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url 2017-04-22 04:16
Not what it sounds like: "I ATE THREE EGGS EVERY SINGLE MORNING FOR A WEEK - HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED"

It's like clickbait by way of a very grim episode of Welcome to Nightvale

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review 2016-09-19 19:38
Interesting information but I remain a bit skeptical.
Forked: A New Standard for American Dining - Saru Jayaraman

You have probably heard of the "Fight for 15" and the fight to raise the minimum wage. Discussions about tipping (how much, when, the stories of people living off of tips). Why the changing nature of service positions like in food have been under a lot of scrutiny.

 

Author Jayaraman has a fascinating look at various restaurants/eateries for the various aspects of the food service industry. Everything from wages to sick days to sexual harassment to mobility within the eatery itself. There are case studies of good restaurants and bad. Many names you know (Starbucks, Chipotle) plus smaller places that you may have not heard of or have a regional appeal only.

 

Some of it is not surprising: fast food eateries like Taco Bell have been known to hire bad employees, don't train, don't have proper sanitary conditions, etc. On the other hand, Chipotle is held up as an example of a better restaurant with better mobility, wages, atmosphere, etc. But the information is not limited to national chains. There are fast food joints to mid-level-ish (I guess it depends on your definition) such as the Olive Garden to higher end restaurants too. No one escapes.

 

That said, I couldn't help but be a wee bit skeptical about her information as I read further. Chipotle is held up as a good example but interesting the author doesn't seem to account for the various outbreaks (which have happened quite often). She also does not seem to account for the wage issues (such as the recent lawsuits). Some of it could have been due to the publication timeline but after this section I found myself a little less enamored of the book and the author's approach.

 

She also discusses Starbucks as a bad example. This in itself wasn't surprising either, but I also had some issue with her case study. She cites the lack of diversity of baristas and that the hiring practices of Starbucks of one particular location seemed to reflect that. This made me pause because I knew several Starbucks baristas in high school. They somewhat fit the mold Jayaraman cites (ready to go to college or college-age) but they were also diverse. I'm not sure if this is a matter of location, the diversity of the areas, if the hiring managers who brought on my friends and classmates were just better at hiring more diversely, if it was a matter of the hiring pools my friends were in vs. the places Jayaraman looked at, etc.

 

So while it was an interesting read, I agree with other reviews that think the information was cherry picked, slanted, needed to be more sourcing, etc. I also occasionally found it tedious: it's a bit cookie cutter once you understand how she lays out each chapter. And if a particular eatery was unfamiliar to me I wasn't particularly interested for the most part. Some stories of the smaller mom and pop restaurants were wonderful to read but if a restaurant unknown to me was bad I wasn't interested in reading too much about it since I do not intend to eat there anyway!

 

Overall it's food for thought (hahaha). If you're not familiar with this area or want to learn more about the food service industry (particularly if you are thinking of getting into this business and want to know what are "good" and "bad" practices) then it might be worth picking up and thumbing through.

 

And while it's not graphic, there are some really terrible stories ranging from the long work hours to harassment, sexual and otherwise. There is some discussion of sexual assault and "selling" (picking attractive women to be hired as waitresses, women being told to wear tighter/more revealing clothing, etc.). It's not graphic in detail but it is an issue that is discussed.

 

I borrowed it from the library and that sounds about right.

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