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The Self-Made Man: Christian Mora and Brian Oliveira

rest3Let’s face it, the restaurant business is mostly awful. As an owner, the workload is insane, the financial returns are unpredictable, and your employees can (and will) disappear on you with no notice because they are irresponsible and/or crazy.

And why wouldn’t they be? Whether you’re a dishwasher, a server, or somewhere in food prep, working in a restaurant is a nightmare. The money stinks, many of your bosses will be cocaine-addled nutjobs, and the patrons’ lack of basic human awareness will astound you.

A lot of that isn’t going to change any time soon, but this week’s Self Made Men—Cristian Mora and Brian Oliveira—are at least trying to improve the part about money.

Mora and Oliveira are Philadelphia-based restauranteurs (a pretentious word, I know, but it fits) who have been getting press recently for their decision to ban tipping at their new restaurant in favor of paying their servers a living wage, with benefits and everything. That this is sending shockwaves through the rest of the industry should signal just how Dickensian a lot of restaurants are.

Oliveira and Mora know this firsthand; they met as servers at a place where Oliveira sold homemade soup, which he perfected as a kid working in his family’s luncheonette. They became friends and decided to open their own place, on their own terms.

“We’ve worked in those positions and relied on those tips,” Oliveira told Think Progress, speaking about his previous restaurant experience, and he feels that his and Mora’s business plan means “less turnover, more knowledgeable staff…[and] a better product and better service.”

Employees of Oliveria and Mora’s new restaurant (Girard Brasserie and Bruncherie, by the way) will earn about $11-13 an hour; most servers make under $9/hour, hence the reliance on tips. Girard will also provide health insurance and offer sick days and profit sharing, unheard of in the industry until fairly recently.

Oliveira and Mora’s place is fully self-funded, too, so count investors as another thing they don’t have to worry about.

Girard isn’t the first restaurant to steer away from the instability of making their employees rely on tips, and thus relying on those kinds of employees, but its owners are two fairly young dudes with a lot of enthusiasm and a drive to not only get something going for themselves, but to make sure that the people working for them will be properly compensated for their time and effort.

Life is more than just profits and customer/shareholder feedback, people.

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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.

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