This is hardly a wave of vote enabling by big restaurant brands, but it's at least a sign that some operators think it's a good thing if its workers participate in the democratic process.
— Kristen Hawley
During a high-stakes election year where voter turnout is said to be a key deciding factor in a number of races, some restaurant business are doing more than simply encouraging workers to vote.
Last week, fast casual chain Cava announced it would give its employees paid time off to vote. Logistically, workers had to request the time off two weeks in advance in order for store managers to plan around the absences without compromising restaurant sales or service.
After an honest conversation with employees, Boba Guys co-founder Andrew Chau decided to give employees a bonus hour of pay for voting. As Grubstreet reported when he asked employees if they’d use paid time off to vote, they said no.
Additionally, Alamo Drafthouse locations will open late on Tuesday, November 6, encouraging workers to vote. They’ll also pick up the Uber or Lyft tab for employees needing transportation to the polls.
Union Square Hospitality Group CEO Danny Meyer penned a how-to for other business owners detailing his company’s efforts: up to three hours of paid time off, and voter registration support in both English and Spanish. (Not for nothing: USHG is offering buy-one get-one free cocktails to restaurant patrons who display their “I Voted” sticker across all restaurant properties. Get after it, New York!)
All of these Election Day initiatives — and more — echo the beginnings of a trend we’re watching: better benefits and working conditions for restaurant workers. Whether it’s better health care, better wages, paid parental leave, or childcare support (a la Starbucks). Expect more on this soon, especially in the current hyper-competitive labor market in the U.S.
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After 32 years on the restaurant scene, you couldn’t blame Rick Bayless for kicking back. Instead, he’s rolling up his sleeves, minding each of his businesses — from airport locations to Chicago flagships — with care.