The dark history of US tipping culture and why we need to fight for a higher minimum wage.

August 30, 2022

Adam is the co-owner and general manager of L'Oca d'Oro and co-founder of Good Works Austin. Good Work Austin (GWA) is a socially responsible community of local businesses in Austin invested in creating good jobs for all workers. Chris talks to Adam about his mission to get better jobs for everyone, the dark history of tipping culture in the US, the need for a higher minimum wage and an elimination of the tipped minimum wage ($2.13/hr in TX).

- Hello everyone. I am Chris Hyams, CEO of Indeed, and welcome to the next episode of "Here to Help". At Indeed, our mission is to help people get jobs. This is what gets us out of bed in the morning and what keeps us going all day. And what powers that mission is our people. Here to help us a look at how experience, strength, and hope inspires people to want to help others. I am very excited to introduce our very special guest for today's episode. Adam Orman is the Co-Owner and General Manager of L'Oca d'Oro, an Italian-inspired neighborhood restaurant here in Austin. Austin is a vibrant food city and L'Oca d'Oro is my absolute favorite restaurant in Austin, but that's not why Adam is my guest today. Adam and the L'Oca d'Oro team are advocates of One Fair Wage, and as you'll hear, everything about the business is rooted in sustainability and equity. Adam is also co-founder of Good Work Austin, a socially responsible community of local businesses in Austin, invested in creating good jobs for all workers, ensuring a quality workplace and supporting and amplifying the voices of like-minded businesses. They value cooperation, inclusion, shared opportunity, equality, and fairness in the operation of Austin businesses. Adam is also a good friend. I'm thrilled to have him here as a guest. Adam, thank you so much for joining me today.

- Thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure to spend Monday morning with you.

- Well, let's start where we always start these conversations. How are you doing right now today?

- I'm good. I'm good. It's Monday, second week of school. Both of my kids forgot their lunches. So if that's the worst thing that happens, we're probably in pretty good shape today.

- Well, let's start by talking a little bit about the restaurant, L'Oca d'Oro, and tell us what kind of restaurant it is and what makes it special in your eyes.

- Yeah, so I have been in the restaurant industry for almost 25 years now in New York and San Francisco and Austin, and L'Oca d'Oro opened in June of '16. My business partner, Fiore Tedesco, is the chef here. And we had worked together for a couple of years prior to opening the restaurant itself on doing popups and house parties and catering and determining basically whether or not we could work together, had some of the same principles, and we did. We really wanted to open a restaurant with the same ideas, and on the kitchen side, that meant making as much as possible in-house, and buying as little as possible, having as little as possible shipped, working with local farms, and that was how we were going to be Italian. We were going to use, we're not going to be slaves to an Italian American menu. We're going to just be fresh and seasonal, but kind of through an Italian and through an Italian lens. So we make all our own breads and pastas and fresh cheeses and cured meats. We do the same behind the bar, making all of our spirits and liqueurs, and really use what the farms bring to us, rather than kind of saying, "This is what's on the menu. We need you to start growing more of it". And then on the labor side, we knew we never wanted to pay 2.13 an hour. He had also worked in, principally, in New York, and we at first just thought to come back to a state like Texas, where it's legally allowed for folks who either aren't in Texas or aren't in the states. The tipped minimum wage changes from state to state in America, and in Austin, you are allowed to pay 2.13 an hour plus tips, as long as your employees make it to 7.25 an hour. That is legal, and that wasn't going to be okay with us. Mostly just because we didn't think that that was a livable wage. I'll get into a little bit more of that later. So we knew that that was something that we didn't want to compromise on. And we also knew that we wanted to figure out a way for kitchen and service to make a more equitable wage. Typically in casual fine dining restaurants, servers could make two, three, four times as much as the folks in the kitchen, and we wanted to figure out a way to get those numbers closer to each other. And what that meant, this in 2016, and is still true, maybe even more so in 2022, is that we needed to create a space where it was really special to come here. There are great markets in Austin where you can buy incredible food. There's lots of ways to find out how to cook it at home, and it will be less expensive for you to do that. So what were we going to, what was going to be special about L'Oca d'Oro that was going to make it so that you needed to come here because you weren't probably going to be fermenting, you weren't going to probably also have 12 fish sauces that you'd fermented, along with the house-made pasta that you made. And I know you are one who does actually make his own pasta. So there are folks who are doing that, but we needed to do even more. And then on the service side, we needed to make sure that when you came in, we were doing something to guide you through the whole experience, that it was approachable, it was accessible, it was not, there were going to be a lot of Italian words on the menu, but we were going to help you get the things in front of you that were going to make you the happiest for that night and be able to kind of leave everything else behind for a minute.

