UnderCover Waitress: Mark Bittman, ROC United, and Darden Restaurants

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mark Bittman, ROC United, and Darden Restaurants

I first became a fan of Mark Bittman when I discovered The Minimalist Cooks Dinner. It is an excellent cook book by Mark Bittman featuring lots of healthy, delicious recipes that are relatively easy and quick to cook. It is a boon to those of us who wish to provide our families with good dinners together, but have to work and can not be home all afternoon cooking from scratch. It is a great cook book.

Little did I know at the time that Mark Bittman, unlike other chefs and food enthusiasts, cares about the people who work "low level" jobs in the restaurant industry. He begins his editorial in the New York Times, The 20 Million, like this:

Help wanted: Salary: $19,000 (some may be withheld or stolen). No health insurance, paid sick days or paid vacation.  Opportunity for advancement: nearly nil.

I was shocked when I first started working in the restaurant industry at how little respect is given to waitresses and other employees. I remember once seeing a chef cutting beef aspic; I got excited because I hadn't seen aspic for years.

I said, "Oh! Is that aspic?"

In response, he sneered, "How do you know what aspic is?"

Right. Silly me. He is a big-time foodie chef. I'm just a stupid waitress. Too bad I forgot my knee pads; guess I'll just get bruises tonight.

Lack of respect for human beings working in restaurants allows for all the other injustices that Mark Bittman writes about in his opinion piece. There is an adage that waitresses can not afford to eat where they work: it is true. Bittman clarifies that it is worse than that. Restaurant employees can not afford to feed their families if they miss a day of work.

There are no sick days for the just a stupid waitress/dishwasher/busser/insert job beneath you here.

They work sick or tell the kids no milk this week. That is one reason why the anonymous comment on Darden, Dignity and Racism got a little under my skin. The self-reported manager insists that Darden has a strict policy about not letting employees work while sick. So, the customer is being taken care of, but the employees are not. They still don't have health care or sick days. And they still don't make enough money to get the bills paid if they get sent home with the sniffles.

In my personal opinion, the whole tipping thing is out of hand. Wait staff make less than minimum wage in most states. People spending hundreds of dollars on themselves get to decide at the end of the meal whether the waitress did a good enough job to warrant twenty percent. And if they are tourists, it is unlikely she will be tipped well. (Tourists know that they won't see you again for a long time.)

After she gets a twelve percent tip, she must tip out others as if she made eighteen or twenty percent. Because everybody knows that waitresses are rolling in tons and tons of cash, right? No wonder she can't save any money, she never gets to keep it.

While I would like to see the days of tipping become history, Bittman's article discusses numerous problems in the restaurant industry, and he knows what he is talking about. Give it a read. :-)


  1. went through the comments...what's funny is that while yes as an employee at Darden i am supposed to tell the management when i am sick so i can theoretically get a day off...what tends to happen (at least in my particular locale) is I call in in the time frame given to me (it's two hours prior to the shift--however I try to give more notice than that depending which station i'm working) and the manager tells me to get the shift covered or come in....i worked for two weeks with laryngitis because no one would/could take my shift...with manager's even commenting on my lack of being able to speak...i resorted to note cards for some of my shifts

    1. and the anniversary pay that anonymous is talking about now has various requirements to meet before you can even receive it. i started five years ago before they changed the policy so i don't have to meet some of them...but it used to be a kind of selling point of coming to work for Darden...i don't use it any longer because odds are pretty high that the person won't meet some of the requirements or won't even be there long enough

  2. Finally the truth is spoken! God forbid if your sick, you better just suck it up, and contamination be damned! Mr Anonymous Manager knows not of what he speaks. Most managers give no respect to their crew members, and it truly is sad, because the dishwasher is more than likely a better person than them! I worked at another restaurant and a person, (we are people) started as a dishwasher, then became a line cook, and then assistant kitchen manager, I was one of the few people who knew his name while his was a dishwasher, so if I ever needed something pushed out of that kitchen, it was worked, and pushed all at the same time! And that is the way is should be treat everyone the way you wish to be treated, with in proper limits (no torture allowed), even if it's warranted! Darden needs to get better, police officers get a bigger discount then us and we work there?????


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