How to Make an Unloved Job More Attractive? Restaurants Tinker With Wages.


Long before the pandemic persuaded so many restaurant employees to abandon the business, Corrinna Stum chafed at the illogic of the pay.

She started as a server at age 15, and quickly discovered how stressful it could be to earn only the federal minimum wage for tipped employees (now $2.13 an hour) and hope that tips would make her whole. Her husband, Matt, a cook, was never entitled to a share of diners’ largess.

So last spring, when the couple opened Ruby’s West End, a cafe in Portland, Maine, they decided that every aspect of their restaurant would diverge from business as usual. Stum, 30, spurned pricey subscriptions for reservation and scheduling software, and instead used that money to help pay every member of her small team $12.15 per hour, Maine’s full minimum wage. She also added a 20% service charge to every check, to be shared with the kitchen staff, which traditionally doesn’t benefit from tips.


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