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  1. #1
    Advanced BHUZzer Nepenthe's Avatar
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    Latest Zaghareet - contraversial Article on Restaurant Dancers

    What did you all think? The article was written by a bellydance photographer, not a dancer, or a restaurant owner. The premise was that dancers should consider the amount that it will cost to pay her against the amount of business she will bring in. The example of 100$ for a weekly performance being 5200$ in expenses per year, and asking if the performer actually brings in 5200 more in business, whether in customers staying longer and buying more food/drink, or in bringing in more customers. He pointed out that you would have to prove to the restaurant owner that you were actually helping them make more money, not causing them to lose money on hiring you. But there was an undertone, I thought, that dancers are not worth as much as we ask. Our rates were compared with a line chef or waiter. Also, he said that we are lucky to have this opportunity to work in restaurants and that no one owes us a job. I agree that no one owes us a job, but that's no way to go into a salary negotiation - you have to believe in your own worth in order to sell yourself. Anyway, I leave it to you to read the rest of the article.

    On one hand, it makes good business sense. You have to show that you are going to be an asset to the restaurant, and that your pay is just an investment that will result in more profits for them. Because profit for a restaurant is the motivation.

    On the other hand, it seemed to argue against demanding a good rate of pay for restaurant work.

    I would like to know how other people reacted to the article. If you've read it, please discuss!


  2. #2
    *maria*
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    Interesting. I don't get zaghareet or any mags for that matter. I'll have to order that one.

    Without having read the article:
    I KNOW I bring business in. 90% of the time at the restaurant where I dance, I have friends, and/or acquaintances and/or people who ask for me by name
    Or, people ask for a bellydancer.
    so there!!!!!
    LOL!
    anyway, will get the article. Hopefully you can read it on line?


  3. #3
    tamrahennatx
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    Although I haven't read the article, as a long-time restaurant dancer, I can tell you that there is a lot of truth in this. For instance, I have worked at the same restaurant for over five years now. There are a group of us who have been there for years, and we've wanted to ask for a raise for a long time. We have received raises over time, but I'm still not being paid what I'd like. HOWEVER, the restaurant has twelve shows per week. If each dancer was paid ten dollars more per set, that increases their costs by $120/week, which comes to an additional $6240/year. Add this to the $31,200 that they shell out for dancers already per year (I've averaged this out to twelve shows per week at $50/show) and it starts looking like real money.

    While it's good to get what we feel we're worth, running a restaurant is a business, and we should be cognizant that there are other factors that may weigh against whether we get paid $100/show or $50/show, and whether or not they can realistically afford to give us that raise we'd like.

    The choice is ultimately ours as to whether we choose to dance in restaurants. Unless the tipping is really good, it's not the most lucrative income stream in dance, though it does fill other functions, like advertising for classes and private parties and giving you an opportunity to keep your entertainment skills sharp.


  4. #4
    Mega BHUZzer Samira_dncr's Avatar
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    The $$ in restaurant work is not the pay, but the private parties that you get hired for from the patrons. At least in Vegas, it was well worth the time to dance in a restaurant because it led to many parties which paid a lot more.


  5. #5
    Official BHUZzer deelight's Avatar
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    I was scheduled to dance at a restaurant a few months ago that did not have even ONE customer when we arrived. Not one!!! We waited for a few minutes while the owners discussed whether or not they should send me and the other dancer home. Then some friends of ours came in specifically to have dinner and see us. We decided to go ahead and dance for them even though it was only one table. This restaurant has windows that face the street. We had so many people stop to watch us through the windows, then come in and sit down and order dinner, that the restaurant was almost full by the time we finished our set and left.

    After that night I think those restaurant owners really grasped the value that entertainment adds to their business!!!


  6. #6
    Ultimate BHUZzer laura 2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tamrahennatx View Post
    The choice is ultimately ours as to whether we choose to dance in restaurants. Unless the tipping is really good, it's not the most lucrative income stream in dance, though it does fill other functions, like advertising for classes and private parties and giving you an opportunity to keep your entertainment skills sharp.
    I thik there's also something to be said for the fact that it's a regular gig with steady income. I can see giving a restaurant owner a fairly substantial price break over a normal private party rate if you know you can count on that income every week. Especially if you live in an area where bookings are fairly slim pickings.


  7. #7
    Ultimate BHUZzer bintbeled's Avatar
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    I haven't gotten my Zaghareet yet. Who's the author??


