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Prolific Pie Chain Matchbox Reaches a D.C. Wage Theft Settlement

The owners allegedly failed to pay 100 bussers and runners properly from 2016 to 2018

Matchbox just reached a settlement agreement tied to unpaid wages.
R. Lopez/Eater DC
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

The owners of popular wood-fired pizza chain Matchbox — and formerly behind all-day diner Ted’s Bulletin — were just ordered to cough up $142,000 to D.C. workers who were allegedly paid below the city’s legal minimum wage.

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine announced today that his office had reached a settlement with Maryland-based Matchbox Food Group LLC, resolving a wage theft investigation into the company’s payroll practices.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) unearthed evidence that more than 100 bussers and runners weren’t compensated properly — typically $1 or $2 less than minimum wage — during some pay periods from 2016 to 2018 across D.C. locations of Matchbox and Ted’s Bulletin. The average restitution payment under the settlement equates to over $1,000 per worker. Job duties included everything from setting and clearing tables to dropping off food and drinks to customers. Eater reached out to Matchbox for comment on the settlement.

In addition to making $142,551 in restitution payments, in six monthly installments starting December 1, the settlement also requires Matchbox to:

  • Put new policies and systems in place to prove maintained payroll compliance with the District’s minimum wage laws. D.C.’s current minimum wage stands at $14 per hour and rises to $15 next month.
  • Pay the city $5,000 to cover its costs pursuing the legal case

The period of alleged wage theft occurred during some troubled times at the company.

The fast-growing chain, which got its start in Chinatown in 2003, encountered financial woes as openings hit delays and budget issues. In 2017, two of Matchbox Food Group’s founders alleged that new executives and investors were trying to oust them; the lawsuit was later dismissed, according to WBJ.

Matchbox closed its original location in Chinatown last spring but quickly opened a new nearby locale in Penn Quarter. Two other D.C. locations sit on Capitol Hill and 14th Street NW, and Ted’s Bulletin sits in the same neighborhoods.

The settlement only covers Ted’s Bulletin employees during the period they were owned by Matchbox. Entrepreneur and &pizza co-founder Steve Salis bought the breakfast chain in 2017 and is not tied to the settlement. Thompson Hospitality Corp. (American Tap Room, Hen Quarter), which assumed a controlling stake in Matchbox via an $11 million investment in 2018, is also not a liable party.

The 12-unit pizza chain adopted a smaller, neighborhood-focused expansion approach under Thompson’s watch. There are currently 10 locations in the D.C. area to go along with restaurants in Texas, Florida, and Charlottesville, Virginia, .

Here’s a copy of the settlement agreement:

Last summer, homegrown juice company Turning Natural settled a 2018 suit over alleged violations of D.C.’s minimum wage, overtime, and sick leave laws.