Beau Catering, a Hillsborough-based catering service owned by longtime living wage advocate Beau Bennett, has just celebrated its tenth anniversary. We recently spoke with Marissa Erickson, Catering Manager, on the importance of living wages in Beau Catering’s business model, and on how she believes that the early implementation of a living wage has led to the business’ overall success and sustainability throughout the past decade.

The catering industry, like much of the service industry in general, can be difficult for workers because of irregular hours, intermittent busy seasons, and difficult labor involved. For these reasons, Erickson explained, “[a living wage] is something we’ve always had in place, even before it was a buzzword.” Bennett, a veteran of the food industry, wanted to make sure that his staff are adequately compensated for their hard work when he started his business. Now an OCLW-certified employer, Beau Catering continues to make payment of living wages part of its philosophy.

Erickson described becoming a living wage employer as a “mindful decision” on the part of management, one that is not always financially easy to stick to in the food service industry, but is possible and ultimately very rewarding. She outlined the benefits of being a living wage employer as two-pronged. First, she said, “You have the ‘feel-good’: you’re paying people what they’re owed and you’re there to enable people to live their lives.” On a practical level, living wages have also made Beau Catering more sustainable: “You save money in the end, because you’re retaining staff, saving prep time that might be taken up training new servers.” She added that nearly half of Beau Catering’s staff has been with the business for at least seven years, and that customers like seeing familiar faces at events over the years.

Erickson advises any food service businesses looking to pay living wages to adopt the payment policy early, create a “real” budget based on actual staff and food costs, and remind themselves that being a living wage employer is “like a being in a long-term relationship: it’s not always easy, but it can bring you a lot of contentment.”