Again, what’s $15 times zero?
A “told you so” follow up on that $15 minimum wage hike in Seattle (and coming to San Francisco soon):
Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law goes into effect on April 1, 2015. As that date approaches, restaurant across the city are making the financial decision to close shop. The Washington Policy Center writes that “closings have occurred across the city, from Grub in the upscale Queen Anne Hill neighborhood, to Little Uncle in gritty Pioneer Square, to the Boat Street Cafe on Western Avenue near the waterfront.”
Of course, restaurants close for a variety of reasons. But, according to Seattle Magazine, the “impending minimum wage hike to $15 per hour” is playing a “major factor.” That’s not surprising, considering “about 36% of restaurant earnings go to paying labor costs.” Seattle Magazine,
“Washington Restaurant Association’s Anthony Anton puts it this way: “It’s not a political problem; it’s a math problem.”
“He estimates that a common budget breakdown among sustaining Seattle restaurants so far has been the following: 36 percent of funds are devoted to labor, 30 percent to food costs and 30 percent go to everything else (all other operational costs). The remaining 4 percent has been the profit margin, and as a result, in a $700,000 restaurant, he estimates that the average restauranteur in Seattle has been making $28,000 a year.
“With the minimum wage spike, however, he says that if restaurant owners made no changes, the labor cost in quick service restaurants would rise to 42 percent and in full service restaurants to 47 percent.”
Key quote: “It’s not a political problem; it’s a math problem.” Of course it is a “political problem” because it is clueless politics that pushed this. However, for the owners, it is indeed a “math problem”. And the math for staying open doesn’t add up.
Are there alternatives to closing. Sure. But they’re the same ones we’ve talked about for years:
Restaurant owners, expecting to operate on thinner margins, have tried to adapt in several ways including “higher menu prices, cheaper, lower-quality ingredients, reduced opening times, and cutting work hours and firing workers,” according to The Seattle Times and Seattle Eater magazine. As the Washington Policy Center points out, when these strategies are not enough, businesses close, “workers lose their jobs and the neighborhood loses a prized amenity.”
Welcome to the land of $17 dollar cheeseburger. And, as you can figure out fairly quickly, everything else will be more expensive too … which, of course, erodes the purchasing power of that $15 wage. More importantly, if you work for one of those establishments that is closing, your wage is $15 times zero hours, isn’t it?