Management slips can tar a restaurant’s reputation if the mistakes draw a spotlight. This week the whole industry was shamed by the legal missteps—at least some presumably unintended—of the entire Austin, Texas, market. And just in case the world didn’t notice, the U.S. Department of Labor is pounding a bass drum to ensure the public tsk-tsks what happened there—and what, it suggests, is commonplace in just about any area sporting restaurants.
Here’s what transpired, along with garden-variety nightmares like a dining room riot and a job applicant robbing a customer.
A Texas-sized lapse
Austin, Texas, prides itself on weirdness and more than a touch of outlaw culture. Yesterday, the Department of Labor issued a public service bulletin on how that libertarian bent had fostered a crime wave within the city’s restaurant industry.
Nearly every establishment checked for compliance with the federal government’s wage and hour rules between October 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016, had broken the laws, DOL said in a statement. In more precise terms, 95% of the places had violated the regulations, resulting in 500 employees being back-paid $330,000, or an average of $660 each.
And the past year was an improvement over the year before, when 98% of the checked restaurants were caught in the act, DOL noted.
It apparently issued a statement because Austin is an extreme case. But the Department’s Wage and Hour Division was quick to point out, “Findings like these are all-too-common in restaurants across the nation.”
Among the most common violations this year, according to DOL, were miscalculating wages for overtime, pooling tips for kitchen workers, and docking employees for walkouts, credit card processing fees, breakages and shifts coming up short.
In particular, it noted “significant child labor violations,” like allowing minors to operate or clean slicers and mixers.
‘I’ll grab a uniform. And a purse.’
An unidentified restaurant in North Palm Beach, Fla., had an easy decision on whether to hire a recent job seeker after the man walked out of the place with a customer’s purse.
If the place had any doubts about its decision, the robber’s lack of smarts likely sealed the deal. Inside the purse was the woman’s iPhone, which she could trace. She fed the police the location, and the thief was apprehended.
Who needs video games?
Never mind video game violence. Parents who took their children last weekend to a Chuck E. Cheese’s in Kendall, Fla., couldn’t escape the real thing, the result of one family not liking how another customer was looking at them. Words led to fisticuffs, which soon sucked much of the dining room into a 10-minute free-for-all, as a non-engaged bystander thoughtfully videotaped with her phone.
The eruption was a setback in the pizza-and-games chain’s efforts to avert conflict between parents, whose past run-ins have prompted some units to hire security guards. Others have set two-drink limits for the adults.
Some of the more senior members of the team smile at the junior staff who are excited to uncover an interesting trend in “eatertainment” or the latest single-ingredient concept. We try not to be condescending when we suggest they do some research by looking at past issues of Restaurant Business or old Technomic top chain reports before calling it the next big thing.