MINNEAPOLIS – Common Roots Cafe has always had above average wages for the food industry, but they are now ahead of the curve of even the most progressive mayoral candidates with their new $15 an hour start wage.
Democratic mayoral candidates, including Mayor Betsy Hodges, City Council Member Jacob Frey, activist and Professor Nekima Levy-Pounds, and Rep. Raymond Dehn, have all called for a city wide $15 an hour minimum wage. Common Roots beat them to the punch in an industry where wages are typically lower than elsewhere, with the difference made up for in tips.
“The whole goal here is to make the community aware and a forward thinking restaurant that is working to help the industry rather than take away from the industry or make it dependent on an old system,” Common Roots’ Front of House Manager Paul Engels said. “Tipping is great for certain places it’s just we felt that we wanted to change.”
Tips are now a thing of the past at this over the counter cafe at the corner of Lyndale Avenue and West 26th Street.
Engels said that in addition to the $15 an hour rate, all employees who work 30 hours or more per week receive paid time off and healthcare benefits.
Even though the restaurant has raised its prices by 15 percent according to it’s Facebook post announcing the end of tipping, Engels says some customers still wish to tip. The restaurant actively forbids this now.
“We had an idea to do something like you can make a donation to a charitable fund but that’s not really a set thing,” Engels said. “We’ve talked about something like that but we don’t accept tips at all. If people leave money there we try to give it back to them.”
Common Roots is an order over the counter establishment, with their menu including a variety of dishes emphasizing the local and organic aspects of the restaurant industry. The front of house staff takes customers’ order much like at a coffee shop, but then delivers it to their tables once the kitchen has it ready. As such there never was a traditional wait staff tipping set up.
“We did $11.40 an hour for starting servers and we did a cooperative tip share,” Engels said. “So we had everyone at the front of the house and at the back of the house pool tips, so it wasn’t based on how busy were the hours you worked, it was based on the actual hours you worked.”
Common Roots employs 10 front of house staff members, and has an additional 20-30 people working in the kitchen and catering according to Engels. The increased prices have not affected the surrounding community’s patronage of the restaurant.
“We’ve had numerous people come in and say how happy they are to support this,” Engels said. “The main reason we’re doing this is to give people in the restaurant industry a consistent level of life so it isn’t based on the tips you make on a certain day.”