One of Nikkei Ramen-ya’s goals when we opened in 2016 was to pay a Living Wage to all our employees. In February 2019, we achieved this goal by introducing a surcharge of 9.1% on all orders and later that year we were certified by the Living Wage for Families campaign as a Living Wage Employer, the first restaurant in BC to achieve this since 2015.
In the summer of 2021, BC increased its minimum wage to$15.20/hour (in 2016 the minimum wage was $11.65). This mandate, combined with the critical labour shortage (still being felt around the world), compelled us to raise our base wage from $16.56/hour to $18.24/hour so that we could remain competitive in the labour market. All new staff start at this rate and everyone who already worked for us received a raise in the proportional amount. It was necessary to increase our Living Wage Top Up surcharge from 9.1% to 14.8% to make this possible.
But the Living Wage Top Up is sometimes confused by customers as a “forced tip”. “Why should I pay a tip when you don’t even serve me?” they ask. But we don’t take tips, and we never have. These are the differences between our Living Wage Top Up approach and the tipping model that most people are used to:
Our Living Wage Top Up is a WAGE GUARANTEE.
Google the definition of a Living Wage it will say something to the effect of “a full time wage large enough to support a family of 4”. We have these full time employees. But what about the part time high school and college students on our crew? Some customers point out that they don’t have dependents; they don’t work full time. Why should customers subsidize a young persons’ lifestyle? Well, have you checked what the cost of rent is lately? Cost of tuition? We fear how our own children will fare financially when they are older. A Living Wage at least gives young adults a better chance to succeed when facing those challenges.
Our Living Wage Top Up is MORE EQUITABLE.
All shifts are equal. Every person is equal. There is no competition between staff for the shifts that pay the best tips. No competition between staff for tables who might be big tippers. And no competition between the kitchen and the front of house. That’s a healthier environment when you need your staff to work together as a team.
Our Living Wage Top Up is SAFER.
Have you ever been to a restaurant where female servers dress suggestively? It’s well documented that in some establishments in the industry there exist unwritten expectations that female staff sexualize themselves in order to incent higher spending (and tipping) from male customers. We would not want our own daughters in this kind of job. We will have no part in putting your daughters into that situation either.
Our Living Wage Top Up is MORE TRANSPARENT.
The Living Wage Top Up is not a means to pad our bottom line. It is the amount we need to adapt to the changing labour market in order to keep our business viable. Since 2016, the cost of ingredients, the cost of overhead, and especially the cost of labour has increased (our starting wage rose from $12.50/hr to $18.24/hr over 5 years). We believe in letting the customers know where their money is going, and why. The Living Wage Top Up is one vehicle to show that.
Our Living Wage Top Up promotes ADVOCACY.
Why not just raise prices instead of add a surcharge for labour? If we did that we couldn’t talk to you about why we have a Living Wage policy instead of a tipping policy. We believe that it is important to educate people about Living Wages, why Living Wages make sense (especially in the restaurant industry) and that everyone deserves one.
For more information about Living Wages, please visit livingwageforfamilies.ca.
Greg & Erin Masuda
December 7, 2021