some people who are poor make ill-advised decisions with regard to priorities in what they purchase, but this is true up and down the economic scale.

You can look no further than the check-cashing, rent-to-own, and related loan businesses for the enabling source of that problem for the poor. Someone living on SSI and food stamps doesn't have the money to buy the various amenities described in this thread. They do, however, have enough money to make some payments for a while, and a whole, barely-regulated financial industry has grown up around that fact. The folks who have been scorned here may have some crappy consumer electronics perched on WalMart pasteboard furniture, but they aren't the people who are truly taking advantage of government assistance.

The people really taking advantage of government assistance drive around in Hummers with libertarian-sloganed bumper stickers, chasing down monthly payments and repossessing crappy consumer electronics.

The poor people are still poor, it's just they look less poor while they're being used as conduits for others to siphon off government benefits and minimum wages.

Big Al's picture


I thought Christenberry Heights was a Hope VI project...but that was what I was referring to. By the way...the renovations there look great.

fischbobber's picture

White People

Your chart shows that things are looking up for white folks as a group. Has you cross referenced this data by those that were covered by insurance?

My point is this. You certainly seem to be making a lot of broad based assumptions about freedom, but until one has serious concerns about whether or not there will be food and shelter in one's immediate future, one doesn't tend to understand that freedom is largely a privilege of economic condition.

WhitesCreek's picture

My Experience as an Employer

A greatly shortened version of our company's evolution on employee benefits is that we gave the hourly folks the same program we gave ourselves. As we could afford it, we gave more paid holidays and sick days. At some point a line supervisor said his people were complaining that some folks didn't take sick days and others took days when they weren't sick and that seemed unfair. As a result of some research we came around to suggesting a program where there were no sick days period. Our hard nosed GM said we shouldn't pay people to be sick. We took the number of sick days we had been granting and made them floating holidays that could be banked or used as the employee saw fit or needed. Problem solved.
As for health insurance, if anyone wants to really create a massive explosion of jobs in America they can do two things: Eliminate employer based insurance and replace it with a public option. And...allow retained earnings to be reinvested in capital expenditures with no taxation. It is a huge burden for a young and growing business to come up with tax payments on the increase in company net worth when there is no actual money to the owners involved. (Yeah, it's off topic but I feel better now)

michael kaplan's picture

i appreciate everything

i appreciate everything you're saying, but it seems to me that to maximize profits you need to suppress wages. one way to do that is to create surplus workers (i.e. increase competition for jobs) by keeping unemployment high. that contradicts the idea of a 'massive explosion of jobs' which would have the effect of driving wages up.

and as it stands, employer-based insurance works for the largest corporations who can best afford to pay it and - not coincidentally - are the most aggressively opposed to the 'public option.'

R. Neal's picture

Actually, most businesses

Actually, most businesses large and small would love to get out of the health care/insurance business.

The big three auto makers would like to get it off their books.


michael kaplan's picture

... in Canada

... in Canada

R. Neal's picture


michael kaplan's picture

i'd like to think

i'd like to think corporations were big supporters of single-payer universal coverage, but i haven't found much evidence of that in the last few years. and this from wiki:

Wagoner resigned as Chairman and CEO at General Motors on March 29, 2009, at the request of the White House. The latter part of Wagoner's tenure as CEO of General Motors found him under heavy criticism as the market valuation of GM went down by more than 90% and the company lost more than $82 billion USD. This led to his being named one of the worst CEOs of 2008.

who knows, the decline of GM might indeed have been related to the cost of health insurance for its employees. but i suspect it was more related to poor management, a product line that was obsolescent, and its adventure into mortgage financing.

R. Neal's picture

Hold your friends close and

Hold your friends close and your enemies closer.

R. Neal's picture

Health insurance is our tiny

Health insurance is our tiny little company's second largest expense, after payroll.

R. Neal's picture

Apparently, that's not

Apparently, that's not uncommon.


WhitesCreek's picture

One huge advantage foreign

One huge advantage foreign manufacturers have is that they don't have to pay for their worker health coverage. In the USA this can mean as much as a 25% higher cost per worker and it's rising.

There are other advantages as well, of course. Things like not having to give a crap about environmental regulations, worker safety, child labor laws, sweat shop regulations and all that count too.

michael kaplan's picture

i'd like to see the list of

i'd like to see the list of the best restaurants to work for. or do i just read the list in reverse?

jbr's picture

You can go to the link above

You can go to the link above for the guide.

It has a list of restaurants and five columns for each one. For instance Bonefish Grill lists paid sick days as being offered. Five Guys Burgers lists paid sick days and a couple other things, etc.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Seriously? SERIOUSLY?

Let me tell you exactly how kitchen staff in local (non-chain store) restaurants are treated -- I have two sons who work as cooks in local restaurants, so yeah, I am qualified to speak on what happens in some of these kitchens.

