Hospo Voice

Ethical cafes: Put your money where your morals are

April 6, 2021

The amazing crew at Wild Life Bakery – Fair Plate Certified venue

how to find the best and avoid the rest

We all know of those trending “ethical” cafes, the ones promoted in Broadsheet and Urban List, with the best organic coffee in Melbourne, Sydney or Perth.” Or the caffeine dealers that everyone name drops, claiming the ambience was cool with a decent cold brew. Usually these cafes tout a minimalist/industrial style, atmospheric mixes ooze from the speakers and with ‘good vibes’ printed somewhere beside their manifesto. “Fair trade coffee, free range eggs, plant based meals and locally-sourced organic produce.”

These are the choices businesses make in order to demonstrate their ethics. But what about when it comes to paying their staff correctly and treating them with respect?

Truly socially responsible hospitality venues that are actually principled deserve our support. They’re improving our industry while being forced to compete with wage thieves in faux sheep-skin clothing. So how can we tell the genuinely decent employers from the disingenuous?

We had a browse through Fair Plate to see what issues workers have flagged at the most popular pitstops.


Wage theft is not a new issue in hospo. Despite tough, new wage theft laws in Victoria and Queensland, some employers are yet to abandon their exploitative business model.

Here’s a small sample of worker reviews about pay in so-called ethical cafes:

“Owners underpay staff, and there is no one rate for each person”

“Staff are always being overworked and unfortunately underpaid.”

“Underpaid staff. Management refused to negotiate when it was flagged that they were paying below award-wages”

“We all got paid $18-$20/hour NO PENALTY RATES. If you complained about pay, you’re told ‘you don’t have to stay here’”

Thank god we have Fair Plate so we can get the inside info and avoid places like these!

But don’t worry, there are still plenty of options for places to get a silky smooth flat white with a tasty treat. Check out these amazing employers recommended by the people who know best – their employees!

“Super communicative boss/owner/manager, pays the award rate and superannuation. Has employee’s best interests at heart, it is a fair and well-balanced workplace.”Wild Life Bakery

“Lovely cafe run by good honest people, who appreciate their staff and pay correct rates.” Finders Keepers

“Great employers”All Are Welcome

Work environment

Workplace bullying and harassment make all the perks of working in hospo redundant. Aggressive and abusive behaviour is unacceptable. It’s so disappointing when we discover venues that tout the virtues of sustainability and social responsibility are horrible to the people who work for them.

Here’s what some workers say about hostile workplaces in the hospo industry:

“The most toxic and manipulative bosses I have ever been employed by. They love to hug but refuse to pay minimum wage.

“The design and products are sleek and trendy and it seems like they may themselves look so good just to hide how badly they treat their staff.”

“Really toxic work environment under the disguise of trendy cafe culture.”

^ Us while reading these comments ^

On the other hand – R.E.S.P.E.C.T – these legends know what it means to us!

“Worked here for a while, above award pay, pay you for a break, supportive and caring atmosphere, rare to come by nowadays in hospo!!”

“Honestly the best hospo job I’ve ever worked – great environment, excellent pay, the boss always listens to her staff and takes action when customers cross the line.”

“Supportive management that encourages you to learn as you go. Came in with little experience and learnt bucket loads. Bosses are understanding and flexible with days off.”

Next Steps

Some of us have no qualms about telling our customers that the public holiday surcharge doesn’t go towards paying penalty rates, but it’s not possible for everyone. Fair Plate gives power to workers who can’t air grievances publicly but want to change our industry for the better.

Australia’s cafe culture needs a shake up, and we’re not talking about more wellness centres, and fam vibezzzzz. We’re talking about real, long-lasting change, truly progressive change that puts workers front and centre. That starts with listening to what’s really going on from the people who really know.

Speaking out is hard and scary. And yet thousands of workers have bravely done just that at FairPlate.org.au. We must listen to what they’re telling us.

Want to know how you can support legit venues?

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