Yelp's Flashy New Awards For Restaurant Workers Aren't Enough

There are plenty of better ways to support those in the service industry.

Working in the service industry is a mostly thankless job. You spend hours on your feet literally serving others, people who range from perfectly nice to abject monsters who never should have left their house in the first place. Yes, there are sometimes cash tips, but there are also snide comments, piles of trash, and questions from your parents about when you're going to find a "real" job. Restaurant workers' ability to handle all of this with grace deserves recognition—heck, even compensation. But Yelp's latest attempt at celebrating front-of-house workers, the Servie Awards, isn't quite it.

What are the Servies?

Yelp announced via its blog this week that it would be launching its first-ever awards program, cringingly named the Servies—because, ya know, they're for servers and other service industry workers, get it? Yelp outlines the reasons for the awards program in the post:


The labor shortage continues, with more restaurant industry employees quitting than in any other industry, and lack of recognition is one of the many factors contributing to employee frustration. While there are plenty of accolades for chefs, it is the front of house staff who ensure the best possible dining experience and often go unrecognized. We at Yelp for Restaurants want to change that and are committed to recognizing these diverse, customer-facing staff who keep restaurants running, go above and beyond for customers, and bring their best attitudes to work, no matter what life throws at them.

Diners and colleagues can go to to nominate front-of-house workers in eight different categories, two of which are unfortunately "Best Hustle" and "Best Vibe." The winner in each category will score a $3,000 "tip," a pair of Snibbs shoes, and a really strange-looking trophy of three plates balancing on one finger.


We're all for celebrating front-of-house workers whenever and wherever we can, but a voting-based awards system turns well-deserved recognition into a competition that pits workers against each other. Instead, these workers could be collaborating in the fight for better working conditions and higher wages; Yelp's attempt to distract from the actual conditions of restaurant labor feels as out of touch as the finger on that Servies trophy.

The best ways to show appreciation to restaurant workers

There's a reason restaurant employees and other service industry workers have been unionizing left and right—they want to be treated (and paid) better while on the job. And yes, recognition for a job well done might be part of that, but these unions are fighting for recognition for all, not just for some. To truly show appreciation and support restaurant workers, there needs to be a universal incentive put in place for them.


For a major corporation like Yelp, there are a lot of ways to show support, such as backing causes like the Fight for 15, a group that's working to raise the federal minimum wage. Or how about coming out as an ally to the unions forming at places like Starbucks and Chipotle and providing resources for other service industry staffers interested in organizing? Yelp could be taking the money spent on these splashy "tips" and new shoes and trophies and putting that into a fund for workers who are struggling to make ends meet.

On the restaurant side, owners can show appreciation by simply listening to their employees and addressing their needs and concerns. Even if a business doesn't have the means to offer monetary bonuses, making sure employees feel heard, respected, and taken care of goes a long way. And as a customer at these restaurants, be kind and courteous to everyone serving you, and of course (say it with me) tip generously. Every little bit helps, and in this instance nothing says "I appreciate you" more than 20% or higher gratuity; gratitude is practically right there in the name.


All this being said, Yelp's Servie Awards are happening whether we want them to or not, so go ahead and nominate your favorite front-of-house worker to show them some love. Maybe in the future Yelp will get on board with spreading the wealth to everyone.