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Welcome!

Where’s My Food?! is a new documentary film that serves up the surprising truth about waiters and waitresses. Improving the restaurant industry, like a good tip, begins with customer awareness.

Meet Jack

Jack is a school teacher with a degree in history, but Jack's other job -- waiting tables in fine dining restaurants -- generates more income than his teaching.

Meet Chuck

Chuck has worked as waiter at Macaroni Grill, BJ's Restaurant and Applebee's, but he's struggled to settle down, and currently lives out of his car on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.

Meet Mariel, Natalie

Mariel and Natalie's first memories were watching their waitress mother work, but they also saw their parents struggle with alcoholism. Both twins chose to avoid substance abuse as they grew up, focusing instead on building stable restaurant careers with a “no time to party, gotta work hard” attitude.

Meet the Public

Dozens of frequent restaurant customers agreed to be interviewed, and we asked for their beliefs and assumptions about food servers and tipping. What we heard was often surprising, sometimes heartwarming, and occasionally shocking.

Meet the Professor

Professor Michael Lynn, Ph.D., of Cornell University is an expert in the consumer psychology and socio-economic impacts of tipping. Professor Lynn points out that, from an economic perspective, tipping is irrational, because it doesn't impact the quality of the service that you just received. From a psychological perspective, a key reason people tip, he says, is to avoid disapproval from the server.

Meet Mark

Mark, who works at a popular restaurant near Disneyland, learned he was HIV positive 3 years ago. He relies on an clinical trial program to provide his daily antiretroviral drugs, but those free medications will stop when the trial ends.

Meet Lolita

Lolita has been waitressing since she was 18. "I love what I do," she says. Married at age 15, Lolita, now a single mother, began serving food to support her children.

Meet Paul

Paul is a self-described "lifer" who's been a waiter for 34 years. He also teaches about food service. Paul lacks the financial ability to stop working and retire, but he doesn't really want to. "The morning I don't wake up," he says, "I'm retired."

Meet the Chef

Chef Michael Shafer is the owner and executive chef of two Los Angeles area restaurants. Regarding the dozens of workers he employs, Chef Shafer says, "If you can thrive on the chaotic structure, then you're meant for the restaurant industry. If you can't, what happens is drug addiction, alcoholism, it ruins your family, it ruins relationships because of the hours, and it will ruin you physically." He adds with a smile, "The industry breeds a lot of strange characters."

Meet William

William is a heavyweight champion mixed martial arts (MMA) cage fighter. He's also a waiter at BJ's Restaurant, where he struggles to make enough money to pay his monthly rent.

Meet Julie

Julie has worked at the same diner for over 20 years. Her income is low, and she hasn't taken a vacation since 1996, yet the brightest spot each day is when she puts on her apron and greets her regular customers with a hug.

Meet the Activist

Saru Jayaraman, Director of Food Labor Research at University of California, Berkeley, is a lawyer and activist who speaks for the millions of restaurant workers who struggle with poverty-level wages, discrimination and working while sick. Her new book “Behind the Kitchen Door” explains how customers and coworkers suffer too, and how customers can help by patronizing restaurants committed to fair and healthy working conditions.

Meet the Director

Lee Godden launched Telsius Productions in 2002. His television program Good Business, which featured hard-hitting interviews with CEOs who claimed to lead ethically profitable organizations, won an Elby Award and was endorsed by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, the Sierra Club and the KLD/Domini 400 Social Index. Lee has also worked with the producers of the PBS TV program Ethical Markets.

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Serving Up the Surprising Truth About Waiters and Waitresses
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Serving Up the Surprising Truth About Waiters and Waitresses

Where’s My Food?! is a new documentary that serves up the surprising truth about waiters and waitresses.

One-in-ten Americans currently work in food service. We spend half of our food dollars ($660 billion per year) in restaurants. Fifty years ago we spent only 20% of our food budget eating out. That kind of revenue empowered the National Restaurant Association (a.k.a. "the other NRA") to successfully lobby Congress in 1996 to keep the federal minimum wage for tipped workers at $2.13/hour. It's been that low ever since.

Viewers of Where’s My Food?! are introduced to nine food servers who represent a diverse mix of ages, backgrounds and incomes. The film highlights their often-hidden struggles with the NRA, poverty-level wages, discrimination, substance addictions, and serious health issues that impact coworkers and customers. 

Frequent restaurant customers candidly admit how they sometimes “punish” servers by leaving very low tips. However these same customers show little awareness of how waiters and waitresses actually earn their living. Where’s My Food?! takes viewers behind the scenes into the "back of the house," where chefs and cooks rule.

Academic and industry experts explain how tipping works from psychological and socioeconomic perspectives, how one executive chef runs his restaurants with an iron fist and a soft heart, and how consumers can drive positive change through awareness and political action.

The producers of Where’s My Food?! invite you discover more about this documentary. Join this important discussion on our Facebook page.   

 

 

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