- So if you're going to open a restaurant, those feel like elements that would be unique and inspiring. Why open a restaurant? So you said you'd worked in the restaurant business for 25 years. Anyone maybe who's recently watched "The Bear" on Hulu has some opinions about what working at a restaurant is like. What was the, Why did you, personally, want to open a new restaurant?

- For a number of reasons and all apologies to Hulu. I will watch "The Bear" when everybody stops telling me to watch "The Bear". So we can have that conversation in like 2024. I have seen a number of different restaurants open. I've been a part of the opening of many. I've been a part of some that were really great that had already been open for many years. And I'd worked in Austin for a couple of years before opening L'Oca d'Oro and same was true for Fiore, and we really wanted to, we had a lot of ideas of what that should look like, of what it could look like, and wanted to be able to create a restaurant where that was more, I want to say more hospitable to the employees as well as guests. Yeah, we wanted to be able to do that. We wanted to be able to show that, and I say that not in a arrogant way, but we wanted to see if it was possible, that's the less arrogant way to say it, to do all the things that we wanted and provide better pay, better benefits, and create kind of the neighborhood place with really sort of refined unique menu. This is definitely, from what I've heard, part of "The Bear". It's an industry that invites challenge and competition, and we are both pretty competitive people by nature and needed to see if those ideas could exist in real life.

- So let's talk, you talked a little bit about how different minimum wage is for tipped fields, and there's a very long history of minimum wage and how it's set. But let's talk a little bit about tipping in particular, and we've had this conversation and you have a set of perspectives on this that I think most people who maybe haven't worked in the service industry, hadn't thought about. Can you talk about your journey in exploring the history of tipping and what it means?

