A lot of talk about ethical restaurant choices revolves around the food itself and whether it’s local, organic, seasonal, healthy, natural, humanely produced, and so on. Obviously, I’m interested in those foodie factors, but what about how the restaurant treats its employees? When dining out, it would be nice to know not just whether your steak is from a grass-fed cow, but whether your server and the rest of the staff are being paid fairly.
Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United) just released a Diners’ Guide (the first annual) to help people choose where to eat based on businesses’ track records with fairness towards employees and opportunities offered to employees. You can download the guide and other advocacy information here.
The Diners’ Guide assesses a limited number of restaurants in Ann Arbor, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Washington, DC, and a few others spots, as well as plenty of national chains. Businesses range from cheap eats to fine dining, and the guide shows that most of those evaluated do not live up to ROC-United’s standards. There are some standouts, though, and it’s especially helpful to see which fast food chains offer paid sick days, adequate wages, and the like.
If you really want to support restaurant workers’ rights, perhaps a night out at COLORS is in order. It’s an eclectic restaurant founded and cooperatively owned by former workers of the Windows on the World—which was at the top of the World Trade Center—who survived 9/11 and went on to create the Restaurant Opportunities Center. It’s actually the social enterprise arm of ROC-United, and it has been on my to-eat list for years.
Others that earned top marks in New York City include Cowgirl, Craft, Crema, Good, La Palapa, Las Chicas Locas, Nectar, One If By Land, and the restaurants under Union Square Hospitality Group (Blue Smoke, Shake Shack, Union Square Cafe, etc.).