August 16th, 2017
A More Perfect Pizza Union: Fair Wages for All
Have you ever seen a delivery biker in the dark of night, riding quickly on a diagonal Chicago street, in a red cape, hauling two 20-inch pizzas on their front rack? Don’t fret; you’re eyes have not fooled you! More likely than not, you’ve seen the legend of our delivery bikers. Rain, shine, sleet, snow: they’re always slinging hot ‘Za to your door. (The capes are really only reserved for Halloween, to be honest).
Since our inception, bicycle advocacy has always been one of our most championed purposeful passions. We strongly believe the proliferation of biking as a form of transportation will make the earth a cleaner, healthier, and safer place. This is why in the year 2014, we fully transitioned to bicycle delivery.
And since then, we’ve become supermen (and superwomen) on bikes! For a period in 2015 and 2016, we really hit our stride, having found a great group of riders who were adept at delivering orders quickly while providing stellar customer service.
However, one issue that kept coming back up until it bit us on our side was that we did not pay our riders the same as everybody else.
This is not a divide we sought to create; it was an unintended side-effect of compensating tipped-workers and non-tipped workers differently. It is a divide that many restuarants face. We thought, however, that our delivery riders would make enough in tips to make the same as their front-of-house counterparts, if not more. We always paid our riders well above the tipped minimum wage and thought we were striking a fair deal.
However, as recruiting and retainment became increasingly difficult for both of our stores’ delivery teams, we listened to our delivery riders. They were disgruntled; they felt like they did the same amount of work as everybody else in the store, except that they were paid less. In addition to this, they incurred costs in the way of bike maintenance that no other employee did, and they were not compensated for this.
So we decided to investigate. In the summer of 2016, our Wicker Park store conducted an experiment and found that there was, on average, a two dollar disparity between delivery riders and the rest of our store. Championing unity and justice for our employees and customers is baked into our mission statement, and thus, we made some changes right away. We increased rider wages to account for bike maintenance; essentially, each rider would get a stipend for bike costs for each hour that they worked.
But the challenge of creating a fair wage structure was not an easy one. We would hypothesize solutions only to realize they were not feasible.
We would get frustrated, momentarily give up, and push this topic to the back-burner.
For much of 2017, both stores were perpetually understaffed for delivery, and focusing on our wage structure seemed frivolous when we couldn’t even recruit and retain our riders.
For our Wrigleyville location, recruitment and retainment became such an issue that they were finally forced to confront this issue head on. They also saw their best delivery riders burning out, and didn’t want to risk them leaving.
Finally at one meeting, they did not leave until there was a solution, and with a strict action plan for how this solution would be carried out. They decided to bump up all riders’ wages to $11 an hour, which is what they paid their new BOH and FOH team members.
Dimo’s Owner, Dimitri Syrkin Nikolau, initiated this change by following the Decision Making Process, gathering everyone’s input through email, and giving everyone a week to respond, since this was such a key decision.
The most compelling argument for finally getting us to make this change? Our transition to Teal, an organizational structure that seeks to eliminate hierarchies, and cultivate a team mentality. Thus, while we think this will help our Wrigleyville store retain and recruit more riders, it will also help all of our team members, regardless of department, work together and ensure that all operations run smoothly. And we also think that it will help you the customer, in getting a top-notch product delivered by motivated delivery riders.
Now, why just our Wrigleyville location? Because Teal is a grand experiment, and while our stores work together, they can also make their own decisions. Wicker Park is trying to structurally overhaul their delivery services, and this will potentially include a wage change, but they don’t know how yet.
These changes don’t happen overnight.
But at Dimo’s, everyone is empowered to seek these changes out. If we see something, we say something.
We are always seeking to better ourselves, and create a fairer and happier work environment. With happier employees, we hope to have happier customers too.
We’re not perfect, and we know that. But we will work methodically, one decision at a time, in order to form a more perfect pizza union.