Here we will cover whether or not restaurants allow people to wash dishes as compensation if they cannot pay for their food. This is a well spread out myth that is told, or that people hear growing up and eventually subconsciously believe. It is the different methods of how restaurants except payments after their food has been eaten (accepting payments after their guests have eaten) that has partially inspired such things.
It is usually the general population being indoctrinated by other sources that a low-end job is always a restaurant job, that further keeps this belief going. Some restaurants are high-end jobs. Regardless, it would be wise to look at what restaurants really do if an individual can’t pay, if that individual were to decide to try to ask if they can wash a few dishes after they have just eaten a full meal for free, after receiving the bill that they can’t pay for.
So, can restaurants make someone wash dishes if they can’t pay?
No. Restaurants cannot make or have their customers wash dishes or perform any kind of work for them if they cannot pay, unless they are on their payroll and on the clock. It is illegal to have anyone else working for the restaurant, besides the employees, by law.
Act (FLSA), yes, it is illegal for most employees to work off the clock. There are laws in place to protect hourly workers from being exploited and expected to work without pay.https://www.forthepeople.com/workers-compensation-lawyers/is-it-illegal-to-work-on-the-clock/
This is coming directly from expert lawyers that know the law well. As it says, these laws are made for the protection of the employees working at any job, not just restaurants. Since the laws are the way they are, it means that they are also for the protection of individuals that might be placed in situations where a business might try to get a person, that isn’t actually working for them, to perform jobs for them for free without paying them.
In fact, restaurants will actually abruptly stop their guests from working in their restaurant, if they happen to be doing so. Real examples of this happening has been guests that have tried to mop up their own spilled drinks, clean their own table when the restaurant is too busy, and those who offer to help restaurants with small work whenever the restaurant is slammed and shorthanded. They will stop them kindly and then send one of their employees to finish the job.
Many restaurants (the managers) are also constantly telling their employees that they need to make sure they are clocked in when they work. It isn’t just so that an employee is ensured that they get payed for that shift, it is the law.
Though employees and some guests that offer extra help and perform tasks for the restaraunt when they are not on the clock, they cannot do these things without the restaurant possibly getting into some kind of trouble.
Someone that doesn’t have the money to pay a restaurant may think that they can use the “I will wash dishes for you for a meal,” to earn their food, but the restaurant just simply can’t do that. The only way that this would happen is if the restaurant were to immediately hire the individual that wants to wash dishes for the free food that they want. This does and has happened before, as restaurants in general are always in need of extra bodies.
However, if an individual is hired on the spot and immediately begins working for the restaurant in this situation, they will not only have to be compensated with the free food that they want, but also with wages. They are now a paid employee. The restaurant doesn’t have to give their employees free food for their work, but they do have to pay them.
There are also other reasons…
Furthermore, restaurants will also refuse to allow anyone that isn’t an employee to be behind their counter, in the kitchen or any other area (including the dish pit). This is because restaurants have to be careful of who is in these areas, as they may be liable for what happens to them if they aren’t wearing the proper uniform or gear.
Another answer that we saw to this question elsewhere stated that restaurants can’t allow anyone that isn’t the employee into the kitchen or other areas behind the counter; but that is not completely true.
Restaurants allow people behind their counters in various areas behind their counter for various reasons all the time. Usually this happens when a piece of their equipment needs to be fixed. The restaurant will call other companies to come in and fix these pieces of equipment that cannot be easily moved out of these areas. They aren’t wearing aprons or any other restaurant apparel.
Restaurants also allow these individuals in the kitchen area too, even while they are cooking. Health inspectors visit restaurants all the time to inspect restaurants, which have to be behind the counter. The delivery man dropping off extra ingredients and food supplies for their restaurant come into the restaurant’s kitchen and pass through other areas of the restaurant behind the counters to deliver the supplies all the time. They do it before store hours and even during store hours.
The point is that, though some restaurants may act as if their areas behind the counter are completely off limits to everyone except employees, it isn’t as tight and strict as they may make it seem. Animals/pets are off limits to bring into the restaurant and their back areas, not human beings.
However, generally, restaurants will not let anyone that isn’t their employee into their back areas, because, many times, these areas are very slippery. More strict rules are for those who have to work in the kitchen area, but slip-resistant shoes is a must in most restaurants. Their floors are always damp or wet, with drains everywhere, especially their dish washing area. It is surprisingly easy for anyone that isn’t wearing the proper shoes to slip and fall. It happens even when individuals are wearing the correct shoes.
Majority of the time the purpose of being in the areas behind the restaurant counter is to work. This means that individuals are often kept from being in these areas for food safety reasons and other safety reasons, unless they are working. It would just be awkward for a customer to be casually standing right beside the cashier behind the counter as they are taking their order, instead of on the other side of the counter as they should be. Usually this part of the floor is safe to stand on without the proper shoes.
Restaurants may also prohibit anyone (and employees too) from being in these work areas if they aren’t on the clock. This way, they don’t appear to be working off the clock. Some restaurants will also have superiors, corporate, or owners that just flat out prohibit everyone from being in these areas, except working employees. These rules, of course, would make it difficult for an individual to wash dishes at a restaurant as compensation for eating free food as well.
There is also the matter of not knowing if the individual asking to work at the restaraunt, to wash dishes as compensation for eating free food, is safe for all the other employees to work with. Imagine a restaurant having to explain to a parent that some random person that they let wash dishes for eating free food that they couldn’t pay for pulled out a weapon on one of the employees, or threatened one of the employees after receiving some constructive criticism on how to wash dishes.
Many individuals think that washing dishes at a restaurant is the same as washing dishes at home, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Some individuals are offended when they are being trained on how to wash dishes in a restaurant for the first (or second and third) time. It has to be done fast in most restaurants, but also correctly. Restaurants can get in trouble with health inspectors if it isn’t done right, even though it is most of the time straightforward.
The restaurant doesn’t often know their guests well enough to know if they would be safe to work with. They may view a random guest washing dishes in their establishment as an unwise choice for the staff. Some restaurant employees may really feel like they know that some guests would be cool and wouldn’t endanger any of the employees if they were to work behind the counter with them, but they really don’t know that.
These are the things that come up into a restaurant’s mind many times if they were to be entertained with the idea of allowing a guest to wash dishes as compensation for not being able to pay for their food. Instead, what happens when an individual is unable to pay for their food, they can find themselves reported to an officer for theft, banned, or kicked out of the restaurant. It is also possible for all of these things to be done all at once.