Virginia restaurants increase wages to attract new employees

Posted at 4:54 PM, May 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-03 17:30:22-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va., — There is no shortage of restaurants seeking workers as more Americans are getting vaccinated. However, there is a shortage of employees willing to work a shift.

Several Central Virginia restaurants are offering “living wages” in order to compete for the attention of workers willing to clock in.

As first reported by the Chesterfield Observer, the HOUSEPitality Family Restaurant Group has vastly increased the hourly rates of their employees across eight different restaurants.

“We decided we were not going to pay that $2.30 antiquated pay rate for servers and bartenders anymore,” said HR Director Emmy Finch. “We are going to figure out a way to pay a livable hourly wage.”

Finch oversees human resources at several restaurants including Casa Del Barco in Shockoe Bottom and Chesterfield Towne Center, The Boathouse restaurants, and Island Shrimp Co.

For instance, her dishwashers do not make less than $15 an hour. A server will start at $20 an hour. Her food runners start at $17 an hour.

Last summer, they added a mandatory 20% gratuity charge to each bill to increase wages. Any additional tips are divided among all employees working that shift.

“People want to be paid for their time and they want to be valued for their time. To say to somebody, you’re worth $2.13 an hour and that’s valuable enough. That’s not OK,” Finch explained.

Employees appear to be receptive of the new hourly rates, said Finch.

She’s hired and retained 160 employees in the last seven weeks, which equates to about 80% of their new hires who have stayed on.

On May 1, Virginia increased its minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.50.

Christian Mitchell, general manager of The Hof Garden in Scott’s Addition, is also competing for the same employees that he needs to fill shifts.

“It takes a lot of people to run a 9,000 square foot building,” Mitchell explained.

He recently advertised his increased wages on Facebook. Hosts will make no less than $15 an hour. Servers at The Hof earn at least $18 an hour. Mitchell’s bartenders will take in at least $25 an hour.

“We are going to guarantee people they are going to make this money,” he stated. “It’s nice to have this security in this industry. It always comes back to: ‘Am I going to make my rent this month?’”

Mitchell hopes his wages lure workers off unemployment. Somebody who is eligible for the maximum benefits through Virginia’s unemployment receives what comes out to about $17 an hour.

“The unemployment benefits are really, really good right now. I know they’ve gone back and forth but they’ll eventually run out,” Mitchell said.

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