Place-bound jobs at the intersection of policy and management: Comparing employer practices in U.S. and Canadian chain restaurants

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15 Scopus citations


Debate about the United States' minimum wage spiked several years ago at a time when its role in influencing employment conditions had become complicated by firms' increasing use of job outsourcing and "offshoring." Yet the latter labor strategies are not obviously applicable to employment revolving around in-person transactions between workers and customers, or "place-bound" work. Such jobs present an opportunity for studying human resource management, and the capacity of public policy to shape it, when policy may be at its most influential over employer practices. The current article considers such a case, investigating how minimum wage rates, other public policies and programs associated with work, and firms' human resource practices interact in the place-bound position of restaurant waiter. Using new data collected from managers of a sample of 21 sites of two low-end, full-service restaurant chains, the author examined the relationships between management practices for wages and tips, fringe benefits, and staffing and scheduling and the public policy contexts in which they were embedded in suburban Seattle, Chicago, and Vancouver, British Columbia. The author found that employer practices varied by geographic area as a product of contrasts in public regulation of employers as well as supports to workers and families; that employer practices varied between the two chains, independent of geographic location; and that those practices were often poised to have dramatic impacts on waiters' income and benefits access. The author concludes by discussing some of the limitations of and prospects for applying public tools to promote the quality of private, hourly jobs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)823-842
Number of pages20
JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Education
  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • human resource management
  • low-wage jobs
  • public employment policy


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