ehind the Kitchen Door: The Hidden Reality of Philadelphia’s Thriving Restaurant Industry
is a project of the Philadelphia Restaurant Industry Coalition—a broad gathering of academics,progressive organizations, restaurant workers and restaurant employers. This report representsthe most comprehensive research analysis ever conducted on Philadelphia’s restaurant industry.This research shows that some employers run successful restaurants by setting fair wages, beneﬁts,and working conditions, thereby fostering employee satisfaction, lowering turnover costs, and increasing worker productivity. However, the research also shows that Philadelphia restaurant jobs are far morefrequently bad jobs, characterized by low wages, little or no beneﬁts, and abusive working conditions.Because the restaurant industry is an important and growing source of locally based jobs, efforts mustbe taken to ensure that job quality in this sector allows for the long-term prosperity of Philadelphia’srestaurant workers, employers, and consumers.The report focuses on data from 580 worker surveys, 30 in-depth interviews with workers, and30 in-depth interviews with employers. The data was collected over a thirteen-month period. Thisprimary research is supplemented with analysis of industry and government data and reviews of exist-ing academic literature.
A Resilient and Growing Industry
Philadelphia is home to a resilient and growing restaurant industry. The industry includes more than113,000 workers and 12,000 establishments, which contribute to the region’s tourism, hospitality, andentertainment sectors. Philadelphia restaurant workers comprise nearly 7% of total local private sec-tor employment.
In 2007 (the most recent data available from the Economic Census), Philadelphia restaurants garnered $2.3 billion in revenue,
accounting for an estimated $138 million in sales tax forthe state and $46 million for the city.
Perhaps the industry’s most important contribution to the region’s economy is the thousands of jobopportunities and career options it provides. The industry continued its growth through the Great Reces-sion and has outpaced that of the city’s overall economy (
see Figure 1
Many Bad Jobs, A Few Good Ones
There are two roads to proﬁtability in the restaurant industry—the‘high road’ and the ‘low road.’ Restaurant employers who take thehigh road are the source of the best jobs in the industry—those thatprovide fair wages, beneﬁts, safe working conditions, and opportunitiesfor advancement. Taking the low road to proﬁtability, however, createslow-wage jobs with few beneﬁts while exposing workers to dangerousand often unlawful workplace conditions. Our research indicates thatrestaurant employers in Philadelphia are too often taking the low road,creating a predominantly low-wage industry in which violating lawsthat protect workers is commonplace. While there are a few good jobs in the restaurant industry, there arefar more bad jobs, characterized by very low wages, few beneﬁts, andlimited opportunities for upward mobility or increased income. Oursurvey research found that almost two out of three Philadelphia restau-rant workers (62.1%) are paid an hourly wage that would not support a family of three above the poverty level in Philadelphia, as deﬁned by theDepartment of Labor’s Lower Living Standard Income Level.
RESTAURANT INDUSTRY EMPLOYMENTTOTAL PRIVATE SECTOR EMPLOYMENT
PHILADELPHIA JOB GROWTH RELATIVE TO 1990BASE YEAR FOR TOTAL EMPLOYMENT ANDRESTAURANT INDUSTRY EMPLOYMENT
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics, 1990-2011.
160%150%140%130%120%110%100%90%80%70%60%1990 1995 2000 2005 2010