  8. #8
    Ultimate BHUZzer laura 2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deelight View Post
    I was scheduled to dance at a restaurant a few months ago that did not have even ONE customer when we arrived. Not one!!! We waited for a few minutes while the owners discussed whether or not they should send me and the other dancer home. Then some friends of ours came in specifically to have dinner and see us. We decided to go ahead and dance for them even though it was only one table. This restaurant has windows that face the street. We had so many people stop to watch us through the windows, then come in and sit down and order dinner, that the restaurant was almost full by the time we finished our set and left.

    After that night I think those restaurant owners really grasped the value that entertainment adds to their business!!!
    I can't tell you the number of times the patrons of the restaurant where I and my friend used to dance were 90% people who came to see the dancing - friends, family, co-workers, students, other dancers, etc. And yet they still grumbled about the minimal pay and eventually went to dancers who will perform for attention and a plate of hummus.


  9. #9
    kamilia
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    We do have to consider restaurants and clubs, but belly dancers run businesses, too. I just think it's unfair to give a restaurant a discount unless we are the resident dancer there, working 5, 6 or 7 days a week. That's the only way we can make a living wage at a discounted rate.

    If a dancer does 5 restaurant shows a week at $100 a pop, s/he's not making a lot of money (at least not here in DC, but it has to be comparable for other parts of the country). Restaurants have to think about things from our end, too.

    If a restaurant cannot afford to pay entertainment a living wage, then they shouldn't have entertainment. We shouldn't have to make sacrifices for them, and we shouldn't feel bad for asking for a price they can't afford.

    I think we dancers could make money at restaurants if we stopped undervaluing ourselves. We really have to stop accepting wages that only cover transportation and a pair of socks just because an owner says, "Business, not so much!"

    It's true that restaurants won't pay as much as private parties, but there's no reason to limit ourselves in what we ask for at a restaurant. The worst that could happen is a "no", and even "no" sometimes turns to "yes" later.

    I'll have to check out this article, but I'm already wondering: what is the writer's motive? If a restaurant doesn't pay, we just move on to the next venture! There's no need to defend how they can't afford entertainment...


  10. #10
    Advanced BHUZzer Nepenthe's Avatar
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    BintBeled - the writer's name is Roger Wood and he says he is a bellydance photographer. There is supposed to be a part 2 in the series as well.

    I think someone should write a rejoinder article addressing his points and talking about the benefit of dancers to restaurants - maybe using some of the people's quotes here. I wouldn't feel like I have the background/knowledge to do it myself.


  11. #11
    Mega BHUZzer Samira_dncr's Avatar
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    Well...and to be fair...what about all the patrons who return to the restauant because of the ambiance, atmosphere, and entertainment? The dancer may not have been the one to bring these patrons to the restaurant in the first place, but she sure is one contributing reason that they return.

    An investment in entertainment is something that is cumulative. It isn't quite so obvious. It's like advertising. One ad doesn't do the trick, but consistant advertising does pay off. You can't say that if you hire a dancer for $100 that she has to bring in $100 worth of business that night.

    Samira


  12. #12
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Lauren_'s Avatar
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    I agree that a dancer is part of the ambience -- you can't justify the price of the curtains or other decor by how many people come in to see them, either.

    HOWEVER, if the dancer isn't bringing in business (and I don't mean just her own following, but repeat and word of mouth business) then why would a restaurant owner have a dancer?

    It's not exactly a dollar for dollar transaction, but a restaurant is a business -- and one with a narrow profit margin for the owner usually -- and they can't afford to pay out large amounts of money just because they like you.

    As a small business owner, I wouldn't spend even $10 a month on something that wasn't absolutely necessary unless I felt it was paying for itself, or strongly building my business. I'd be a fool if I did.


  13. #13
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Lauren_'s Avatar
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    Sorry -- to wrap up my babbling -- I haven't read the article, but I agree in principle with the description of it here. An actual mathematical formula would be complicated though, and hard to measure. Which patrons wouldn't have been there if there were no dancer? Which ones will come back because there was a dancer and it made their experience more positive? Which ones will tell three friends about the restaurant because of the dancer?


  14. #14
    kamilia
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nepenthe View Post
    BintBeled - the writer's name is Roger Wood and he says he is a bellydance photographer. There is supposed to be a part 2 in the series as well.

    I think someone should write a rejoinder article addressing his points and talking about the benefit of dancers to restaurants - maybe using some of the people's quotes here. I wouldn't feel like I have the background/knowledge to do it myself.
    That's a great suggestion, Nepenthe. I think there should be a whole myriad of articles written by a whole myriad of people.

    He is a photographer here in the DC area. Although I appreciate getting business advice from "outside" business owners who can offer insight that we might not have, they're usually telling dancers to charge more. They advise to differentiate from workers in completely unrelated industries (i.e., the server or the line cook). The give negotiation tips that let a dancer get whatever s/he wants.

