Not that it's a surprise to anyone inside the restaurant industry, but the general public may be surprised by a recent survey by the Restaurant Opportunities Center United.
As outlined in this Mother Jones article, here are some sad stats:
The median wage for restaurant workers is $8.90, just under the poverty line for a family of three. More than half of all restaurant workers earn less than the federal poverty line.
90 percent of the 4,300 workers surveyed report not getting paid sick leave. Two-thirds of respondents reported cooking, preparing, and serving food while sick.
Women, immigrants, and people of color hold lower paying positions in the industry. ROC found that on average workers of color make $4 less than white workers. Nearly three-quarters of workers surveyed said they did not receive regular promotions.
Having worked for chump change myself in the late 90s as a line cook (about $6.25 an hour if I recall correctly), I quickly learned that the money was in the front of the house as a waiter or bartender.
I later worked for my $2.13 an hour as a waiter at several eateries, always adequately compensated by tips, the majority of my income.
So personally, I'm not too concerned when I see on the ROC's list that workers making tips are being paid around $4.99 an hour. It's more the column next to that, where workers not making tips are seeming to average about $9 an hour.
These are the people preparing your food — often without paid sick days — so consider the potential source of your next cold.
Another awesome feature of the survey is the "notable customer review" column.
I'm particularly fond of the first review attached to Applebee's, which shows a good sense of humor on somebody's part who was involved in the project:
daaaamn, hella mozzarella sticks. Applebees hooks it up. nom nom nom nom *barf*...worth it.