In the United States, restaurants generate an estimated US$660 billion in revenue annually; yet millions of restaurant workers are paid minimum wage, lack standard employee benefits like paid sick days, and never receive basic training that might secure their upward mobility within the industry.
That’s where ROC, or Restaurant Opportunities Center, comes in. Dedicated to raising workers’ wages and improving working conditions behind the kitchen door, ROC brings justice to marginalized restaurant workers, and highlights restaurants with fair labor practices—the “High Road” restaurants. ROC supports responsible restaurant ownership with their RAISE (Restaurants Advancing Industry Standards in Employment) initiative, and provides free job training and placement to over 1,000 restaurant employees per year. Beyond that, the ROC’s Colors Initiative has helped open cooperative worker-owned restaurants in New York and Detroit.
ROC recognizes, however, that those holding the forks — and paying the checks – have a significant role to play in protecting U.S. restaurant workers’ rights. ROC provides extensive resources for conscious consumers: their 2013 National Diner’s Guide to Ethical Eating provides information on the salaries, benefits and advancement opportunities for workers at the 150 most popular restaurants across the country. ROC also asks that consumers join The Welcome Table, an online community of people who support restaurant workers’ rights. One way or another, Restaurant Opportunities Center aims to make certain that working in the restaurant industry is as nourishing as the food it serves.