Josh Garcia is opening an olive oil company, speciality food store, and wine bar in Salt Lake City, Utah, and he hopes to keep at his forefront a lesson his late grandfather taught him: “You have to take care of people.” It is a lesson that Josh learned firsthand after working in a restaurant in which two long-time prep cooks hadn’t received a raise in ten years.
“They (the prep cooks) had been very loyal to the company, but were still making only ten dollars an hour. My general manager and I tried to get them up to twelve dollars and hour, but when we submitted the raise request, it was immediately denied because there was a cap that you could make in certain positions and if they were to get that big of a raise, they would reach the cap.”
Fortunately, Josh and his general manager were in the end allowed to provide a one dollar per hour raise to each of the employees. It may seem insignificant and Josh says that the employees deserved “much more,” but the raise was important for the employees daily grinds, both of them having families who relied on their income and both who were already working two jobs. “She (one of the employees) basically went into tears when we told her about this raise because it meant a huge difference for her and her family.”
At his new businesses, Josh hopes to provide benefits for all of his employees, but says he won’t be able to after he first opens because of financial constraints.
“Because we are a new business we can’t offer much in the way of benefits, but that is something that we want to work toward. Our long term goal is to offer employees whatever kind of benefits we can get them whether that is insurance, paid time off, retirement. It’s extremely important because I have seen the negative part of not just the restaurant industry but how workers within the food industry (in general) are mistreated.”
Josh himself once needed benefits while working as a line cook in New York City. It was his first job after culinary school and one day during a busy lunch shift he splashed hot oil on his hand and forearm, receiving second and third degree burns that sent him to the hospital and took him out of work for three weeks. Josh was able to keep up with his bills and pay his rent, even though he wasn’t paid during these three weeks off, because he has a supportive family who were able to help him financially. Other co-workers, he says, aren’t so lucky.
“I’ve seen other workers (come in with) broken bones, cuts, burns. They shouldn’t be working, but to them it’s like, ‘I can’t miss work, because if I do, I’m behind. I’m behind my mortgage, I’m behind my car payments, I’m behind my rent.’ They work when they shouldn’t be working.”
Josh thinks it has to do with economic constraints businesses face in a market-driven world. “We live in an era where it is all about short term thinking instead of long term thinking,” he says. “Unfortunately that type of thinking will catch up to us and we’ll have to address those (short term) issues. It would be smart to address them now, not when it is too late and we are trying to play catch up.”
Despite the challenges he will face, there is a sense of excitement in Josh. He believes he will overcome these industry holes through hard work.
“I’m optimistic when I look at my generation, individuals I work with at school all the time, that believe in a better world, that ultimately we can go down a better path.”
This piece was filmed in 2016.