Young and Hungry

Clyde’s Responds To Low Rating By Restaurant Workers’ Group

Last week, a national restaurant workers group released a new dining guide, rating restaurants not on food, service and decor but instead on personnel issues—things like hourly wages, paid sick leave and opportunities for advancement. A number of D.C. restaurant operators earned accolades for their policies. One organization that did not: Clyde's Restaurant Group, operators of 13 D.C.-area eateries, including Old Ebbitt Grill and 1789, as well as the forthcoming Hamilton. Y&H reached out to Clyde's brass to address its curiously low standing in the guide. Claude Andersen, the company's corporate operations manager, got back to me on Tuesday afternoon. "It hurt a little bit to be on the wrong side of this," he tells me. Andersen responded to each of the group's points, line by line:


Category: Tipped hourly wages [the advocacy' group endorses a $5 hourly wage for workers who are paid tips]

Clyde's Score: 0

Clyde's Response: Andersen confirms that no, the company doesn't pay the $5 or more on regular wages for its tipped employees. "We do pay the minimum," he says, which ranges from $2.13 in some jurisdictions to "two-eighty-something" in others. "But, our servers are making, with their tips, a lot of money," he notes. The company routinely monitors its payroll, including declared tips. ("Waiters, as you know, are supposed to claim tips," he notes. That's usually "the least amount they're willing to admit to making—not the most," he clarifies.) Based on that data, Andersen reports that front waiters are averaging more than $18 an hour (including wages and declared tips), back waiters (the food runners) are making $17.51, bartenders are raking in nearly $25 an hour and bussers are averaging $11.78. "Although we don't pay the five [as advocated by the workers' group]," he says, "we don't think that's an unfair situation for our servers."


Category: Non-tipped wages [the advocacy group recommends a $9 hourly wage]

Clyde's Score: ? [for unknown]

Clyde's Response: "We do have some people making less than $9 an hour," Andersen admits. "They're usually either a brand new employee or somebody that's in a training mode of one kind or another. It usually doesn't last more than six months or so and then they're usually well over $9, more like around $10 an hour or more....But I would say our average is definitely over $9 an hour, so we definitely should've gotten some credit for that."


Category: Paid sick days

Clyde's Score: 0

Clyde's Response: "As you know, there's a law in D.C. that requires paid sick days for all non-tipped employees and also for bussers who are tipped," Andersen notes. "And we do offer our employees 10 days per year of leave time. We don't have that for the tipped employees, but for the tipped employees, of course, they have a very flexible wage. I mean, we follow the D.C. law on that. And I know this particular group thinks that even tipped employees should get a paid sick day of some kind. We think that we allow them to easily make up whatever they want whenever they want, and we agreed with the D.C. government when they made that decision, too."


Category: Opportunities for advancement [the advocacy group awards an upward arrow for companies that offered at least 50 percent of its employees a promotion]

Clyde's Score: 0

Clyde's Response: Seriously? Andersen himself "grew up" within the company. "I started as a server at Clyde's," he says. "I'm now the operations manager for the whole company." Andersen's been with the company for 38 years. Lots of other people have similar stories, too. "My boss, John Latham, started as a dishwasher, believe it or not," he says. Latham is now the CEO. Looking over the management roster—some 180 people–Andersen reports that 70 percent have "grown up through the ranks," he says. "A lot of them, like myself, started as line employees and moved up to management."


Summing up, Andersen says: "Based on the standards that [Restaurant Opportunities Center United] uses, I can see why we wouldn't be one of their gold or silver-prize winners or something like that. But I think that we treat our employees very well."

Each year, the company conducts an anonymous survey of its employees, addressing things like treatment by supervisors, workplace safety and other working conditions. One question: "Have you told a friend or family members about job opportunities at Clyde's?" Of 1,162 responses, 770 said yes. "The number one reason was treatment," Andersen says. "That was at 42 percent." At a close second, 37 percent, was money. And scheduling was the third reason, he reports.

"I think our people feel pretty good working for us," Anderson says.

  • http://N/A Casey

    I worked at Clyde's in Chevy Chase back in 2003. As a server, I didn't feel like it was a great place to work, which is why I quit after only 6 months. What pushed me over the edge is that another server there had a family member die in an auto accident and management still made her come in to work her shift that day. That was enough for me. The employees, in my experience, are seen merely as numbers, not people.

    Having said that, I do love Clyde's food and service, but I think they owe their employees much, much more.

