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To: Tupelo Honey

Pay support staff what they deserve!

As of today, Tupelo Honey Cafe has raised the wages of support staff in their downtown Asheville, Raleigh and Virginia Beach locations back to $5.15 per hour. I’m incredibly proud of the success of this campaign and more than ever, I am convinced of the power working people have when they stand up and work together to demand more. When it comes to workers’ rights, I believe we have to take power and create voice – those things are not handed to us.

Food service activism is on the rise, though addressing workplace conditions within the restaurant industry is a fairly new phenomenon. My hope is that our small victory is one of thousands of small victories that ultimately will change the way workers view their ability to speak up and shape their working conditions.

-- Alia Todd

Pay support staff what they deserve!

Reinstate support staff (formerly known as bussers’) wages to their previous levels.

Why is this important?

Tupelo Honey Cafe is synonymous with the idea of Southern hospitality. There are always biscuits on the table and your sweet tea glass is never empty. In fact, the restaurant is so hospitable that within 5 years it’s been able to open 10 new locations across the Southeast and has announced plans to expand beyond the region and double locations over the two years.

However, patrons might not know that this growth has come at a personal cost for employees. Tupelo Honey Café employees know that with growth comes change. We have absorbed our fair share of change. From eliminating free food while working to scrapping incentive based pay raises for tipped employees, it’s getting harder and harder to feel like a valued member of the team. We have also watched as our company pads its profit margins and expands the brand on the backs of the lowest paid employees and their families. Over the past couple of years, corporate management decisions have diminished the reasons we loved working for this company.

Support staff (bussers/back servers) are an essential part of any well-organized and profitable restaurant. They provide support and heightened efficiency, allowing wait staff to give personal and professional service. In the summer of 2014 the company chose to maximize profits and drastically cut wages for support staff -- who used to be called bussers -- by over $3/hour. Not only does this mean that some of these support staff can no longer pay the bills or keep food on the table, but servers themselves are having a harder time making sure the customers at the table are happy too. Alia, a bartender, is a working mom and the main breadwinner of her household. Halley, a server, is a college student supporting herself while working towards her degree. When support staff is not compensated fairly, it has the ripple effect of increasing the number of servers, thereby reducing earning potential for all front of the house staff. That’s hundreds of dollars each week that could go towards paying bills and buying groceries.

We are tired of complaining within our location and wishing that the company would change. This wage cut was the last straw and we knew we had to take action. That’s why we started this petition. Right now, Tupelo Honey Cafe is growing at an astounding pace and they have a choice to make: do they want to stand by their original values as a company or do they want to drive down wages of those at the bottom?
According to their own website Tupelo Honey Cafe says: “We commit to paying above the industry average in every job category.” According to a 2014 interview with the owner of Tupelo Honey, Steve Frabitore stated that “none of their employees are paid minimum wage; rather, they are a Living Wage Certified business and aim for their pay to be greater than the 75th percentile of the industry average.”

All we are asking is that Tupelo Honey live up to their own standards and reinstate the wages of support staff (technically called back servers) to their original levels of $5.15 per hour. Right now it is a company wide wage policy for back servers to be paid a federal minimum meant for servers ($2.13 per hour). This base wage for support staff is below local and national industry standards. If you want to "hire the best people in every position", you have to be sure those people can earn a living.

Good food shouldn’t just be about the bottom line — it’s about fellowship, service and always having a seat at the table. Join us if you would like to see Tupelo Honey put its own values into action by reinstating wages for support staff.



2016-01-14 11:40:02 -0500

Big news! Alia has confirmed that the South Asheville location has also raised wages. This victory keeps getting even sweeter.

Check out this clip from WLOS news in Asheville:

2016-01-11 12:25:48 -0500

Petition is successful with 1,262 signatures

2015-12-11 10:31:02 -0500

Major update!

2015-10-16 13:00:58 -0400

Even more press about restaurant workers pushing for better wages. Watch Alia -- one of the creators of this petition -- talk about what it means to make a living while being a server.

2015-10-15 14:06:43 -0400

This week, the Asheville Blade published an in-depth article about Tupelo Honey Cafe and the wage cuts for support staff. It's a long read, but totally worth it!

2015-10-15 14:03:47 -0400

Check out this great write-up in the Asheville Citizen Times about restaurant workers standing up for better wages and better working conditions. There's a great segment in here about the petition and too.

2015-09-30 15:54:53 -0400

1,000 signatures reached

2015-09-23 06:00:06 -0400

500 signatures reached

2015-09-22 07:43:37 -0400

100 signatures reached

2015-09-21 22:31:19 -0400

50 signatures reached

2015-09-21 20:48:46 -0400

25 signatures reached

2015-09-21 19:15:49 -0400

10 signatures reached