    We are having a horrible problem with rates right now in the DC area. People are still working for wages that dancers earned in the 80's. I appreciate points on informed negotiation (i.e., How can you prove that you deserve that much? Here's how...) However, I don't see how anything that merely implies that we shouldn't charge however high of a fee we damn well want to, or that we are lucky to have these jobs that don't pay our bills, would help at this point. And there's more to come?

    To give him the benefit of the doubt, maybe his points were misunderstood. Maybe the piece was intended for an audience of ingrate dancers who don't thank the owners enough for developing-country wages at restaurants, I'm not sure. As I'm waiting for a copy of this article, I really hope everything I said here about it is wrong.


  15. #15
    Ultimate BHUZzer bintbeled's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nepenthe View Post
    BintBeled - the writer's name is Roger Wood and he says he is a bellydance photographer. There is supposed to be a part 2 in the series as well.

    I think someone should write a rejoinder article addressing his points and talking about the benefit of dancers to restaurants - maybe using some of the people's quotes here. I wouldn't feel like I have the background/knowledge to do it myself.
    Thanks, Nepenthe. I was guessing that it might be Roj. I'll look forward to reading it.

    Latifa


  16. #16
    Mega BHUZzer SamarDahab's Avatar
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    I think alot of people go to restaurants because of the dancers. Many in the GP don't eat Middle Easter or Greek food and wouldn't go without the added treat of a dancer.


  17. #17
    Mega BHUZzer Samira_dncr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lauren_ View Post
    I agree that a dancer is part of the ambience -- you can't justify the price of the curtains or other decor by how many people come in to see them, either.

    HOWEVER, if the dancer isn't bringing in business (and I don't mean just her own following, but repeat and word of mouth business) then why would a restaurant owner have a dancer?

    It's not exactly a dollar for dollar transaction, but a restaurant is a business -- and one with a narrow profit margin for the owner usually -- and they can't afford to pay out large amounts of money just because they like you.

    As a small business owner, I wouldn't spend even $10 a month on something that wasn't absolutely necessary unless I felt it was paying for itself, or strongly building my business. I'd be a fool if I did.
    I not suggesting that an owner hire and keep an unqualified dancer who can't bring in business. I'm assuming that the dancer is a professional with a good dance standard.

    I'm suggesting that it's not fair to say $100/a night should = $100 in business that night. I'm saying that the ambiance of the dancer is one of those intangible things that is an investment that takes time to justify.

    I am also a small business owner. And, definitely, you have to watch your costs. But sometimes you still have to invest in the intangibles. It's what makes your business a cut above the rest.

    Many business purchase pens with their logo on them to pass out to their patrons. Is this investment paying for itself? Not really. But the goodwill gesture of giving a pen to a customer coupled with the advertising eventually serves the purpose of the purchase in the first place.

    Of course the restaurant needs to look at the cost vs. value factor of having a dancer. But I would suspect that most everything being equal (price, ambiance, etc.) that a restaurant with live professional entertainment is going to be chosen over a restaurant without any entertainment.


  18. #18
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Lauren_'s Avatar
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    I agree with that...and as far as comparing the cost of a dancer to the cost of a line cook or whatever -- you can't compare that. That's like comparing the cost of your accountant to the cost of your line cook. One is an employee. The other is an outside contractor with a specific group of skills. It's not even remotely the same thing.

    But, since I haven't actually read the article, i should really shut up.


  19. #19
    tamrahennatx
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lauren_ View Post
    I agree with that...and as far as comparing the cost of a dancer to the cost of a line cook or whatever -- you can't compare that. That's like comparing the cost of your accountant to the cost of your line cook. One is an employee. The other is an outside contractor with a specific group of skills. It's not even remotely the same thing.

    But, since I haven't actually read the article, i should really shut up.
    THAT is a fact. You can't base a belly dancer's pay on what you'd pay a line cook.

    I do feel like we should ask for as much as we feel the market (and in this case the market is the restaurant owner) will bear. If we can show that our presence differentiates him from his competitors, then that's all the better.

    However, I can see both sides. For instance, the restaurant where I work has had a dramatic loss of business over the past few months, since the city instituted a smoking ban and hookahs and cigarettes are no longer legal in the main area of the restaurant. The best belly dancer in the world will only be able to mitigate that to a certain extent, and while I know I'm worth more than what I'm currently paid and would like to ask more, now may not be a good time to go all militant and self-righteous on the management about it. At this point, I'm just glad that they haven't cut shows.


  20. #20
    Master BHUZzer shems's Avatar
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    I haven't read the article, and nothing personal against Roger, but he isn't in the restaurant business or the dancing business and it really makes me wonder how informed his opinions really are.

