"when vimala cooks, come eat!"
OCLW recently sat down with Curryblossom Café’s Vimala Rajendran to talk about living wages and the food industry. Vimala is a busy lady, but between helping her staff at lunch and taking a catering order, Vimala gave OCLW some great takeaways on restaurants, wages, and work.
Why does Curryblossom Café pay a living wage? We pay a living wage so living conditions for workers will be decent, the economy in the county can be enriched, and life can be true to American standards. The idea of America is not to just scrape by on minimum wages.
Why don’t more restaurants pay a living wage? Because it is a profit-oriented culture. Look at the cost of food. Some restaurants go into it knowing that food costs can be tripled when pricing for the consumer. And the restaurant industry has been lobbying for a long time to keep the industry at low wages. So working in restaurants became a transient occupation. Food service should be a career-oriented position, where people have a career ladder and they are making incrementally higher wages. The minimum wage is insulting to humanity. It is not enough to live on.
As a restaurant owner, you’re candid about the challenges of paying living wages, with a substantial payroll to meet each month. For what we make we are spending everything back on the staff. We offer dental care and eye care. We trade our food so our staff can access culture and arts opportunities in town. We haven’t raised some prices in years. We don’t have table service, so we can’t go past $17 or $18 a plate. Sometimes we have to shave off a few hours from the schedule and payroll. But this is a livelihood for people. Living wages have to be looked at from a whole point of view – is it earning them a livelihood, and how much are staff working in total?
What can the community do to support you? When Vimala cooks, come eat. Also we need more people to get their catering from us. I customize our menu for any event, through conversation with the client. Follow our events and music, and let us know what you want to see us do. We break bread together as a community. We are here for the community, and because of our community.
How much do you feel the impact of the large dining services on UNC’s campus? There is enough business for everyone. And, there is no one else like us. We are extremely unique, with deep roots in the community.
OCLW could not agree more. For years, our area has enjoyed Vimala’s award-winning food, served with a strong sense of justice. How do we ensure Curryblossom Café continues? By eating there often and by calling Vimala first for all your catering needs. See her website below for menus, catering, blogs, and events.
As you’re customizing your catering order or eating at the Café, thank Vimala for her commitment to community — and for paying living wages.