Tuesday, February 19, 2013

News Flash: Restaurant Owner is Cheap

The restaurant world is full of owners and managers who are always trying to figure out new ways to make more money for their businesses. They'll try anything. Add a dollar to every entree? Sure! Charge a cake slicing fee? You bet! Pay their employees less than the required minimum wage? Oh, hell no!

According to Eyewitness News KOB, a restaurant owner in Albuquerque, New Mexico is trying that approach and it is not going over well at all. Last November, Albuquerque voters changed the minimum hourly wage for servers from $2.13 to $3.83. However, Eric Szeman, owner of Route 66 Malt Shop had his employees sign a contract that said they agreed to keep their $2.13 an hour wage in order for them to keep their jobs. Of course they signed it because nobody wants to be looking for a new job in Albuquerque.

I guess that after a few days they realized they had signed some illegal bullshit and some of the servers decided to complain about it. The next thing you know, they're all over the Internet and The Bitchy Waiter is writing a post about them.

“We can't afford it,” Szeman says. “We don't have the money. We don't make the money." He also says his payroll went from about $3,600 every two weeks to about $6,000.

However, sir, the law is the law. If the law says that you have to pay your employees $3.83 an hour then you kinda gotta do that, right? That's what laws are for; they are to be followed. I get that you now have to pay an extra $1200 a week to cover payroll costs, but you can't just make up your own labor laws. I would suggest you raise the prices on your menu to cover the costs. Surely the fine voters of Albuquerque will understand that in order for you to pay the new minimum wage they approved then you will have to raise the prices. Where else did the voters think that money was going to come from?

I have looked at the website and see that the restaurant is open seven days a week for a total of 81 hours. If the owner needs to earn an additional $1200 a week to cover this new pay increase, that is only $171 extra dollars a day. If there are about 200 covers a day, then if each one of them paid an additional eight-five cents for their food, that would supply the needed money to pay employees the new wage. Perhaps 200 covers a day is unrealistic. If 100 covers a day is more likely, then add $2.00 to every item on the menu. It's what restaurants do.

I also studied the Route 66 menu. It's cheap. The Classic Burger is $4.99. Why not raise it to the whopping price of $5.99 and you will be well on your way to being a law-abiding restaurant owner again. Or change the price of the Frito-Pie to $6.49. That is still some affordable food. It does not seem that difficult. Perhaps it costs too much money to reprint the menus and update the website? (Truth be told, that website needs to be updated regardless of menu changes or not. It looks like an eighth-grader made it with a Geocities template 15 years ago. That music is annoying.) I really don't see a reason why the owner can't make this happen.

I have a feeling that after pressure form the news media, he will eventually pony up the money and pay his servers the right wage. In the meantime, feel free to head on over to the Route 66 Malt Shop Facebook Page and say hello to them. I'm sure they'd love to hear from you.

Please share this or like it so that more people can put the pressure on this restaurant owner to do the right thing and pay his servers the legal minimum wage. And people in Albuquerque, I hope you will continue to patronize this restaurant even after the price of nachos goes up to $7.25. You voted to raise the minimum wage, now you have to put your money where your mouth is.

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Mark W said...

He has to pay servers $1.70 more an hour. Assume the servers are working 32 hours a week (because no one gives employees 40 hours anymore since they'd be forced to offer them benefits).

That means he pays each server $54.40 more per week.

If his payroll went up $2400 every two weeks, that means it's gone up $1200 a week.

$1200 / $54.40 = 22.06

That means he has 22 servers on staff.

If he has $22 servers on staff, he obviously has quite a bit of business.

These numbers just reinforce what you said, Bitchy. Raise the price of a burger by a dollar, add a quarter to the price of a soda, and the increase in wages is covered.

Regardless, I think the man is lying about how much his payroll has increased.

Anonymous said...

I worked at a restaurant several years ago where the owner called a meeting and we voted on whether we would take a 10% party cut or face losing our jobs. We voted to take the cut. No one was bumped below minimum and no one went below their original hiring rate. But the owner closed the place within the year anyway. :(

Anonymous said...

