bar marco
Bar Marco in Pittsburgh, PA.

Here’s a quick primer on the SFA’s mission, in case you don’t have it memorized: We document, study, and celebrate the diverse food cultures of the changing American South. (Keep practicing, and pull it out at your next dinner party!)

We’re a cultural organization, one focused on people and communities. So a story about the economics of the restaurant industry might seem, at first blush, to be outside our purview. Except that it’s not—because many of the men and women who share their stories with us in oral history and film make their living in restaurants. So do many of our members. And a restaurant can be a difficult place to make a living.

That’s why we were fascinated to read this story about Bar Marco in Pittsburgh, PA. Employees in both the front and back of the house receive a starting salary of $35,000 plus impressive benefits. Owner Bobby Fry raised menu prices but abolished tipping in order to account for the labor costs. That means diners aren’t being asked to subjectively augment servers’ incomes. In the back of the house, it means that Fry can recruit and retain skilled cooks who want to grow within the restaurant.

So, we’re still not restaurant consultants or economists, and we don’t plan to be. But it’s nice to read about a model like this that puts employees first. Do you know of others?