From Saru Jayaraman of Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United.
We’re just a couple weeks away from the release of our new book, Forked: A New Standard for American Dining, which tells the stories of entrepreneurs at the helm of the restaurant industry. While most corporate restaurant companies continue to set low standards for wages and benefits, other companies profiled in Forked represent the growing movement of restaurant owners who are choosing the ”high road” to profitability.
This Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I wanted to take a moment to highlight a restaurant featured in Forked that exemplifies the values of fairness and community that Dr. King fought for: The Florida Avenue Grill in Washington, DC.
As the oldest soul food restaurant in the country, the Grill is deeply steeped in history. For decades, the restaurant has been frequented by community leaders and public figures.
In the first episode of our video series featuring restaurateurs profiled in Forked, I talk with the Grill’s owner Imar Hutchins about his decision to raise his workers’ wages above the minimum wage. Watch what Imar has to say about preserving history while pushing for change in the video below.
In fact, as you’ll see in the video, it was in an unassuming booth tucked away in the Grill that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King planned the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. This spot frequented by Dr. King, ”booth 4” as it’s referred to by the staff of the Grill, is a potent reminder of the role that family-owned businesses like the Grill have played in our nation’s history.
That’s why we’re working hard to get the word out about Forked, not only to recognize the industry leaders who are doing the right thing, but also because it’s in service of winning power for restaurant workers. In fact, in Washington, DC is one of the key spots around the country where we’re organizing for One Fair Wage — to raise the separate, lower wage for tipped workers to match the regular minimum wage — and where our restaurant employer partners like Imar are advocating for the industry to choose the high road.
Thank you for being part of our efforts to continue Dr. King’s legacy of fighting for economic justice in Washington, DC and across the country. Have a blessed Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.