Madison restaurants received a reality check Tuesday after a dining guide for the city ranked 139 local restaurants based on how they treat their employees. 

The dining guide rates restaurants by awarding up to seven stars in areas like wages for tipped and non-tipped employees, health care benefits, paid days off, sick days and the presence of a retirement account, according to Rabbi Renee Bauer, director of the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice of South Central Wisconsin.

Bauer said the guide was created in a collaborative effort by the center. She said the reasoning behind rating restaurants in the chosen categories was to provide more clearly defined, objective data.

“We wanted to ask questions that people could provide a yes or no answer to, rather than an opinion,” Bauer said.

She said many previous guides that looked at dining in Madison focused on subjective matter, such as cleanliness or the taste of the food at each restaurant.

“A guide that talks about how restaurants treat their employees has never been done,” Bauer said. “We’re trying to put a face to each restaurant.”

Greg Frank, a managing partner at Food Fight, a restaurant group that owns restaurants in the central Madison area that range from fast food to fine dining, participated in the dining guide rating system.

Ian’s Pizza, Ancora Coffee, The Plaza Tavern, Rathskeller and the Dayton Street Grille were among the restaurants that received a five star or better rating. Each of these are Food Fight restaurants or operated by the University of Wisconsin.

“We’ve always felt that it’s important to do what we can to treat people very well,” Frank said.

Frank said when the Workers’ Rights Center and Interfaith Coalition was creating the guide, they asked individual employees a series of objective questions, which were later followed up with verification by restaurant owners and managers.

Bauer said the guide would not only help job seekers find the most attractive employment option for their priorities, but also raise awareness about the quality of employee treatment at restaurants in Madison.

The guide also allows restaurant employees to see how other employees in the area are being treated in regard to benefits and wages earned, Bauer said.

She said they could then ask why or why not they may be receiving a specific type of service, adding that is why the criteria each restaurant was rated on was important.

Frank said Food Fight restaurants provide opportunities to their employees to move up within the establishment. He said they also offer health benefits to employees that work as few as 25 hours in comparison to many establishments that require 35 hours.

The vast majority of Madison area restaurants, Frank said, even those that chose not to participate in the rating guide, treat their employees well. He said Madison restaurant establishments are unique to those in other cities, as they are more in tune with their employees and customers’ needs.

Bauer said the guide could help customers decide where they would like to eat based off different set of information than traditional guides.

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