Local restaurant owner hopes new ‘livable wage’ system can spark a ‘fair wage culture’

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A local restaurant is paying its staff more as the cost of living climbs.

The owners of Cool Moose Cafe in the Riverside neighborhood raised their pay for employees at the beginning of June.

Laurie Jarvis has been one of the owners since 2008 and said she wants her workers to earn a “livable wage” and get away from having to depend on tips.

Cool Moose Cafe opened in 1998.

Jarvis said currently, the restaurant is facing the same challenges as many others around the country.

“Just to name a few, we have issues with supply chain, a labor shortage, also an increase in prices weekly,” she said. “It used to be every six months or a year.”

Beyond that, Jarvis wanted to change how employees are paid, especially those considered “front of the house” workers. They include servers, hosts and bussers, who typically rely heavily on tips.

They are now being paid more hourly. Jarvis said it is an effort to create a “fair wage culture.”

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“We were like, ‘We are sick of this,’” she said. “We are not going to do this anymore.”

In addition to more money, Jarvis said full-time employees are offered health insurance, paid time off and scholarships for those looking to further their education.

To protect her staff’s privacy, Jarvis did not disclose how much they make when News4JAX asked but did say it is significantly more than the $10 minimum in the past.

The change is affecting Tina Bain, who has been working at Cool Moose Cafe for more than four years.

“You feel more unified,” Bain said. “It’s not like, ‘I’m a dishwasher. I’m a line cook.’ We are all just a team and we work together.”

The transformation will also reform the customer’s experience, Jarvis said.

Jarvis said now customers order their own food either via an electronic screen, their phone using a QR code or by walking up to the main counter.

There is a 10% service fee included in the bill and the prices on the menu are slightly higher. Customers do not have to tip and there is no push for them to do so.

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Jarvis and Bain said there is still a commitment to quality service.

“I am able to walk around, talk with them, chitchat,” Bain said. “They will tell me about their kids, and I actually have more time [to interact with them].”

“I have hope that what we are doing is laying down a foundation where we can learn and see where we need to steer so that our culture creates health insurance and paid time off,” Jarvis said.

Jarvis said it took her and the other owners about two years to develop this plan before launching it.

Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4JAX – All rights reserved.

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