    I'm not sure exactly how one would measure the income a dancer brings to the restaurant where she works. One would hope a smart business owner would have some way of approximating it. Of course it needs to be worth the business owners while to hire entertainment, that's a given, but without any sort of solid measurement I wouldn't necessarily assume that the dancer hasn't earned her pay. She may have earned double her pay and then some.

    Kamilia is right, belly dancers are in business too and with the cost of costumes, make-up, music, transportation and training continually going up, dancers have to ask enough to make a living. Particularly since our jobs don't include health or retirement benefits.

    The restaurants aren't doing us a favor by letting us dance. They are most definitely benefiting from it or they wouldn't be hiring dancers. I know of several places that I'm pretty certain never would have survived if it weren't for their dancers.

    Anyway, I haven't even read the article and I'm discounting it's value. Dancers, you might one day find out that the place you work at is pulling $30,000 on a weekend night, pulling those celebration crowds because people want to have a dancer there, and then how will you feel about not asking for that raise that would have only cost them another $6000 a year. I'm think in general that we are a lot more valuable than we suspect. (I'm using this example, because there is one restaurant I know of in this area which regularly pulls in that kind of money and pays their dancers some of the worst wages going.)
    Last edited by shems; 11-28-2007 at 04:55 PM.


  21. #21
    Ultimate BHUZzer kiyaana's Avatar
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    I read it today (while my car was having its emissions inspected!) I would really like to read part 2 NOW to get the whole story that Roger is offering.


  22. #22
    Mega BHUZzer Linnyg's Avatar
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    I know that my initial introduction to bellydance performance was at a restaurant. The main idea of the night was to see bellydancers in action. We picked the restaurant because they had a bellydancer there. As it turned out the food was great and so was the atmosphere but I may not have ever gone there or known that it existed if I wasn't in the search for bellydancers. I have gone back several times to not only enjoy the food but to watch the dancer as well. The food is expensive enough that I would probably not go back if they canceled the live dancing. You are all an asset to businesses and you should be paid a livable wage. Fight for what you deserve to earn.


  23. #23
    Ultimate BHUZzer kiyaana's Avatar
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    By the way, Nepenthe, I enjoyed your article about your first wedding gig!


  24. #24
    Ultimate BHUZzer bintbeled's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kiyaana View Post
    By the way, Nepenthe, I enjoyed your article about your first wedding gig!
    Me too! ..g.:


  25. #25
    *maria*
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    biting my lip till I read the article, which is on it's way......


  26. #26
    *maria*
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    Quote Originally Posted by kiyaana View Post
    I read it today (while my car was having its emissions inspected!) I would really like to read part 2 NOW to get the whole story that Roger is offering.
    what were your impressions so far?


  27. #27
    *maria*
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    so much for biting my lip.
    Here goes:
    We are NEVER going to get our rates up when there are dancers who will dance for less, and/or free....PERIOD, end of story.


  28. #28
    tamrahennatx
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    Quote Originally Posted by maria View Post
    so much for biting my lip.
    Here goes:
    We are NEVER going to get our rates up when there are dancers who will dance for less, and/or free....PERIOD, end of story.
    Oh I totally agree with this. But do you feel that there is a limit to how much the restaurant market will bear?

    We here have been trying very determinedly to raise the rates for a few years now, and we have, to some extent. But for the moment we seem to have hit a ceiling.

    Even the restaurants that are picky and only will work with certain dancers - they only have so much budget for entertainment, and the choice is to work within that budget or to choose not to dance in restaurants.


  29. #29
    *maria*
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    there is definitely a limit to what the restaurants can bear. at least in this area.
    We're getting paid $65 for one show/$85 for two where I am head dancer at.
    I and other dancers in the community have TRIED to get everyone to stick to that rate at restaurants. However, there are dancers who KNOW that we are trying to get the rate to stay at 65/85, (after 20, yes 20 years, which I know from older dancers from the rate of 50/65 , and they are dancing for 50, THREE SHOWS.

    So much for that!

    I don't think the restaurants around here can bear much more cost than that when they have bellydancers almost every night.

    So, if we can get the rates to stay 65/85, and by the way, the owner at the restaurants knows he's paying the most, because he kvetches about it all the time, but pays! Then I'm happy with that for a while.

    Denver/Boulder is a bit depressed economically right now, and it would be foolish to think the rates can bear much more than that with dancing every night of the week.


  30. #30
    *maria*
    Guest *maria*'s Avatar
    part II

    now, there are restaurants that just have dancers new years, valentines day, etc. of course, you can get paid $150 for those shows. But, at a restaurant like I dance at, where there is a dancer every night of the week, the market cannot bear that cost because of the economics of the city right now.


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