Save the Restaurateurs!

I guess it’s flattering that Cap’ns of industry such as the Carlton’s, Kevin Joyce, have time to comment on marginal blogs, like this one, and if the proposed drink tax goes through, and these proprietors end up on the streets we need to figure out ways to help them. I think the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association could do with a better PR person, though. The real tragedy is that I’m so sleazy and corrupt that I’d probably forget about all of this for a big, thick steak and go back to bleating on about recruiters and New SDS.

Just so he doesn’t think we ignored his remarks:

I think that you embarrassing and changing editing needs to continue! “Despite the fact that the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association, the primary source of FACT’s funding”How can you make that statement? I told you yesterday that the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association kicked in $20,000. I also told you that we passed the hat and received over $40,000 in trade dollar donations for the billboards alone. We have also raised enough from other individuals in our industry who know what is on the line to be able to run some radio spots and help pay a hired executive. In other words, the $20,000 from the PRA is not the primary source of FACT’s funding.

What I meant by primary, was that according to you, the PRA is the single largest contributor to your campaign. It’s been corrected.

Could you please explain to me this affiliation? I have been a volunteer leader in this industry for 12 years at both the Chapter and State level of the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association. I never considered myself or our organization affiliated with ABI. I did use some of their research on the issue of DUI checkpoints versus roving patrols (patrols work and checkpoints harass) for a column that I wrote for PRA Matters a few years back, but that is the only interaction I ever had with ABI. A lot of chain restaurants support ABI, but we do not contribute to them and I have never seen a line item in our budget to indicate that they have supported us. So can you please support your statement?

I was hoping that you could do the same. I suggest that you nix the link to them on the PRA website, then.

“Volunteer leader”? Just like it said above the entrance to the H-Blocks in the notorious Maze prison: “Don’t complain you bastards, you volunteered”.

To the absurd column itself:

“Unlike yourself, I truly believe that bus drivers…deserve a decent material standard of living.”

How can you presume to know what we believe or that we could all universally believe the same thing? Both of my grandfathers were immigrants that drove street cars to support their 12 offspring. They both owned homes and supported families. Many of my employees own homes and support families and are contributing to their kid’s tuition. Many of them participate in a 401-K program and contribute to their way too expensive health insurance plan. Do I wish I could afford to pay my cooks more? Damn right I do! I also wish that I could educate the rest of my children without going into major debt, but I do not see that happening either. Is $2.83 + tips for a server a fair wage? I did not design the tipping practice, but it is a fact of life in our industry. From my standpoint, the tipped employees (and I have been one for much of my life) are not the ones that I worry about. They are making a fine hourly wage for very difficult work. The chefs and back of the house employees are generally the class of employees that deserve to make a higher wage. They work harder during the busy times and yet, unlike the tipped employees, make the same wage. A drink tax will further depress the ability to give deserved and needed raises to these folks.

I can’t help it that you and your grandparents were irresponsible and yes, not being able to figure out when to get out of bed and get dressed leads to large families. My grandparents and parents were just as bad. Neither myself, and hopefully not your employees, believe that you can’t pay them more. That is your choice. At least you are lucid enough to admit that the workers in the back of the house (of which I was one) don’t receive their fair share. You can remedy this, not me.

It is not just profits we are concerned about. It is staying in business and keeping folks employed. Additionally, this is not about the Port Authority. The county was only required to increase their share by 5% this year. They have contributed $25 million for many years and were required to increase only $1.25 million. This tax will generate $35-50 million. This tax is about fixing a structural deficit in the county’s budget. If you had attended any of the County Council Finance Committee Meetings, you would have understood that. This was only about transit so that Dan Onorato could pit guys like you that need and value public transportation against guys like me. Many of our employees depend upon public transportation. Every time the schedules change I need to adjust my overnight pastry shifts. I have testified at more than one hearing supporting public transportation. I just do not believe the entire burden for the public share for mass transportation should be borne by my customers and my employees. It is not a fair or equitable tax. It should not be accepted just because a few politicians shared a back room in Harrisburg this summer and made it happen. This back room deal was done without economic impact studies or stakeholder involvement.

Change a few words, and this is the same song and dance that you rich folks perform out whenever a minimum wage proposal comes up or workers try to join a union. It’s funny that you don’t treat your vendors the same way when they raise their prices and blame it on fuel. Why would I attend those meetings? The politicians exist for your benefit, not mine. You and I have been pitted against each other since the day I was born. Food, water, and oxygen are our only common interests. Are you familiar with the concepts of social war or class struggle? Why can’t you and the other exploiters hammer out some kind of agreement on public transportation? Personally, I’d rather see the ones who abuse their non-profit status, such as UPMC or Highmark start to pull their weight, considering how dependent they are on public transportation, but like the Penguins, they’d hold the County hostage, until they got their way.

In my 39 years as an employee, manager or owner, I don’t ever recall being pitted or pitting anyone against one another. One of the beautiful facets of the hospitality industry is just how close you are with the folks that you work with every day. You care about one another and are usually a happy family. It is hard for me to understand how you could ever have lasted 11 years in our industry. No doubt you bounced around hurting morale in every establishment that you toiled. I am sure that every establishment became a better place….after you left.

As an exploiter, and apologist for other exploiters, your unicorn and rainbow fantasies about the joys of food service are no surprise. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I was considered a ‘good employee’ and ‘teammate’, although I have no idea how I lasted 11 years in that business, either. Around age 30, it got to me, I guess I grew up, and realized I was better off looking out for my interests, rather than yours.

The rest of your rant is not worthy of my time. If the restaurant industry was so terrible I surely would not have let any of my five children toil in it – and they all have. My wife is up at 4 AM each morning to go in and open her quick service Market and delivery and take care of her breakfast customers and I put in over 12 hours at least 5 out of my six work days this week. Just like the folks that we employ, we work hard. Independent restaurant owners are generally hard working folks that contribute to the betterment of their communities in more than a number of ways. You have painted a poor portrait that is just not true.

Of course you won’t respond to any less than favorable, but near universal impression of your industry; that would make you an even lousier apologist than you seem to be. Unless of course I had the misfortune to only work in rough places, and to only know people who worked in rough places. You’re one of the lucky ones, I guess. There are miners, farmers, loggers, and military types, to name a few, who would all state that those awful industries are suitable for their loved ones. Apparently you’re a competent restaurateur, but you’re no kind of PR person.


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