On the impact of a recently approved minimum wage increase in Los Angeles, Kyle Schute of The Flats had the following to say:
So while we are being forced to pay unskilled labor $15 we will not see this money trickle back in our front door. Instead, this may mean that the labor force that currently accounts for most of our reservations will not likely see a raise in their pay and may even see some layoffs. Furthermore, since the city has damn near taken away any other avenue for restaurants to alleviate some of this burden (adjusted rates for tipped employees, service charges to include BOH, etc.) restaurants will have no choice but to raise prices, further shrinking their potential customer base.
Minimum wage worries are not limited to Los Angeles either. Speaking about the impact of the increased minimum wage in San Francisco, star bartender, Kevin Diedrich, postulates:
We will continue to see new openings, but with just as many closures. With the increases on minimum wage and the continuing climb on rent, it’ll make it more difficult for smaller restaurants to stay open.
And while a popular retort to restaurant owner concerns from politicians and union leaders is that the restaurant business model must adapt, many believe restaurants will change in ways that would only undercut the premise behind raising wages – resulting in higher wages, but a decline in overall jobs predicts Sean Lownethall of Little Beast in Los Angeles:
And, with the expected hourly increases, chefs and owners are going to be opening ambitious quick casual style restaurants that require much less manpower, focusing on cuisine while minimizing labor.
Jon Shook of Jon & Vinny’s in Los Angeles agrees:
With the cost of high-quality ingredients going up alongside with minimum wage, this will force restaurants to cut back on service or find other areas where they’re able to. I think we’re going to see service and servers in restaurants go down dramatically in the dining room over the next couple of years.
Although the increased minimum wage could lead to fewer front-of-house jobs, chefs and restaurateurs in major cities seem equally concerned about a lack of talented cooks.
Ravi Kapur, who is the chef and owner of the trendy Liholiho Yacht Club in San Francisco says:
…there is a severe lack of cooks. No matter how great your ideas are or how cool your restaurant is, if there’s no one to work the stoves, none of it matters.
Unfortunately, super minimum wages are only going to exasperate the shortage of top-notch cooks according to Kyle Schute:
…the inevitable proximity to wages between a restaurant’s best lead cook and their $15 an hour dishwasher and a total collapse of skilled and motivated labor is not far-fetched…”
With few quick solutions to help remedy these issues in San Francisco and Los Angeles, the competition and experimentation in both markets is sure to pick up its pace says Kim Alter of Nightbird:
We are going to have to be innovative in how we cook and address rising operating costs and staffing shortage. Whether it’s with an all-inclusive tipping structure or tasting menus accounting for less food waste, we are going to have to evolve.
To read more from Eater LA’s chef predictions, click here. To read more about the future of dining in Los Angeles, click here.