  • Christopher Stammer

    As the head of a company who is tasked with understanding the quantitative and qualitative success criteria for restaurant operators and their employees, this survey is a transparent attempt to increase enrollment of restaurants in Restaurant Opportunities Centers' "roundtable". The restaurant industry is renowned for its turnover. In an industry where the career lifespan of a server might be six to eight months, does that mean that if an employee decides to take five or ten days off before they give notice that the restaurant should be obligated to pay that employee for their "sick days" before they can remove them from the payroll? The profit margin for most dining establishments is between two and five percent. The consequence of paying workers who don't show up to do their jobs would be higher prices on the customers' menu. I don't want that, just as I'm sure the dining public doesn't want it. If you read the ROC survey, their rating scale is flawed -- it's all or none. Gold star if you are in their roundtable group, a big fat ZERO if you aren't. Big $5 sign if you pay your employees five bucks an hour, glaring ZERO if you don't. . . this isn't Yelp! where you get four stars for paying four dollars an hour, three stars for three dollars and so on -- it's pass fail, all according to ROC's legislative agenda and lobbying effort. Look at the survey report: the bulk majority of restaurants have O's and ?'s for most categories. Of course, ROC's evaluation of "surveyed" restaurants didn't cover anything like "training dollars spent per employee", "overall employee satisfaction", or "restaurant culture" -- all areas in which I know Clyde's excels. To most employees, it's not just about how much they walk with at the end of the day, it's the work environment, how well they perform (e.g. through adequate training) and how much the restaurant management supports them throughout a shift. ROC totally ignored any of these topics in their survey because it's not in their advocacy agenda. The very thing for which ROC advocates will only HURT servers and bussers in the long run -- the second that the paying public realizes that their servers are being paid higher than minimal wages and that their income is NOT dependent on tips will be the second that a servers' average tip percentage will go down. Even a five percent difference in tipping has a HUGE impact on a servers' take home earnings. Not only do I know this from having been a server, I know it from evaluating restaurant operations and implementing performance improvement programs from, both, the management and the workers' perspective (both front and back of the house). This survey is a flawed piece of propaganda and is unfair to Clyde's and the other restaurants profiled. I'm surprised it was even newsworthy for the City Paper to mention.

  • cminus

    does that mean that if an employee decides to take five or ten days off before they give notice that the restaurant should be obligated to pay that employee for their "sick days" before they can remove them from the payroll?

    You do know this is actually pretty common in the rest of the working world, right? Last time I changed jobs, my previous employer kept me on the payroll until I had burned through all my accrued unused leave; the time before, I got a lump sum payout.

  • Anonymous

    I wasted a year of my life working for Clydes. After reading this article, it only reiterates the idea that Clydes is and always will be a very clannish working environment. The only people that seem to enjoy and benefit from working there, are the people that have somehow gotten within the "family" and are now enjoying better shifts, (yes they do despite all claims that people dont get preferred schedules) and more grace when it comes to who is first in line when say, a new bartender shift opens up, when they're already overstaffed at that position. Regardless of the fact that the most qualified individuals get overlooked because they can clearly see through the constant charade. The only people applauding his response are those who are either working for him directly, or again, benefitting from being within the "clan."

    After leaving and working in yet another restaurant, i can say that the way the managers and senior operation managers go about running their business at clydes is very different from the standards set by almost any other decent restaurant, collective or otherwise. They hire and train drug addicts and alcoholics to come in and mindlessly wait on the regular groups that always go to clydes because they know they can complain loud enough and get away with just about anything.

    The only flawed piece of propaganda is the fact that the servers ARENT making much more than minimum wage. Whats standing around for 6 hours taking two tables and making $80 on a FRIDAY night? The only people making money are the salaried employees who the waitstaff are all working for. The company has shallowed itself out from the inside, slowly trimming the fat and banking the cash. Notice how most of their discounts (i.e. "early bird discounts" aka 20% off) are slowly disappearing and the prices arent coming down.

    Anyone with any iota of observational powers could find any of this information out for themselves. It wouldnt take long for any new hire to realise they're running a service + Value scheme that leaves only one person profitting. Clyde.

  • m

    The food is mediocre at best. Has been for all 30 years of my life.

  • M

    To those of you criticizing your time at Clyde's. You and others like you did not succeed because frankly, you weren't good enough! You can make up any story that you want to make yourself feel better but the truth is you weren't getting better sections or being promoted for that reason. I have worked at a lot of other successful restaurants and none treated their staff as well as they are treated at Clyde's. That is why I am still there. I started as a cook after college, and worked my way up to a management position. I'm great at my job, I get paid well with benefits, and work in a nice environment. Most of the management staff has worked their way up, including the owner and the corporate team. If you worked there for any amount of time, you would know that there is no "Clyde". ..only us hard working folks making an honest living and reaping the benefits.