Thanks, CE (and you, too, Michael).

To the rest of you, I have posted pretty authoritative data from the BLS (and for the current year) demonstrating that 27% of all employees across industries do not receive any paid sick leave days and that another 10% may or may not receive paid sick leave days, dependent on the whim of the employer.

If you are among those who have always received the benefit, you're pretty much in "the lucky half."

And more on the restaurant industry, in particular (where I did work for seven years in my teens and twenties, like most everyone I knew): Even among this smattering of restaurants at jbr's link professing to offer some of these various benefits, I daresay they offer them to three out of 50 or 100 employees, namely to their salaried management staff.

The rest of their crews are scheduled for 37 or 38 hours weekly, max, specifically so the employer may for all practical purposes work them "full-time" without offering them any of the benefits--sick leave, vacation leave, paid holidays, health insurance--their handful of full-time salaried managers enjoy.

The same thing happens in the hotel industry.

I attended a conference with my husband at Nashville's Downtown Hilton a month or so back, at which I learned 17% of his long-time employer's prior year income is now derived from outsourcing activity.

Employment issues being on my mind that weekend, I therefore spent my spare time, while he attended work-related sessions, interviewing the hotel staff as to their salary, benefits, and working conditions.

As I suspected, not a damned thing has changed in the industry since the 1970's.

Those folks a plumb pitiful, as was I back in the day.

Everybody should do a stint in the hospitality industry, if only to learn the necessity of tipping generously.

Dear CE, I'm not sure what we can do for the cooks...

CE Petro's picture

Dear CE, I'm not sure what we

Dear CE, I'm not sure what we can do for the cooks...

We can start with single-payer health care. Followed by paying a living wage.

But, that's not just for cooks, that would be for everyone.

Sometime last year (or was it the year before) there was a thread on the service industry here. While the service industry (including the hospitality industry) is 100% needed, I still get up in arms when this industry is a driving force which sustains our state. It is completely unsustainable, particularly when it keeps a huge portion of the population in poverty.

EricLykins's picture

We can start with

We can start with single-payer health care. Followed by paying a living wage.

What are we, Swedes? As Americans, we prefer to hide the costs and pay them on the back end. Privatize gain, socialize risk, and all that.

Wal-Mart encourages its 1.3 million US employees to enroll in taxpayer-funded health programs. A number of studies have demonstrated the way Wal-Mart shifts its employee expenses onto taxpayers. A 2004 Congressional study estimated that taxpayers subsidize an average Wal-Mart store to the tune of more than $420,000 a year, or more than $2,000 per employee. This takes the form of government-funded food stamps, housing subsidies and health insurance programs. Another study found that the state of California spent a total of $86 million a year on public assistance for Wal-Mart workers, or more than $1,900 per worker. Wal-Mart employees were the largest users of state healthcare programs in eleven out of thirteen states that reported employer usage.

Pam Strickland's picture

My cousin is now a manager

My cousin is now a manager for Cracker Barrel. Over the years he's worked for Eva wide variety of restaurants in Knoxville and NYC. He's w/ a chain now b/c he has a wife and two kids and that means they need health insurance. He knows plenty of folks who don't have any insurance who are really good at what they do, and like doing it. Line cooks-- he had three call in sick the other day and found himself being the line cook at lunch. Those guys are all part-time, and something tells me that they will be answering some tough questions if they want to keep their jobs.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Unless some personal circumstance prevents them from working full-time (and enjoying the paid sick leave/paid vacation leave/ paid holidays/ health insurance/ possible retirement plan your cousin enjoys), I expect they DON'T want to "keep their jobs." I wouldn't, would you?

Let's face it, if minimum wage had kept up with inflation since inception of the FLSA, the rate would now be closer to $14.50/hour, not $7.25/hour.

michael kaplan's picture

the rate would now be closer

the rate would now be closer to $14.50/hour

and there's resistance to, what, $10/hour?

redmondkr's picture

and something tells me that

and something tells me that they will be answering some tough questions if they want to keep their jobs.

With Cracker Barrel, one of those tough questions used to be, "Are you Gay?"

Pam Strickland's picture

Actually, that's changed. My

Actually, that's changed. My cousin's dad is a gay man who initially tried to deny reality but realized that he couldn't. After his parents divorced, when he got to be a teen, he lived w/ his dad. That was one of the things that he wanted clear before he went to work there. And his best friend is black, so he got that cleared up w/ them too. He says they are working hard to correct the mistakes of their past.

jbr's picture

Tennessee Occupational

Tennessee Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates

Food preparation and service related occupations

michael kaplan's picture

one positive here is that the

one positive here is that the food and music businesses seem to complement each other, as least as far as schedules go. i don't know what the working conditions/benefits are like in the food coop, but i've occasionally had chats with one of the friendly cooks who regularly sets up the buffet (excellent, btw). he seems to really enjoy what he does, and is always willing to talk about the ingredients, recipes, etc. of what he prepares. in his other life he's a music student. i think you'll find lots of musicians and artists working in the food business for their 'day jobs.'

redmondkr's picture

Yes, I remember the 'tea ins'

Yes, I remember the 'tea ins' at Cracker Barrels very well. I can still spent half a day nursing a few glasses of iced tea.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Thanks, again, Michael.

