Several speakers sitting and standing infront of a red screen at an event
Photo by Hagar Bader

Watch: A Heated Debate & Confessions From the City’s Waiters

Restaurateurs, waiters, comedians, and actors attempted to answer this question — in earnest and with humor at Asif.

By Team Asif |

For decades, moving to Tel Aviv and working in the restaurant industry was a rite of passage for people in their 20s, a way to pay the bills — and a path to self discovery. But, that’s changed in recent years. The cost of living in Tel Aviv has surged, while wages have stayed the same, breaking a delicate balance. COVID has only made matters worse. The result: Restaurants across the city are desperate for waiters. What can be done? In March 2022, Asif hosted a three-part event aimed at finding answers to this question. Catch up on what restaurateurs Irit Sheknar and Ruti Brudo, comedian Uri Gottlieb, and more had to say.

How To Get Out of This Mess

“Restaurant owners are the only employers in Israel who are not obligated to pay a fixed salary to their employees,” said Alon Lee Green, a social activist and leader of the waiters’ struggle. “Even after the tips ruling, which led to an improvement in the field, restaurateurs are not obligated to a fixed salary for a waiter,” he said, referring to the “Tips Law” the courts ruled on in January. Under the new law, tips waiters earn are included in their pay slip, meaning they are taxable. At the same time, waiters are now given vacation and sick days and will receive severance pay if they’re let go. 

MK Naama Lazimi, who was also on the panel, agreed with Lee Green adding: “Unlike in other countries, there is no status for waiters [here]. The restaurant industry relies on unfair forms of employment. The ruling on the tips did not have to come from the court, but should have come through the legislature. The reason the ruling came through the court is a failure in the legislative process.”

So, why is the crisis intensifying now? Lee Green believes COVID has been a catalyst for issues that have bubbled for years. After the start of the pandemic, “many of those who worked as waiters chose to move to jobs that pay lower wages — but guarantee [certain work] conditions and social rights.”

The solution, they say, is in legislation. “To enable financial security for waiters, along with the prosperity of restaurants, we must strive for regulation,” said Tomer Mor, CEO of the Strong Restaurants Together association, who was the third member of the panel. Lazimi believes that the waitstaff profession will thrive again when it is not just an intermediate job for young people, but a profession open to a variety of ages. Lee Green added that the most significant solution will come when the minimum wage law also applies to waiters.

Watch the full panel:

To Wait — or Not 

Dana Frank hosted a heated and cheeky debate about whether it’s worth seeking out the life of a waiter. On the pro side, hear from comedian Adi Sasson and restaurateur Ruti Brudo, while ex-waiters Tess Hashiloni and Carmel Tzaig offer a counter attack. Brudo makes the argument that waiters and restaurant owners are partners.

Photo by Hagar Bader

Check, Please: Confessions From the City’s Waiters

Restaurateur Irit Shenkar (formerly of Keren, Dixie), actor Nelly Tagar and comedian Uri Gottlieb, as well as a young waiter Ben Levavi tell all in this evening of confessions. Among them: In the 1990s, now-famed chef Haim Cohen, didn’t even know how to make a vinaigrette. 

Photo by Hagar Bader

Watch Part 2 + Part 3: