Rye in Dallas adds a surcharge to pay for workers’ health care

The hospitality industry has faced reckoning from its workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic and with the entry of a new generation into the workforce. Chefs and restaurant experts across the Metroplex discuss how difficult it is to recruit and retain staff—an industry-wide problem not unique to DFW.

The team at Rye has been working on a part-time solution geared towards retaining quality workers and attracting the best new workers.

At the start of 2023, Tanner Agar, owner and CEO of Rye and Apothecary, announced in a social media post that real estate will attach a 3 percent clause to its bills that will partially cover employee benefits. The full benefits package is available for viewing on restaurants’ websites. Includes payment of 50 percent of employee health insurance that includes dental and vision plans, access to group plans for employee partners and beneficiaries, family leave that includes not only paternity leave but caring for a sick loved one and bereavement leave, up to 15 paid days off, development programs Professional including 50 percent reimbursement of professional certifications, 50 percent employee discount for dinners at restaurants, and company outings.

“[This] It’s really the culmination of what we’ve been working on for five years in terms of trying to continue to make our restaurant the best it can be, and that means not only what we serve, but who we are as people,” Ajar says. He says the group hopes to improve the benefits in the future – that was the plan they could find a successful financial model for now.

The restaurant's rustic wooden tables are filled with diners.

Diners enjoying an evening meal at Rye on Lowest Greenville.

Agar says all employees now make a minimum of $15 an hour — well above the $7.25 minimum wage in Texas, which amounts to an annual salary of $31,200 before taxes when working 40 hours a week. That’s enough to spend more than half of their monthly income on average rent in Dallas and set aside the rest for food, gas, child care, and the other 50 percent for health insurance and other necessities. To put the numbers in perspective, diners who pay an additional 3 percent charge on a $100 bill pay an extra $3 for their meal. Diners can opt out of the fee – if their conscience allows.

“We could have just raised our prices and buried them there,” says Agar. “We felt it was a choice to support Rye and the Apothecary. And it is a choice for us to better show our guests what they support, and to better show our team what they support by being here every single day.”

Ray’s original site in McKinney burned down in August. Funds are still being raised for the reopening, which Agar hopes will happen in 2023. He held a “Fyre Fest” dinner in October to raise money for the reopening. Despite this, the team saw plans began in the summer to offer employee benefits. The package is designed to cover all employees who work at least 36 hours a week, approximately 25, a line drawn to ensure that chefs and in-house team members, who do not supplement their income with guidelines, will be included.

Agar has never had an employer in his career in the food industry offer him health insurance, and he hasn’t had one since 2014. “I was just hoping nothing could go wrong. And unfortunately, a lot of my colleagues are under the same exact strategy. This is it.” The strategy on which the industry proceeds,” says Agar. But it doesn’t have to be — it’s embedded in a broken industry model that can be fixed, with people like Agar leading the way.

A plate of fried corn surrounded by two cocktails.

A dish of soft-shelled corn is one of the current offerings in rye.
Samantha Marie

Agar was inspired by dining in San Francisco, where many restaurants voluntarily put a “mandate” surcharge on bills following a city ordinance that requires businesses with more than 20 employees to set aside money for their workers’ health care. The San Francisco Eater wrote an explanation about tipping the bill at an additional cost, encouraging diners to ask what’s appropriate if they’re unsure — which diners should do, too. Agar was preparing his core team for the explanation.

Fine-dining establishments in several cities without mandates also imposed additional fees. In Boston, it hovers around 20 percent. Good Work Austin is dedicated to helping small businesses identify financial plans that allow them to provide benefits to their employees, in which dozens of organizations participate. a no-tip environment is necessary, [and] They applied 21 percent to each tab the entire time,” says Agar.[That is] A way to create wages and benefits for their employees.”

The question for Rye and Apothecary was: Would their clients support these transparent surcharges for the benefit of workers? After some local press, Rye in Dallas was inundated with negative reviews on Google and Yelp, some apparently from people who had never dined there. She is actively combating this deluge by reporting those comments. These are not Ray flirt guests. Instead, Agar hopes to engage guests old and new who hold the core belief that the people they serve should be cared for—or, at the very least, have the option to get healthcare when they’re sick. .

“It would be very easy for someone to say, ‘Saving your employees money is not my job. You should have made your restaurant more profitable. Or they say they don’t want to pay more and that we’re imposing on them is unreasonable.” “But I think what we’re risking on the other side is greater, which is that we continue to perpetuate a cycle that exploits vulnerable people, doesn’t advocate change.”

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