- Yeah, it has taken up a lot of, it's ended up taking up a lot of our time here, and I find myself having way more of these conversations than I do about like, tagliatelle. When we started, we thought that we could just do this and tell our employees, "Hey, we're going to start paying you, you're going to make $8 an hour plus tips, which is better than $2 an hour plus tips, right? And that we could include a service charge so that we would be able to share some of that with the kitchen. And that we'd just be able to explain that to our guests and our employees and we'd be off and running. And that was not the case. The tradition of tipping, the culture of tipping is so ingrained here that we definitely needed, I definitely needed to do some work and find out what people had done before us and what better methods of messaging there were. And what I found out from finding national organizations like One Fair Wage and the restaurant opportunity center was sort of the history of tipping. And tipping comes straight out of reconstruction. Post slavery, the jobs that most freed, formerly enslaved peoples were in were jobs where tipping became the norm. So there was a $0 wage at the time, and jobs like porter's, servers, shoe shine attendees were paid only in tips. Fast forward to the early part of the 20th century. The tip minimum wage goes from zero up to a quarter. Fast forward another 70 years to 1991, and it is at $2.13 because it's been indexed to the federal minimum wage. It has to stay at 50%. The federal minimum wage was going to go up in 1991, and the National Restaurant Association lobbied hard to remove that index so that the tip minimum wage would not continue to stay at 50% of the federal minimum wage. Wasn't going to go to 70-20, and they won. The tipped minimum wage has not changed from 2.13 since 1991. Of course, the federal minimum wage has only gone up twice since then as well. But, you know, obviously that's a problem, and it is left to the states. So all states, most states, have different ways of handling this. Some have One Fair Wage where the tip minimum wage is the same as the state minimum wage, which could be as much as $15 in some West Coast states. Some, it's anywhere in the middle. It could be three, it could be six. And nobody knows, the thing I always say, it's like if you go on a road trip from California to Texas, you're going to pass through five different wage environments on your way, and you are probably not going to tip any differently. So your server has made, your server who has done the same job, you could even go to the same restaurant. You could go to the same chain restaurant in each of those states, your server will have served the same food and done the same job, and made a different amount of money based solely on which state you happen to be in at the time. So that's problematic. It's problematic because 70% of the workforce is women, and the majority of the workforce is BIPOC in the hospitality industry. So the folks who are making the least are the folks who have been traditionally, the most marginalized. And I think it's pretty easy to say that the reason that there hasn't been more movement on the tip minimum wage is because those are the groups who are suffering under the tip minimum wage the most. There are also, given that employee universe, tremendous amount of sexual harassment related to tipping. Not just between employees and guests, because guests, obviously, you obviously have to put up with whatever it is that you have to put up with in order to make your tip, which is the bulk of your wage, but also with your managers, with your hosts, with your kitchen, if you need your food at a certain time, in a certain way, you need to put up with harassment from the kitchen. If you need to work a certain schedule because you need to be on Friday and Saturday night, because that's when most of the money gets made, you need to put up potentially with sexual harassment from your managers. If you need your section to get sat instead of just watching the person next door to you get all the tables, you need to potentially put up with sexual harassment from the host. That's not okay. Somebody's monthly rent should not be dependent on all of those human factors. And finally, the act of tipping is very much rooted, the Economic Policy Institute has shown repeatedly that tips are based much more on the gender and race of the server than they are on the quality of service. So white men are at the top of that ladder, making the largest percentage of tips, and black women are at the bottom of that ladder, with everyone else scattered somewhere in the middle. Also, not something that we, we don't want to leave that. So we don't want to leave our employees wages up to the whims of our guests. What I usually say to the guests is so that sometimes, so that we don't have to necessarily have this whole conversation, is that you also, your receipt can blow away. The guest could take the wrong copy. A server could put it in their apron and spill water and, and that receipt can turn to mush. So if you don't want to get into the other part of the conversation, the more serious part of the conversation, and just leave it there, no employee's wages should be based on the wind, for instance. So that's how we started. So that's what we learned over our first year and a half of kind of working with other restaurants and meeting other groups and really diving into the history and sort of economic impacts of tipping.

- Yeah, thank you for sharing that. I mean, I'd known some of the history, but in talking to you and hearing you talk about this, there's clearly so much more that I, and I would imagine, a lot of other people did not know. So I'd love to, I think we have a good sense about L'Oca d'Oro. Now, can you talk a little bit about Good Work Austin and what starting that was all about and why it's so important?

- Yeah, of course. In 2017, when we were still very much struggling, 2017 was a really tough year for the restaurant industry nationally, and we were only in our second year here, or our first full year of being open. The city council reached out to put together a group of businesses to discuss paid sick leave, a paid sick leave ordinance for the city of Austin. And we were a part of it, and it was great. We hashed out, I think, a pretty decent paid sick leave ordinance, and it was immediately challenged by the state in courts, and then the next year at the legislature where they tried to pass a preemption law that would block any local ordinance that superseded, that went further than a state law. So that could be on wages, that could be on plastic bags, that could be on fracking. It was going to really be this like universal preemption of local control. What the businesses all kind of saw when we were showing up at the legislature and showing up in the courts, was there are big lobbies on the one side who are saying, "This is bad for business. This is bad for employees. This is going to raise prices". All the things that get said whenever there's any kind of progressive legislation that gets floated. Whether it's from banning child labor to raising the minimum wage, all the same things seem to be true for those lobbying organizations. And we were just a bunch of individual businesses saying, "No, actually we can do this". And we didn't have to close. We didn't have to fire people. We didn't have to raise prices. And what came of that was saying, We need to be able to tell these businesses that it's possible. We need to be able to start an organization where we can provide some support and some resources and consulting, and then ultimately, where we can also lobby as a association and not as these handful of disparate businesses. And that's how we started. We were ready to really launch our full website in the, probably, the summer of 2020. We had had a couple of meetings, a couple of membership meetings, and then a couple of other things happened along the way. And GWA has transformed considerably over the last three years to meet the needs of the bar and restaurant community here.

