San francisco restaurants

San Francisco restaurants are underpaying minorities

At work, of course.
Photo: Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images

San Francisco has the most Michelin stars per capita in the United States and was the second city to adopt a $15 minimum wage, two reasons it is highly sought after by restaurant professionals. But a new report from worker advocacy group Restaurant Opportunities Center could really cloud that glowing reputation: Surveys completed by 525 Bay Area workers reveal a severe pay gap plagues minorities in the town.

The study was meant to be a comprehensive overview of the issues facing the city’s restaurant workers, and sure enough, it found the usual issues (wage violations, stagnating wages, the plague of exorbitant rents). The startling finding, however, was the disparity between the wages of white and non-white workers: ROCK says the worst offenders in town are “fine dining restaurants” (defined as places where the average bill was over $40 per person). At these locations, women earned an average of $3.34 less per hour than their male counterparts, which is quite troubling, but the gap for minority workers was almost double. They collected $6.12 less per hour than white people workers.

ROCK says it’s the largest race-based pay gap he knows of in the world country. San Francisco restaurateurs blame it primarily on the inherent wage differences between front and back staff; because waiters are tipped, they sometimes earn two to three times as much as kitchen workers, a much higher percentage of whom are minorities. The cruel irony is that San Francisco’s restaurant industry salary is the highest in the WE, in part because the city’s wage laws are so progressive in general. And the report notes that a pay gap is not all that handicaps minority workers: “In particular, we found that occupational segregation, wage violations, including misappropriation of tips and fees of service, and insufficient access to housing were all serious and had a disproportionate impact on workers of color.