COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Owners at Pierogi Mountain now pay their employees $15 per hour after deciding that it’s time to take a stand for a restaurant worker’s living wage.
Co-owners Matthew Majesky and Charlie Greene said they’ve worked in other kitchens and know what it’s like to work hard and barely make ends meet.
The change affects their untipped workers the most, says Majesky. “We are coming to a point where we were bringing on more and more people who would be working strictly back of the house, doing prep work, and they’d never be seeing any tips. It’s time for everybody to be able to make a wage they could live on.”
Back of the house — the people who cut, cook, and wash up — work hard and aren’t seen. At Pierogi Mountain, they hand-make pierogis from a recipe created by Majesky’s Polish great-grandmother.
“We don’t know if a lot of people appreciate how hard this work is,” Majesky said. “We’ve always wanted to pay [staff] whatever we could without tanking the business at the same time.”
Pierogi Mountain went through the same closures and restrictions that other businesses suffered during the COVD-19 pandemic. Owners Majesky and Greene vowed that when they came out on the other side, they’d raise wages, which had been between $11 to $14 per hour.
With the new wage, the tipped workers don’t get the $15 base pay that the back of the house staff receives, but with tips, waitstaff leave with at least $15 per hour each shift. “I’d like to stress that our tipped workers don’t make cut-rate server wages. We even start those people at $12 these days. And if someone has a bad night, we make up the difference to get them to that level.”
Last year was tough. But Majesky and Greene thought hard about changes to make when business picked up.
“We were kind of in survival mode for the last year,” Majesky said. “We’re finally at a time where we are starting to come out of that, and we looked at each other and thought, ‘what do we want to do?’ The first thing that came up was that no employee ever walks out of here having made less than $15 per hour. Even that we don’t consider to be enough, but it’s a good starting line for us.”
They made another shift at the same time — a switch to sustainable packaging. “[It] became important to us after so many years of churning out mountains of Styrofoam,” Majesky said. “It was always something that we wanted to do, but it was always getting kicked down the road.”
The price per pierogi has gone up with the changes, but if comments on Pierogi Mountain’s social media announcement are anything to go by, customers are happy to pay the difference.
And finally — with the new $15 per hour commitment, Greene said they’ve had no problems hiring kitchen staff, despite a city-wide trend of restaurant workers continuing to stay home.