Why Paying More Than Minimum Wage Is Good for Everyone

Adam Eskin dishes on his number one New Year’s resolution.

There’s a cruel irony at large in the food industry: the very employees who are toiling to serve us fresh, locally grown food, food that’s counterforce to industrialized agriculture, are the same ones who cannot afford to eat it. When you’re buying cheap food, oftentimes it means the costs have been externalized — burdened by the hourly farmers, cooks, drivers, and servers — the people doing all the work, with none of the reward.

So yes, you probably noticed a recent price hike on your Dig Inn favorites. But that is because we’re pushing forward with a new level of employee appreciation, and a new level of transparency.

Dig Inn actual vs. state-mandated minimum wage.

From today, we’re going to be using these dollars to pay our employees a starting wage of $12 per hour — something we’ve been on a path to since 2015.

The benefits are three-fold, but we can’t go it alone.

Why paying your employees more is better for everyone.

1. Our People

As little as two years ago, nearly all of the 182,000 un-tipped employees in New York were making under $8.75 an hour. For a forty-hour work week, that’s $350 before tax. It’s a widespread misconception these jobs are mostly for early-twenty-somethings, or unskilled workers. And for them it’s a boon, since it’s their first entrance into the labor force, or the country, anyway. But when I look at our people, it’s obvious they don’t just want hourly roles: our employees are here for a career, or to learn how to one day run their own restaurants. We currently have a few people that started with us in bicycle delivery roles, who are now on running their own departments.

2. Our Guests

Offering a higher wage helps us attract the best people for the job. And food made by better people, is better. We’ve implemented a kitchen leadership system in our restaurants — inspired by the same model you’d find in a fine-dining restaurant. Not only does it provide a clear, demonstrable path forward for our employees, it ensures proper education. These kind of hourly jobs are no longer as simple as flipping a burger when the timer goes off. In any Dig Inn restaurant, you’ll find chefs-in-training, perhaps unable to afford expensive education, learning traditional culinary skills. And more than that, they’re developing a passion for a better food system. Meaning these future chefs go out into the world also as farmers, environmentalists, nutritionists, businessmen, and hopefully teachers.

3. Our Business

Our mission is to provide access to a safe, healthy, vegetable-forward diet. One that is both ethical, and flavorful. We’ve realized that to achieve this multi-pronged symbiosis, we need a wealth of talented chefs running each of our restaurants. All across the country, the struggle is real: good cooks, who were once in excess supply, are suddenly a lot tougher to find, and we’re all fishing in the same pond. The truth is, that despite what you might see on the Food Network or other TV shows, cooking is grueling work, and needs a highly skilled team. And as our restaurant group continues to scale, we’re thinking about how we are going to source, train, and retain our future leaders. A wage increase is only the start of a bigger picture we’re painting, but it sure as hell says: ‘hey, we’re invested in your future.’

But the Berlin wall didn’t come down because one person said it should. It came down because people of all backgrounds, all races, and all ages came together and said ‘we want this.’ For us to make good food truly accessible, and still sell it at an honest price, our employees need to be paid a wage that affords it.

We’re proud to stand by this decision, and we hope you are too.

Sources: Litler; NY Labor​; New York Times

Still have questions? Drop us a note at contact@diginn.com or tweet @diginn

It’s Complicated ← P R E V I O U S

N E X T → If New Yorkers Want Local Food, We Must Protect Local Farmland