- So we'll get into some of what happened, obviously around March of 2020, but can you talk a little bit about what are some of the specific issues with Good Work Austin that you are trying to solve, and how is it that restaurants can pay people more fairly?

- Yeah, I feel like most of the conversations start with wages. You've got to get everybody to a living wage. You've got to get people off of 2.13 an hour and, ideally, off of tips, but I don't think that's going to happen until it happens on a much bigger scale nationally. It's just too hard to message that you're putting all of your costs into the price. It's just, hospitality included is really hard to message because people still look at the prices and they're just going to think that you're more expensive than you are. So that's a lot of what we model. What we talk about first is like, you can do it. It depends what kind of restaurant you are. You can do a service charge model. You can do service charge plus tips. You can do a higher hourly if you're counter service. That one, that's a lot easier just to do, just to include in prices, pay a higher hourly and still accept tips. And that allows you to pay, that allows you to distribute to the whole staff a little bit more equitably. What we've learned from our employees and from other restaurants from talking to each other, is that wages aren't enough. This is a very difficult industry. The hours, we're always working nights. We're always working weekends. We're always working holidays. So it's discombobulating to your rhythms. It puts you into a weird social place. It puts you in very close proximity to lots of alcohol all the time. That's your job and it can be very hard. And I think this has been a major topic of conversation in the restaurant industry for a while, and comes up every time somebody high-profile kills themselves or somebody high-profile gets caught for some sort of sexual harassment. It's very hard to create, maintain stability and wellbeing with all of those other factors. So healthcare, sick leave, childcare, mental health. These are all the things that you end up having to talk about after you've talked about wages and Good Work has done a lot to develop relationships with direct primary care clinics so that it can be a lot less expensive and a lot more direct for employees to contact doctors here. We help, again, we help people craft. We share paid sick leave policies across our network so people can see different ways to implement them, different ways that it might be more or less affordable for them in the same way that we do with wage models. We're working with a local nonprofit here, Early Matters, on non-traditional childcare, non-traditional hour childcare options so that folks can figure out what they can do with their kids on weekends and evenings. We have a relationship through the Mike and Sherry project, which a restaurant here, called Suerte, I was really instrumental in founding, that works with Capital Area Counseling, which is a nonprofit counseling clinic, to get low-cost therapy for hospitality employees. So our employees only have to pay $10 for as many sessions as they need. And then with our Community Kitchen, we've created more revenue for restaurants, which is a huge part of the equation. So restaurants can prepare meals to deliver to, we have contracts with the city. We've had contracts with the school district. We do other jobs with other nonprofits to provide restaurant meals for various food insecure communities, and Good Work either procures the contract or raises money, kind of like World Central Kitchen, to be able to pay those restaurants directly for that. And I think that one's really, that one's amazing and has been transformative. Principally, because we always had revenue stream conversations when we were talking about how to implement better wages, et cetera. And the things that people would talk about were like, "All right, well, we're closed for lunch, so maybe we can rent it out to a yoga. Maybe we can rent our dining room out to yoga class. Maybe we can sell shirts. Maybe we can figure out a way to ship nationally." All these things that aren't really part of your business, and just preparing more meals and providing them for other people in your city is very much a part of our business. So to have another, to have more income that doesn't stress the dining room is like I said, just really transformative and has created a lot of opportunities for us.

- So let's jump ahead then to 2020. So you had been doing all this work. This was the foundation and really the infrastructure for L'Oca d'Oro and Good Work Austin, And then the pandemic hits and just slams the restaurant industry head-on. And then not to mention here in Texas, followed by the winter storm that we had. Can you talk about what happened for L'Oca d'Oro and how you and Good Work and that infrastructure that you had built really helped you to stay focused and survive and help others during this time?

