Challenging Injustice, Advancing Human Rights

The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.

FAQs about the Restaurant Industry

Continued from FAQs about minimum wage and tips.

After you've explored the FAQs below, don't miss FAQs about discrimination in the restaurant industry.

12. Aren't these just jobs for teenagers anyway? Don't they just need a little pocket cash and a place to work over the summer?

Critics of the minimum wage often stereotype minimum-wage earner as teenagers living with their families and working for extra spending money. While restaurant work does employee many younger workers, this is not the profile of a typical minimum-wage earner. According to the National Restaurant Association's own analysis, as of 1999 only 28 percent of employees in restaurants were teenagers and more than 40 percent were over age 30. Many are single parents who face difficulties in securing child care on low wages and unpredictable schedules. They are older, typically above age 20; work halftime or more; and have responsibilities for supporting a family. For minimum-wage earners overall, the following is true:

  • Three out of four minimum-wage workers are age 20 and older.
  • While women make up just under half the total workforce, two out of three minimum-wage workers are women.
  • Most minimum-wage workers have high-school degrees or more, including seven percent with a bachelor's degree or higher.

For more information, read A Just Minimum Wage: Good for Workers, Business and Our Future, from Let Justice Roll.

13. Do independent restaurants treat their workers more fairly than chain restaurants?

Lack of regulation and enforcement in the restaurant industry has led to labor violations at all levels and in all segments of the industry. By the same token, there are also law-abiding, responsible restaurant employers in every segment.

Past studies suggest a few patterns in the employment experiences within smaller versus larger and chain-affiliated workplaces. Larger chain-affiliated establishments are able to negotiate lower employee health insurance rates, are more logistically able to plan for coverage for employees on leave, and typically have greater financial resources to be able to pay higher wage rates. On the other hand, smaller and locally-owned establishments often extend greater scheduling flexibility, including concentrating hours on fewer workers and giving those workers input into their schedules. They may offer more personable, supportive places to work, as well. Both sets of job qualities are important for worker, family, and community well being.[7]

14. Don't chain restaurants have corporate personnel policies that prevent problems like discrimination and wage theft?

Many chain restaurants do have corporate policies that deal with employee treatment, but these policies, like federal and state laws, are not always effectively enforced.

15. How do I know what conditions exist in a specific restaurant that I frequent?

A great way to find out about conditions in your favorite restaurants is simply to ask. While restaurant employees may not be open to sharing with you while they're on the job, some might be willing to speaking with you at another time. In addition, ROC-United has researched restaurants all over the country and provided the ROC National Diners' Guide to Ethical Eating to help consumers eat out with ethics in mind.

Additional FAQs about Restaurant Workers


[7] Workers' Rights Center and the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice of South Central Wisconsin, Just Dining: A Guide to Restaurant Employment Standards in Downtown Madison, accessed February 14, 2013,