Remember that awful billboard? Well, Zagat went around asking San Francisco chefs and restaurant owners how they're planning to deal with the all-but-inevitable minimum wage hike that's going on the November ballot, and while none of them object in theory to paying their lowest-paid workers more, it's a little more complicated than that especially when it comes to tipped employees.
The local restaurant industry, and the restaurant industry nationwide, has historically been among the most vocal opponents to hikes in minimum wage. It stands to reason that in one of the most expensive cities in the country (arguably, now, the most expensive), the minimum wage here should be significantly higher than the federal minimum, to reflect the cost of living. But deciding what that number should be and when it should be implemented is a dicey business when it comes to small businesses, and I think everyone knows that restaurants, particularly ones with just one or two locations, operate with very slim profit margins, and thus they make the most noise when they're told they need to pay their kitchen and service staffs more.
The November ballot measure, recently approved by the Mayor and Board of Supervisors, will raise SF's minimum wage from $10.24 and hour to $15 an hour by 2018, with incremental hikes each year. But unlike Seattle where a $15/hour minimum wage was recently passed, SF's measure does not create the traditional tip credit for service staff who make the majority of their income on tips. This is great news for everyone who waits tables across the city, because it means a 50% raise in base salary over the next four years.
But as chef and restaurateur Traci Des Jardins tells Zagat:
Without a tip credit some sort of recognition of income from gratuities calculated into an employee’s total compensation des Jardins and others points out, the law simply “widens the gap between front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house income” without providing business owners a way to get more money to the people in the restaurant industry who really need it the dishwashers, line cooks, prep cooks.
Another chef who preferred to remain anonymous quipped, "Get ready for the $25 burger."
Also, a former manager of Bruno's tells them that in response to the previous minimum wage hike that took effect in 2004, the bar had to cut back on staff shifts, and this led to a negative experience for customers.
Will most of these pains surrounding the minimum-wage hike be temporary, if painful? Probably. Will things get a little more expensive? Probably, but it's not like we're not already used to paying stupid prices for things and getting made fun of by the rest of the country.
But should the Mayor and Board of Supes have thought about mirroring Seattle with regard to the tip credits? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments, especially if you're in the restaurant industry.