- Yeah, it was amazing to be able to already have a network in place. And I know that's what a lot of restaurants created immediately after the shutdown to try and find other restaurants, locally or nationally, that they could talk to, to try and figure out what to do. And we had a small group, and by small, I mean we had 50 to 100 people on our mailing list at the time, and about two dozen, three dozen who were interacting regularly. And that doubled almost instantly. And we had weekly meetings on Zoom to talk about safety protocols for takeout, for reopening, to talk about how to do takeout if it wasn't something that you'd done. Which very technical stuff, like which POSs were better for it, what were the functionalities that you needed to be able to do takeout better, to share medical information. But I think most, the Community Kitchen is what came out of that. That was, I think, most impactful. We already had relationships with the city, because of the work we'd done on paid sick leave. So we were able to find, and it took some work. We were able to find the agencies that were handling the food response to the pandemic and get contracts moved over to local restaurants. So we worked with the school district. We worked with Austin Public Health. We worked with the Emergency Operations Center and we were coordinating, throughout the majority of the pandemic, about two dozen restaurants at a time, providing meals. We sent out over 2 million meals from from June of 2020 through August of 2021. We still have one temporary transitional shelter that six GWA restaurants are providing three meals a day, seven days a week for, and then we still do a lot of work with different nonprofits around town, like Foundation Communities, which builds affordable housing. The Housing Authority of the City of Austin is another one that manages a bunch of apartment complexes and we'll do events for them. And what that did was it enabled, especially because of the way relief ended up being structured with PPP requiring you to have employees, and requiring you to have payroll. A lot of restaurants, especially in places where they weren't even allowed to be open yet, in places that weren't Texas, didn't know what to do with PPP, because they didn't have employees. They weren't allowed to be open. This allowed us to just be open providing meals, preparing meals for delivery to the school district and pay our employees with the federal grants, the federal loans, and keep them safe until we found out more about what was, until we found out more about COVID. It's really easy now, I think, to remember that there was such a long time in 2020 that we didn't know how it was, we didn't know how it was transmitted. We didn't know, we knew so little and we needed to keep our business alive. We really wanted to keep our employees employed, but we also really wanted to make sure that we kept all of our employees and our guests safe.

- Yeah, so for the entire industry, just the idea, I mean, it was really pretty clearly, an existential crisis, like how to survive through this and so many, here in Austin, and I know it's true everywhere. There so many places that just didn't make it through. Institutions that have been around for decades here. Can you talk a little bit about how you managed to keep the business together and open back up and are, every time we were just in last week, and seems like you're thriving now. So can you talk a little bit about how the business survived, and maybe a little bit about your experience and how you handled it and made it through?

- Yeah, the ties to the community and having work to do, and knowing that I mean, working, going into, being in crisis mode, for this reason, was so much more satisfying and more fulfilling than the crisis mode of the first year of the restaurant, where we also were doing everything we could just to stay open. This felt like, "All right, we're doing everything we can to stay open. We're creating all these different models, but we're also helping. We're also helping people and figuring out and feeding people who can't otherwise pay for food right now. And I'm learning so much and meeting, expanding this community from this was, these were the parts of the city that we were meeting with before the pandemic, and now we're in touch with all these other agencies and council members and nonprofits. And we're really bridging the gap between the folks who feed people who can pay for food, and the folks who feed people who can't pay for food through things like the Office of Sustainability's food access conversations and food policy conversations. And that had never happened before. I mean, these were these two, just totally distinct, circles that are both making food and sending it out to people in Austin, but aren't talking to each other and aren't working together and now they are. And I think seeing that happen made it easier, professionally, to go on every day and also feel like I can't miss anything. I have to pursue every avenue because I don't know if it's going to end up being, if that's going to be the person who's going to be able to get that new contract, that's going to be able to provide another job for four more restaurants. And how much is that going to matter? How much is it going to matter to be able to get more nutritious food to a place that has been just receiving food from, you know, frozen food from a big national catering chain, and how much more is it going to matter to keep that money in our local economy? And not only during the pandemic, but completely, but all the time. How much more does that make the small business community here, sustainable? So there was a tremendous amount to learn. And that part was really exciting. Personally, I think like a lot of people, I got to the point where I needed to, I needed to not be working at, I needed to not wake up at 2:30 in the morning and start sending emails. I needed to drink less. I needed to figure out a way to exercise where it wasn't behind the couch while my kids were watching TV. We all went through that for so long and had to go, just didn't know how long it was going to last. And at some point, I needed to realize that it was not a sprint, that there were some elements of it that still felt like a sprint, but it was also a marathon. And I needed to take care of myself, take care of my family. And that what happened to the business was going to be what happened.

