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"The restaurant industry is an outdated system...built on machismo and how hard you can work, which just feeds ownership and the corporate structure and allows them to pay you less.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