Out of 30 metro areas in the United States that increased productivity, average wages and standard of living since 2010, only 11 were able to distribute that growth across all different social strata, according to an April report from policy think tank Brookings Institution. The uneven growth of wealth in San Francisco, for instance, has created challenges for some of the city’s restaurant workers and operators seeking labor. “For the vast majority of restaurant workers, the reality of making it from paycheck to paycheck is incredibly difficult,” says Andy Mercy, CEO of local fast-casual fusion restaurant Dabba. “In the Bay Area, that’s exacerbated by the cost of living.”
Mercy says it just takes one childcare, health or legal issue to throw off a very delicate balance for people who are living paycheck to paycheck, so he’s working to build long- and short-term safety nets for his employees. Here’s how Mercy and other restaurateurs are helping workers get by—and securing a labor force—in cities where the cost of living is exceptionally high.