Last week, a national restaurant workers group released a new dining guide, rating restaurants not on food, service and decor but instead on personnel issues—-things like hourly wages, paid sick leave and opportunities for advancement. A number of D.C. restaurant operators earned accolades for their policies. One organization that did not: Clyde’s Restaurant Group, operators of 13 D.C.-area eateries, including Old Ebbitt Grill and 1789, as well as the forthcoming Hamilton. Y&H reached out to Clyde’s brass to address its curiously low standing in the guide. Claude Andersen, the company’s corporate operations manager, got back to me on Tuesday afternoon. “It hurt a little bit to be on the wrong side of this,” he tells me. Andersen responded to each of the group’s points, line by line:
Category: Tipped hourly wages [the advocacy’ group endorses a $5 hourly wage for workers who are paid tips]
Clyde’s Score: 0
Clyde’s Response: Andersen confirms that no, the company doesn’t pay the $5 or more on regular wages for its tipped employees. “We do pay the minimum,” he says, which ranges from $2.13 in some jurisdictions to “two-eighty-something” in others. “But, our servers are making, with their tips, a lot of money,” he notes. The company routinely monitors its payroll, including declared tips. (“Waiters, as you know, are supposed to claim tips,” he notes. That’s usually “the least amount they’re willing to admit to making—-not the most,” he clarifies.) Based on that data, Andersen reports that front waiters are averaging more than $18 an hour (including wages and declared tips), back waiters (the food runners) are making $17.51, bartenders are raking in nearly $25 an hour and bussers are averaging $11.78. “Although we don’t pay the five [as advocated by the workers’ group],” he says, “we don’t think that’s an unfair situation for our servers.”
Category: Non-tipped wages [the advocacy group recommends a $9 hourly wage]
Clyde’s Score: ? [for unknown]
Clyde’s Response: “We do have some people making less than $9 an hour,” Andersen admits. “They’re usually either a brand new employee or somebody that’s in a training mode of one kind or another. It usually doesn’t last more than six months or so and then they’re usually well over $9, more like around $10 an hour or more….But I would say our average is definitely over $9 an hour, so we definitely should’ve gotten some credit for that.”
Category: Paid sick days
Clyde’s Score: 0
Clyde’s Response: “As you know, there’s a law in D.C. that requires paid sick days for all non-tipped employees and also for bussers who are tipped,” Andersen notes. “And we do offer our employees 10 days per year of leave time. We don’t have that for the tipped employees, but for the tipped employees, of course, they have a very flexible wage. I mean, we follow the D.C. law on that. And I know this particular group thinks that even tipped employees should get a paid sick day of some kind. We think that we allow them to easily make up whatever they want whenever they want, and we agreed with the D.C. government when they made that decision, too.”
Category: Opportunities for advancement [the advocacy group awards an upward arrow for companies that offered at least 50 percent of its employees a promotion]
Clyde’s Score: 0
Clyde’s Response: Seriously? Andersen himself “grew up” within the company. “I started as a server at Clyde’s,” he says. “I’m now the operations manager for the whole company.” Andersen’s been with the company for 38 years. Lots of other people have similar stories, too. “My boss, John Latham, started as a dishwasher, believe it or not,” he says. Latham is now the CEO. Looking over the management roster—-some 180 people—Andersen reports that 70 percent have “grown up through the ranks,” he says. “A lot of them, like myself, started as line employees and moved up to management.”
Summing up, Andersen says: “Based on the standards that [Restaurant Opportunities Center United] uses, I can see why we wouldn’t be one of their gold or silver-prize winners or something like that. But I think that we treat our employees very well.”
Each year, the company conducts an anonymous survey of its employees, addressing things like treatment by supervisors, workplace safety and other working conditions. One question: “Have you told a friend or family members about job opportunities at Clyde’s?” Of 1,162 responses, 770 said yes. “The number one reason was treatment,” Andersen says. “That was at 42 percent.” At a close second, 37 percent, was money. And scheduling was the third reason, he reports.
“I think our people feel pretty good working for us,” Anderson says.