- Well, and what you said at the very start of that last response also, was very much how we thought about our experience at Indeed, which was, we have this mission. We help people get jobs. Soon as the pandemic hit within six weeks, 22 million Americans lost their jobs, and that mission was suddenly more vital than it had ever been, and with all the challenges that we were facing as a business and what all of the individuals were facing in their own homes and with their communities, that purpose, knowing that what we were doing was being useful to others. That certainly carried me and, I think, a whole lot of folks at Indeed through what was a really difficult time. I'd love to start to think a little bit about where we are today and where we're going. So one of the things that we've seen in the industry, and I think some of the numbers that we talked about last week, roughly 5% of people who work in the industry have left and are not, don't seem to be coming back. They've moved on to other areas and anyone who's gone to a restaurant and seen the help wanted signs everywhere knows that things certainly have changed. What are some of the things that the industry has learned from the pandemic and what do you think the future looks like?

- We had an opportunity during the pandemic, and especially after George Floyd's murder and the conversation about racial equity, to reopen as an entire industry that was going to say, "We're going to do better". We are not going to pay 2.13 an hour. We recognize that of all the different totems of racial inequity, here is this thing that is directly from slavery, that we are no longer going to be a part of. And when you come back to work, you are going to be treated like the essential worker that we're saying you are, during the pandemic. And that didn't happen, obviously, in whole, but it did happen for a lot of restaurants. A lot of restaurants, a lot of small business owners did reckon with what that meant, and I've seen the service charge conversation happen in more places. We got to consult with restaurants from around the country about how to change their wage models. How we hire locally, what Good Work Austin has done to try and create relationships with different groups from the school district, to community college, to multicultural refugee coalition, to nonprofits that work with foster youth to try and draw employees from different places than you know, than just posting on Poached and relying on word of mouth. I think that's changed. I think the the way you hire and train and try and create a more diverse workforce is something that a lot of bars and restaurants are much more aware of. You know, I saw the quick fix, the signing bonuses that happened, happened in a lot of industries, and that's not sustainable for the employee. That's not creating a new way of life for them, but it's still really hard. And we congratulated ourselves in Austin, in Texas, for not having as many places close as did in other states, but they are now. We've lost three really important local businesses in the last month, who are just still being beat up by a lot of the post-pandemic problems. Hiring, inflation, all our costs have gone up, And we were in a pretty good place to handle that because we had already done some, made so many of those changes before we reopened, in terms of how we pay people. But it's important, I think, for everybody to know that the reasons that restaurants are closing in 2022, are 2020 reasons. This is all still kind of pandemic and pandemic relief backlash, and we need to be patient. We need to continue to be nimble. We need to continue to help each other figure out ways to deal with this current reality.

- So what are some of the things that can be done to advocate for better work practices throughout the industry?

- The biggest lesson I learned was that it comes back to community, that we are not competing with each other, independent restaurants, locally-owned businesses. We're competing to make Austin better. We want to keep down the cost of living. We want to advocate for more affordability. We want to work together more, you know, to not let the big lobbying associations and the national chains dominate the narrative of the industry, and let folks know what's possible and create more connections with the city, create more connections with each other.

- I know how important community is to you and to L'oCa d'Oro, and that's really, I think, the inspiration for so much of what you do. Can you talk about the role of community helps you think about the future of your restaurant?

