In this Feb. 24, 2021, file photo, a server balances an order while coming out of the kitchen at a Portland restaurant. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Six Portland-area restaurants have committed to providing higher wages and safer working conditions for employees and improving diversity as a national labor shortage forces hospitality businesses to find ways to attract workers.

The move is part of a national campaign by restaurants, which have lost more workers during the pandemic than most industries, to persuade workers to come back to the kitchen with a promise of fairness, the Portland Press Herald reported.

Among the joints that joined RAISE: High Road Restaurants, a national association of restaurant owners, for a hiring event Thursday were Portland eateries Ruby’s West End, Bao Bao Dumpling House, Central Provisions, Chaval and Portland Hunt and Alpine Club. Magnus on Water in Biddeford also joined the effort.

“The age of looking at kitchen work and service work as ‘less than’ is over,” Corrinna Stum, owner of Ruby’s, told the Press Herald. “It is good, steady work. You can make a living at it. It is a trade.”

The biggest change being pushed for is the end of the state’s subminimum wage for tipped workers, which allows employers to pay them half the minimum wage — or about $6 — as long as tips make up the difference.

To attract new workers, the six restaurants are committing to paying workers the state’s minimum wage of $12.15 an hour, plus tips, while providing health care, improved working conditions and paid sick leave, the newspaper reported.

A recent national survey of food service workers showed that of 2,800 respondents, more than half had considered leaving their jobs. Of those workers, 76 percent cited low wages and tips as the driving factor.

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Matt Berg

Matt is a senior at UMass Amherst, studying journalism and history. Before joining the Bangor Daily News, he was the managing editor of his student newspaper and interned at the Boston Globe.