Tell us a bit about your business, when did you start trading?
We are a street food and event catering business that started trading in 2013 – I operate from a vintage food van, serving Italian street food and prosecco. We’re at a fair at the moment but we do festivals, fairs, weddings, private parties and popup restaurant events.
What was it that inspired you to set up your business?
I’m a lawyer by profession, I’d been trying to get out of law and into food for a little while and I thought the best way to do that was by trying the street food van.
I grew up in Sydney but my family background is Italian, my grandparents on both sides of my family migrated from Italy to Australia in the early 50s after the war and so the food we offer is the same food I’ve grew up with and it’s part of my family history.
The prosecco side of it is something that’s easy for people to understand and enjoy, so yeah we’ve been quite successful so far. In the end it all came together. I’m now on the verge of looking for a site to open up my first restaurant.
How did you hear about the Brighton & Hove Living Wage Campaign and why did you join?
I know people in the Chamber of Commerce and I first saw the campaign being run through them. I come from a profession that is paid well and I just don’t think that the minimum wage is enough for people to survive on.
I think the living wage is important to keep staff happy so they enjoy the job that they do and the life that they have day in, day out. I see it as a component in maintaining a business that’s both ethical and healthy.
Have you always paid your staff the living wage?
I always paid above the minimum wage and I was probably doing it before I realised there was a campaign for the living wage. I’ve never said “Yeah, ok I’ll just pay people the minimum wage.” It’s always been more than that.
How has paying your staff the living wage had a positive impact on your staff? Have you received any feedback from them?
It makes a difference to staff motivation and I think that within the industry that I’m in, the service industry, you want staff that are happy while they’re doing the job as this carries through to the customers they’re serving. In that sense it pays me back to pay people the living wage.
My main feedback comes when I’m engaging new staff and I tell them what I’ll pay them for a wage, they’re then quite happy to come out and do the work. It’s a positive reason for them to come and work for me and it’s certainly been beneficial for the business.
What would you say to other businesses thinking of joining the campaign?
Each business has to make their own decision. All I could really say is that the positive benefits for staff feed back into the business itself so the benefits definitely outweigh the cost.
Some businesses argue that they would need to make staff redundant in order to afford to pay the living wage. What’s your opinion on this?
I can only assume that this could apply to a much larger organisation. I run a small business; I don’t have full time employees because the nature of the business is that we cover events so I’m not trading every week. We’re talking about a pool of between eight and ten part time staff that I draw on. If you run the margins correctly and you look after the business there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be enough left to pay people the living wage.
I don’t see why the hospitality sector should be proud of being known as a sector that only pays the minimum wage. It doesn’t make any sense to me. We’re a sector that provides a service, and happy staff is key to providing a good service. Satisfied customers will return and their positive impression helps to promote your business. The increase [of paying the living wage rather than the minimum wage] is not so substantial that it would make much of a difference to employers.
Thanks to Edward Lowton for the interview. To contact Edward, email email@example.com or call 07835452133.