Behind the Kitchen Door: The Hidden Reality of Philadelphia’s Thriving Restaurant Industry

Behind 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 represents the 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 more frequently 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 must be taken to ensure that job quality in this sector allows for the long-term prosperity of Philadelphia’s restaurant workers, employers, and consumers.

Some of the findings in the groundbreaking report include:

      • 62.1% of Philadelphia restaurant workers fall below the poverty line for a family of three
      • Average annual real wages in Philadelphia restaurants decreased by 11% between 2001 and 2011, while earnings for the total private sector increased by 8%
      • Of all the workers surveyed in our study, 57.9% reported experiencing overtime wage violations and 40% reported working “off the clock” without being paid
      • Whereas white workers’ median wage is $11.29, the median wage for workers of color is $9.00. The wage gap is even greater when comparing women’s median wages: $11.47 for white women and $8.00 for women of color
      • Additionally, Philadelphia surpasses the national average of restaurant workers who lack access to earned sick days, with a startling 92.8% of restaurant workers without earned sick days. Given the low wages described earlier and the fact that 12 in 13 workers do not have access to paid sick days, it is not surprising that nearly two-thirds of Philadelphia restaurant workers (64.6%) have worked while sick. Nearly three out of four (71.7%) of those that worked while sick said that they could not afford to take the day off without pay, and almost half (46.4%) said that they were afraid of being fired or penalized for staying home.
      • Low wages and a lack of benefits available to restaurant workers has resulted in nearly 12% of restaurant workers relying on emergency room care when they are unable to afford medical care.
      • 19% of Philadelphians in the restaurant industry rely on public health insurance.

Download full report here.

The Philadelphia Restaurant Industry Coalition Partners Include: Action United, Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas (CATA), Community Legal Services, Jobs with Justice – Philadelphia, Juntos, Media Mobilizing Project, New Sanctuary Movement, PathWays PA, Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, Philaposh, Philadelphia CLUW (Coalition of Labor Union Women), The Restaurant Opportunities Center of Philadelphia, The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, Dennis Brunn, Unitarian Universalist Pennsylvania Advocacy Network, Thomas Cronin, President Emeritus of AFSCME D.C. 47 and D.C. 47 Retiree Chapter, Stephen Herzenberg, Keystone Research Center, Brishen Rogers, Assistant Professor of Law, Temple University