Frank, I don't have a cell phone, either, I have the $15 "basic" cable TV (only because we can't get any reception on this ridge without it AND our TVs are old analog sets bought at pawn shops and requiring the cable company's converter box). My family's used cars are also old, but I appreciate that we own any at all.

I do, however, employ my own car each and every week to offer rides to fast food workers tramping up and down Clinton Highway in their work uniforms.

I feel compelled to do that because in a previous life I was one of them.

I think you would approve of my family's disciplined money management and I do agree--to a degree--with your observations to the effect that some people, young and old, fail to set proper financial priorities.

What I think you're discounting, though, is that due to the stagnation of wages, any family's money doesn't go nearly as far as it did a generation ago. Think about the disproportionate rise in the costs of housing, cars, medical care, and college, for starters.

For example, Mom didn't work, but my dad nevertheless bought our home for about one year's income. Today, my family couldn't possibly do that.

Dad bought his last new car for about three month's income. Today, my family couldn't possibly do that, either.

He and Mom never anticipated that in her old age, after his death, she might spend 70% of her monthly retirement income on just a Medicare supplement and prescription drugs, so my husband and I are today extremely apprehensive for how much rougher our medical costs will be toward "the end."

And college costs? I'm sure you're aware that they've doubled in just the last ten years, to say nothing of the change over the last thirty.

Again, had the minimum wage kept up with inflation, its rate would be double that actually in effect. This circumstance affects all wage earners, really, in that the "floor" has dropped out from under all.

And why does the cost of living index exclude the costs of food and fuel, anyway? In my household, those two costs are tied with our top cost, namely our housing cost, which makes the index a joke.

Aside from the problem of the wage "floor" having collapsed, there is also the problem of tax policy and corporate boardroom policy having combined to widen and accellerate the wage "gap" between lower and higher earners.

So while I share your penchant for disciplined money management (and I also share some of your personal life experiences as someone who "started with nothing"), all the penny-pinching in the world is too little to compensate for these several external forces at work in today's economy to diminish workers' earnings and morale.

I don't think you're looking at the bigger picture.

fischbobber's picture

Thank you Tamara

for so eloquently stating what those of us fighting to participate in the American dream are struggling with.

As for"And why does the cost of living index exclude the costs of food and fuel, anyway? In my household, those two costs are tied with our top cost, namely our housing cost, which makes the index a joke."this, you may be too young to remember, but Ronald Reagan had to fix the runaway inflation of his first term, so rather than do the work he was elected to do, he simply changed the formula by which your COLA was calculated, essentially guaranteeing that union workers would ever get another COLA raise, ever.

That little historically trivial move was the single greatest blow to unions in the history of organized labor, because it assured that from that point on union workers would never keep pace with the cost of living and the driving point of unions has always been economic opportunity for workers.

Thanks again Tamara for all you do and if a Knox Views get together is ever organized, I'll buy you a beer.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

* son who has done repair work on Hope VI says he's surprised by the number of flat screens, big screens, etc. and jabs me for not having central H&A like all of Hope VI does.

I think you're forgetting some HOPE VI history, Al.

In Knoxville and across the country, what the HOPE VI project did was to reduce the number of housing units for the poor in a given locale, flush out of those cities the poorest of the poor, and make available for the higher earners among them a lesser number of pricier housing units.

Here is some coverage on what went down in Knoxville in 1998:

...Julia and other residents attended the scheduled committee meeting where an attorney, an architect and housing authority staff informed them that their homes would be demolished under a federal program known as HOPE VI. The 320 units were to be replaced by 149 houses for sale (which they couldn't afford) and about 50 mixed-income rental duplexes. After exhausting all legal challenges, Julia and a few other families decided to stay in their homes and refused to leave when formally evicted. After several days, the other families relented, but Julia and her daughters remained until the fall of 1998 when under a court order, sheriffs' deputies physically removed them from the property.

All this to point out that your son was not observing in those homes owning big screen TVs the standard of living among the poorest of Knoxville's poor.

The poorest were the folks displaced by the HOPE VI project.

Up Goose Creek's picture

+ 10

I wish we still had ratings so I could + somebody's comment. Lets not forget to count among the welfare kings the factory farmers, arms dealers, and bridge to nowhere builders.

michael kaplan's picture

welfare kings

... or the Waltons who, through their surrogates, still ask for TIFs to build new Walmarts

Just six members of the Walton family, heirs to the Walmart fortune, possess wealth equal to that of the entire bottom 30 percent of Americans.

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