Red Lobster Olive Garden

At their shareholder’s meeting last week, their CEO flatly denied that they pay any of their employees the federal tipped minimum wage, which has been frozen at $2.13 since 1991. In response to a recent op-ed by Scott Klinger (an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C.) criticizing the stagnant wage of servers in contrast to the profits of large restaurant companies, Darden Executive Samir Gupte, denied this again stating, “no one makes $2.13 an hour.” In stark contrast to Darden’s claims, the National Restaurant Association (the lobby of choice for restaurant corporations, of which Darden is a member), stated that not only does Darden indeed pay the tipped minimum wage of $2.13/hour, but “about 20 percent of hourly employees within the Darden system are paid $2.13 per hour before tips.” Twenty-percent is a lot more than zero, and certainly not an insignificant amount of people considering their workforce exceeds 200,000 people.

Darden’s CEO, Clarence Otis, take works out to $2,116 an hour (assuming he works 60 hours a week all year, with two weeks of vacation), so every two hours, Darden’s CEO makes more than his company pays its $2.13-an-hour wait staff for a full year’s work. The tipped minimum wage has been frozen at $2.13/hour since 1991, resulting in servers using food stamps at twice the rate of the rest of the US workforce and being three-times as likely to live in poverty.

Darden Restaurants Inc (Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, The Capital Grille, Eddie V’s and Yard House) is the largest full-service restaurant company in the world.