I've always thought the minimum wage was feel good BS. Nobody can live on that, it's for teenagers. However, the law is the law. I think the "pressure" he will feel will be from the city, when they pull his business license and fine his ass for disobeying.

Anonymous said...

1. In Florida where minimum server wage is 4 something, OSI ( outback, carrabbas, bonefish) is trying to get Florida to lower the minimum wage back to 2.13, claiming they aren't making enough profit.
2. To all the people that don't like tipping, claiming that the restaurant should pay servers a "living wage", well, there you go. Owners don't care.

Mrs_Deb said...

Surely the fine voters of Albuquerque will understand that in order for you to pay the new minimum wage they approved then you will have to raise the prices. Where else did the voters think that money was going to come from?

Surely you jest! Don't you know that the fine voters NEVER think about where the money they vote to spend is to come from?

That said, the whole concept of paying servers half (or less) of the minimum wage is obscene.

Gilad Faivre said...

Employees cost an average of 36% more than they are paid. That is due to payroll taxes and other cost. Even so, the increase for the servers is negligible if the owners are running their business right. Sometimes you just have to raise prices.

sally said...

New Mexico is a dump. Move to Phoenix if you want to wait tables in a dump--because at least they have a decent "season" where you can sock away a few bucks.
Seriously. If you are waiting tables in New Mexico and that is ALL you are doing there? MOVE.

Wolfgang said...

The minumum wage is how much? In UK it is over £5 per hour and in London more than that. How do you all survive?
There is one major chain in UK (Carluccios) that pays less than minimum wage because the tips make up the difference - I do NOT eat there.

maxi said...

^^It's £6.18 if you are over 18 in the UK. That's the UK-wide minumum wage. The living wage is somewhat higher - £7.35 (plus a pound more in London). I work part time for a fancy restaurant that only pays min wage AND we have to split the tips with chefs, management, admin staff etc. It is depressing. And yes, I am trying to find somewhere else!

Anonymous said...

Minimum wage where I live in Canada is $10.25 per hour. That includes servers.

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PsySocDisney said...

Cheap owners are the worst. At my last job I was scheduled to work cocktail on a huge fundraiser. We were involved in set up, tear down, and service throughout. At the very end Mr. Owner comes up to us and says "thank you so much for volunteering your service tonight." We were like umm, no and when the manager paid us anyway (taken from a portion of the flat rate plate fee) Mr. Owner threw a fit in front of all his rich friends. So glad I don't help that scumbag make money anymore! Sounds like this guy and my old Mr. Owner could be friends. :|

JJ said...

you might not think a one dollar price increase might make a difference, but 4.99 is already a lot for a burger in my opinion. if you change it from 4.99 to 5.99, I wouldn't even consider buying it. Yeah, 1 dollar can make a huge difference.

tacitjane said...

I had dealt with some of the same issues. Minimum wage here in Chicago is $4.95/hr. When I started a new job last year I assumed that was my pay rate. I get my first paycheck and discover I'm only being paid $3.45/hr and 10% of my credit card tips was given to the house! The 10% deduction was supposedly for broken played and glassware, but after someone left the carafes in the freezer overnight we were all required to pay for them. Even those of us who weren't there that night! Also, the girl who did break was made to go get the new carafes herself or 'face dire consequences.'

Not only that, but we were paid with personal checks. Also, I later found out we weren't on the books as employees. We were 'independent contractors' so it was a major fuck-all disaster getting taxes done. None of this was disclosed to me during or after the hiring process. These are the current practices of the restaurant.

I started working somewhere new this January with fabulous management. I told the owner about what went on at my last job and he seemed even more appalled than I. I guess as a fellow business owner it could be sickening to hear about others' grossly unethical conduct.

A restaurant is a team. You practice, prepare, and perform. If the head of that team sees itself as the only member of worth, then they're all doomed to fail.

Oh, and they're doing terribly since I've left. Some of the worst reviews on yelp and other sites. That ship is going down.

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