- Yeah, I mean, at this point, it really informs how we talk about everything that we do. It has been so inspirational knowing that there are other restaurants that want to listen to us, but it's also been, it's been way more important for me to hear from the food pantries we work with about how much their clients appreciate a cooked meal, that there are different needs. It's way more important for me to have heard from other restaurants about how they pay or provide benefits. And that's a great way to be competitive. When I find out that somebody is providing parental leave and we don't. And I'm like, "Dammit, we got to figure out a way to get parental leave". Retirement funds, things that other restaurants are doing. And it also helps us message. If we're all saying the same things about how and why we pay our employees the way we do, and now there's probably two dozen restaurants in Austin that include service charges, which is, I think, the most of any 2.13 city in the country. I know that there are people who are going to a coffee shop and hearing some of the same rhetoric. And so it's so much easier for us now, and that makes a huge difference to not have to be the ones who are always explaining why we have to charge what we charge, because we've had to do that, restaurants that were sourcing well, had to do that for decades, to say, "I'm sorry that you have to pay this much for salmon here, and so much less over there, but this is why." As opposed to the onus, being on the folks who are getting the shrimp frozen and flown in from halfway around the world, that was unsustainable farmed in the first place. You know, they should be the ones who are explaining why it costs so little. And of course, because of the way we subsidize agriculture in this country, and a number of other reasons, that's not the case. And kind of back to answering the other question, that's a really important part of community and advocating as well, being able to have a louder voice. And, it was really nice. That's one small part of the Inflation Reduction Act was Texas got tens of millions of dollars for food, for institutions to buy food from local farms. And that's something that Good Work Austin and one of our nonprofit partners, El Buen Samaritano, are hoping to access, to be able to provide their clients with food from our restaurants that is purchased from local farms, and to be able to have a small subsidy to be able to afford that and be able to provide it for less money. That's, yeah. So, in a nutshell, that last relationship between us, between L'Oca d'Oro and all the restaurants and El Buen Samaritano, and Good Work Austin, and being able to advocate for policies that support that local food chain is why community matters.

- Well, we're at the end of our time here, and we always close with the same question, which is given everything that we've been through now, since the start of the pandemic with all of its challenges, what, if anything, has left you with some optimism for the future?

- A couple things. The bar has been raised for sure. I think that people expect, I think that owners of restaurants, restaurant owners expect more of themselves and their colleagues, and aren't afraid to, I don't want to say call each other out, but bring each other in to say, "We want to help you do better". And that's happened, I know that that's happened in a number, in a bunch of cities across the country. I was just in DC and there were more restaurants that had service charges than didn't. And four years ago in DC, they went to the mat to try and defeat a One Fair Wage proposal. So there's been a huge change there, and Good Work Austin, the amount that we've grown, what we were able to do during, the amount of meals we were able to provide during the storm, and that's become a real part of our mission. And that we're opening a cafe, the first nonprofit cafe in Central Texas, to help with workforce training, which I know is something that is very near and dear to you. And also to help with food access. And we've gotten to visit other nonprofit cafes around the country who are doing this work, in Dallas, in Fort Worth, in New Orleans and Seattle and Cleveland and New York. There are a number of them. They're doing amazing stuff for their employees. They're providing great meals. They all have slightly different models, but the things that you hear from the employees who were saved from otherwise rough employment futures is amazing. And that we will be able to use food and restaurants to create that change for real people in our city. That makes me optimistic.

- So before we close out, I just want to clarify for folks, L'Oca d'Oro, L, apostrophe, O-C-A, D, apostrophe, O-R-A., and also If there's any other places that people should go to find out more about the amazing work you're doing, please let us know.

- No, those are the places. Yeah, the cafe will likely be open in the beginning of next year. So if you are in Austin or traveling to Austin, please come by and see what kind of stuff, see what we're doing. The food's going to be great.

- Yeah, and I just want to close by saying, we didn't get to talk too much about the tagliatelle, 'cause we're talking about tipping and benefits and all of those things. I said upfront, L'Oca d'Oro is my favorite restaurant in Austin. All of these reasons are part of it, but it really is about the food. And my theory, and I've talked to Adam about this before, I think when you have a place where the people who work there are treated well, they just do better things. And obviously, you know, Fiore, I think, is a genius. But the whole place, when you go in there, you get a sense of community that is very different than walking into other places, and the food and the service and everything is absolutely extraordinary. For anyone listening who hasn't been there, go on OpenTable, make a reservation. There's some amazing stuff coming up in September, the Feast of San Genarro and other things, all of the amazing things that you all do to make it such an incredible and vibrant place. So thank you, Adam, for joining me today, but thank you for everything that you do to keep Austin well-fed, and to raise these incredibly important issues about what it means to try to take some of these incredibly deeply-ingrained problems that we have in our industry, and to paint a picture of a brighter future. So thank you for all of that.

- Thank you. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about it. I really appreciate it.