Food Justice

Being a Bristol Living Wage employer

By Tess Lidstone

Tess Lidstone is the co-owner of BOX-E, a restaurant in Wapping Wharf. BOX-E is a core member of the Bristol Living Wage City Action Group and has been an accredited real Living Wage employer for three years. Read about her experiences of being a real Living Wage employer and why it is important not just for her business, but also for the whole hospitality industry.

January is always a tough month for restaurants. Cold. Rainy. Oh, so long. Not much spare cash around.

January 2024 is tough amplified.

Every day restaurants are shutting. The cost of living crisis is still very much here so there are noticeably fewer people able to afford to go for meals out. Restaurants are trying to marry reduced footfall with dramatically increased costs of produce and crippling energy bills; unable to reflect true costs in the price of dishes and drinks in case it prices more guests out. It’s a mess.

Understandably, in an already tough time, restaurant owners are worrying about the additional financial pressures the increase in the minimum wage will put on their businesses come April.

Despite the current economic situation, we stand firmly by our decision to pay a real Living Wage and are encouraged by the fact that the minimum wage is nudging slightly closer to the real Living Wage. When times are tough it is even more important that we strive for the greatest good and not find ourselves in a rush to the bottom, devaluing people along the way.

We all know that the hospitality industry has a reputation for, amongst other things, poor hours, and poor pay. We cannot grumble that young people don’t want to join our industry if their pay prospects, even as experienced chefs and waiting staff, are barely enough to live on.

For our skilled team we hope our Living Wage Foundation accreditation offers a security which encourages them to stay with us for many years, and importantly to not have to come into work worrying that they are not going to be able to afford their own rising energy bills. I cannot overemphasise the benefits to a business that happy, long-term members of staff bring.

We wouldn’t be able to say to our energy provider that we will pay them less (more’s the pity!) so we should not treat our workforce that way. After all, hospitality is nothing without humans.

Did you know there are almost 250 accredited Bristol Living Wage employers across the city already? Why not join them by becoming an accredited organisation and help grow the network of Living Wage employers across Bristol.

Paying your staff the real Living Wage can enhance your reputation, improve staff retention, and support efforts to reduce in-work poverty.

Join the conversation

So, what change do you want to see happen that will transform food in Bristol by 2030? Do you already have an idea for how Bristol can make this happen? Join the conversation now.

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