As he wrapped up a brunch shift at the Australian Cafe Two Hands in the Little Italy section of Manhattan, Christopher Mortenson saw his phone light up. All afternoon, ABC Cocina, an upscale Latin American restaurant in the Flatiron district, needed a line cook. He had an hour to get there.
When the shift ended, Mr. Mortenson started sprinting uptown. On his way to the restaurant, he ducked into a supply store to pick up a white chef's jacket, which he threw over his T-shirt. He arrived at ABC Cocina just before 5 and spent the evening charring peppers with a blowtorch and stuffing pork into pillowy tortillas.
“I have to turn the notifications off at night – I keep sleeping,” said Mr. Mortenson, 51, who has worked full time at restaurants in Las Vegas, San Francisco and Austin, Tex. “They send me so many jobs I don't even look at my app right now without 10 jobs being on there.”
Gig workers are nothing new in the restaurant world. Every day, contractors on bikes and scooters deliver food for Uber Eats and DoorDash. But in a growing number of kitchens, contract workers now make the food, too.
With the restaurant industry facing its worst labor shortage in decades, Pared and a rival app, Instawork are
As the apps become more established, some workers are exchanging filling a growing void, as managers who have a scratch view of recruiting permanent employees turn to on-demand services for workers trained as dishwashers, servers, line cooks and even oyster shuckers. the stability of traditional hospitality jobs for the flexibility of temporary employment. Others are using the apps to make a quick buck on the side. The development has raised concerns among some labor advocates, who argue that the same pay and equity problems that have emerged in other parts of the gig economy, such as ride-hailing and delivery, could come to the restaurant kitchen.
“The workers don't have access to a union. They often have access to collective bargaining, ”said Ifeoma Ajunwa, a labor and employment law expert at Cornell University. “They are basically powerless to whatever platform decides the rules.”
Founded in San Francisco in 2015, Pared has more than 100,000 people signed up to its platform, along with several thousand restaurants in the Bay Area and New York. The company said it plans to expand to Washington, Boston and Philadelphia in the coming months.
Instawork, also founded in San Francisco, operating in 11 markets. A little under half a million people have signed up with Instawork. Pared has raised $ 13 million in venture capital, while Instawork has raised $ 28 million.
“The times are changing,” said Will Pacio, co-founder of Pared. “Businesses need to evolve with the culture of the workforce.”
Restaurants pay the apps for a worker’s completed shift. The apps then deduct a portion of that fee for themselves and give the worker the rest. Neither service would reveal revenue figures or its valuation.
Hourly wages vary based on a range of factors, including the location of a gig (a high-end restaurant in the Hamptons would pay more than mom-and-pop eatery in Queens ) and when
In 2018, Pared's gig workers made an average of $ 19.66 an hour the company said ]. Instawork contractors earn an average of $ 22.77 an hour in the Bay Area and $ 19.37 in greater Los Angeles, according to Sumir Meghani, one of the company's founders.
"We try our best not to talk about money in front of other employees that are employed full time at the restaurant," said Zia Sheikh, a New York chef who picks up gigs through Pared. "You don't want to go up for a $ 17 an hour cook line and say, 'Hey, I'm here doing a shift for $ 25. ' That's not good for them."
One frequent Pared customer is Jean-Georges Management, an upscale restaurant group based in New York that includes ABC Cocina. On July 4, more than 600 people gathered for a waterfront dinner party at the company's new seafood location, the Fulton, where guests dined on sashimi, caviar, and fish and chips.
"Hundreds and hundreds of pounds of fish were butchered that day," said Gregory Brainin, director of culinary development at Jean-Georges Management.
Brainin had realized he didn't have enough cookies to prepare all that fish.
"I told him, 'I need eight guys for the Fourth of July, and these are the levels I need, and these are the specialists I need,'" Mr. Brainin said. “And he got it done.”
Although Pared and Instawork feel akin to Uber and Lyft ride-hailing services, or a platform like Wonolo, used by gig workers in various industries like retailing, manufacturing and hospitality, Mr. Lu likens it to LinkedIn's social platform.
"As they work on our platform, they gain skills and experience," he said. “They get exposed to better and nicer and nicer restaurants, different environments and different cuisines.”
For chefs hoping to advance their careers, however, short stints through Instawork and Pared may not provide the kind of sustained experience they will need. .
“I worry about the employability and accumulation of skills over time,” said Mr. Brainin, the Jean-Georges director. “The person that temps for two years as their job – I know how hirable that person becomes when they want to buckle down and get serious.”
Career development is not the only issue. Like Uber drivers, workers who use the hospitality apps are classified as independent contractors rather than employees, meaning not entitled to benefits like health care, paid time off or unemployment insurance. Gig workers can buy occupational accident insurance through Pared and Instawork in exchange for a small slice of their wages.
"These apps are attractive in that they present a quick fix to finding work and finding labor," said Ms. Ajunwa, Cornell University law professor. “But they're also dangerous in that they can doom workers who use them for a lifetime of precarious work.”
Still, with unemployment low and restaurants scraping, the apps seem poised to grow, potentially exacerbating the shortage of full- time employees. A recent report by research firm TDn2K found that 93 percent of restaurant chains said their kitchens were often understaffed. Across the country, restaurants have tried a variety of strategies to recruit new employees, including quarterly bonuses and partnerships with AARP.
"Not only is turnover high," said Victor Fernandez, an industry analyst at TDn2K, "but employees are quickly deciding that there are better options somewhere else and taking those options. ”
Among them is Mr. Mortenson, who said he couldn't imagine going back to a full-time restaurant job. “Continuing to make more money than I have ever made in this industry,” he said. "This is crazy." .
"It doesn't make me a better cook," he said. “But it seems amazing to go into a new restaurant every day.”