New Geeky Restaurant Byte Makes a Cool Stand for Employees: $15-Hour Wages, Paid Time Off, and Benefits


Ironically, for an industry that puts a large part of its focus on accommodating guests and making them feel welcomed and want to return again and again, the restaurant industry can't seem to convince its own employees to stay. In 2015, the hospitality turnover rate jumped to 72.1 percent, up almost 6 percent from the year before. 

And it's no secret why: Whether front of house or back of house, many staff members have the same story to take home — too many hours, too little pay, virtually no other incentives, and typically no benefits. The day is grueling, a vacation request would get you a scoff, and home remedies often replace sick days.

But a new restaurant in Minneapolis is gearing up to fight for its employees. Introducing Byte, coming to the Twin Cities in March 2017. Part geek bar, part coffee shop, part cafe adorned with graffiti walls, inspired by global street food, and run by two graphic-tee-decked dudes, one wouldn't expect Byte to be the next disruptor in the business, but it is aiming to promise a different future for its team: 40-hour workweeks with overtime, $15-hour wages to start, full health benefits, and paid time off.     

"Byte is opening with the idea that scratch food can be affordable and restaurant workers should be paid a livable wage. We're not just building a new restaurant, we're building a new restaurant model," Byte's website reads.

This vision began when chefs Travis Shaw and Mark Lowman were commiserating on how to make the restaurant industry careers sustainable for adulthood, not just a stepping stone. According to City Pages, they were unhappy because of how they had to treat their staff. 

"Eventually, you can only go so far on passion," Shaw said to City Pages.

"The restaurant industry is an outdated system...built on machismo and how hard you can work, which just feeds ownership and the corporate structure and allows them to pay you less. Well, you're working with a new generation of people, and that's not good enough anymore," Lowman added.

How does Byte plan to be all bite and no bark with this new strategy? With efficiency at the counter, street-food-style execution, and by hiring 12 employees who will mostly be full-time as opposed to part-time. Read More



In the Twin Cities, Good Help Is Hard to Find

There’s definitely something going on with the labor in Minneapolis kitchens. That much we know. But pinning down exactly what is happening and why is proving a little more difficult.

Some will tell you there’s a shortage of skilled workers; others say there’s an unmotivated, job-hopping new workforce; and still others blame the kitchen slump on just too darn many new restaurants.

“With so many new restaurants opening, there are a lot of positions to fill,” Sea Change chef Ryan Cook told Thrillist, “and restaurants that have been open are feeling the shortage.” 

Recent minimum wage increases, and the fact that there is no tip credit in Minnesota, don’t help much for restaurant bottom lines.

"People jump from job to job for either the next big new place or for a slightly higher wage,” Nightingale chef Carrie McCabe-Johnston told Thrillist. “Gone are the days, it seems, where an employee puts in the work to grow personally and professionally at a single workplace.”

Despite the lack of consensus, it is clear that the Twin Cities could be facing some tough times ahead. Read more

Water Bar Explores Subtle Differences in Minnesota Taps

The Land of 10,000 Lakes is launching what is being called the world’s first full-fledged water bar.

On tap at the bar? A variety of tap waters, of course. As their motto explains, “water is all we have.” The free tap water is served up by artists, environmental scientists, water resource professionals and activists, because more importantly than being a “bar,” the Water Bar & Public Studio is a place to gather to discuss water issues facing the state.

“People think Minnesota doesn’t have any water problems, that we have so much water because we’re the Land of 10,000 Lakes,” Shanai Matteson, whose claim to fame is the concept of the water bar, told the Minneapolis Post. “Water is not something people think about, but we have potential water shortage problems and water quality problems…And across Minnesota, most people get their drinking water from groundwater sources, and those are not immune to pollutants.”

Over time, the organizers hope to expand the Water Bar Pop-Up concept into an art and sustainability incubator focused on environmental education throughout Minnesota.

In the meantime, tastings at the bar will explore the various nuances among taps.

“There are subtle differences in how the water is treated; for example, private well water is not really treated in the same way,” Matteson explained to the Minneapolis Post. “Sure, it’s tested and safe to drink, but it tastes different from city water. And we travel to other places and you can really tell where water isn’t quite so abundant or where cities don’t have the same level of treatment methods in place.” Read more

The Death of Fine Dining: Was It Ever Really Alive in Minneapolis?

The conversation surrounding the death of the fine dining establishment is a national one. But for Minneapolis, this is hitting even closer to home.

Minneapolis is mourning the closing of La Belle Vie, owned by James Beard Award winning chef, Tim McKee and raising the question, “Was fine dining ever really alive in Minneapolis?”

McKee fully admits that La Belle Vie isn’t exactly what he would call “fine dining.” That, in itself, is a glimpse at the evolution and future of fine dining.

“I think if you were to ask people in town which restaurants are fine dining, you’d get some answers, but I don’t really agree with that, and I would bet that the people at those restaurants wouldn’t really agree with that either,” McKee told Thrillist Minneapolis. “I think that what we tend to hear a lot, is that people often equate an excellent dining experience with fine dining and that’s just not necessarily what it is.” Read more 

Entrepreneurs Have a New Playground in Minneapolis

Artisanal food makers are getting their pails and shovels ready to play in a new sandbox. Located in northeast Minneapolis is the Food Building, an artisanal food production hub that launched just last year, but has already garnered significant industry attention.

When asked about his vision for the Food Building and the products inside, Kieran Folliard, the visionary behind the Food Building who also brought The Local and The Liffey and 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey to life, said "It takes time."

Meaning it takes time to come up with an idea, develop the necessary skills and execute the optimal plan. It takes time to create a truly special concept. The idea first came about when Folliard realized how absurd it was to ship out Minneapolis pigs to be processed and then shipped back as California or New York-made meats. He decided Minneapolis should be able to make world-class products on its own.

"Food Building is about the story of how do we make good food," he said. "It's interesting and fun. It has its own personality and a little bit of a culture we are trying to create — one of doing really good work that makes a difference in the quality of the product." Read More